As if mythical Dark Elves from Svartalfheim were enough of a test for Tony Stark, the armour-clad Avenger is poised to find himself in the middle of a dimensional caper while having to match wits with a fabled arch-nemesis, the Mandarin.
The new arc for Marvel Entertainment's ongoing "Iron Man" series starts in March with issue No. 23 and, said writer Kieron Gillen, the five-part story drawn by Luke Ross, melds a culture clash pitting magic, modern technology and fairy-inspired legend and lore.
Underlying it all is Stark still coming to grips over the revelations of his being adopted while, at the same time, maintaining his public aura of brains and bravado.
It is, said Gillen, an "interesting culture clash" given Stark's long association with technology and the magic wielded by Malekith the Accursed, whose sorcery has made him a scourge among the so-called nine realms in Marvel's comic and film universes. That's familiar territory for the British writer who wrote Marvel's Asgard-set "Journey Into Mystery" for two years.
"It goes back to the themes I had at the start of my run," Gillen explained of the series' debut in November 2012. "When I started, Tony was wrestling with things outside of science. Now, it's heading straight back there."
The heart of the story, titled "Rings of the Mandarin," sees the Mandarin trying to track down rings that are "hyper-intelligent" trying to find their way to Stark's enemies. From there, it spreads, in both intensity and scope, reaching through dimensions and to other worlds.
It's also about Stark coming to grips with things beyond his control and losing his characteristic sense of control and cool.
Malekith, said Gillen, is an inhuman sadist while the Mandarin? Well he's always vexed Stark and Iron Man, in any medium.
"This arc is pretty much anger. Tony ends up wanting to punch stuff," said Gillen.
Moore reported from Philadelphia. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/mattmooreap