By Daniel & Charles Knauf (writers), Roberto de la Torre (art), Dean White (colors)

The Iron Man / Mandarin saga comes to a close after what I believe was about a whole year’s worth of story. Writers Daniel and Charles Knauf have done an outstanding job pacing this story out as a political thriller. What’s even more ironic, is how quick the United Nations turns their backs on Tony, branding him a terrorist for his extreme actions. And maybe for the first time since instating The Initiative, Tony understands why Captain America fought on the opposing side.

Everything comes to a close very nicely, though I do feel some of it was a bit rushed. Tony finally saves Maya from her incarceration, but the moment comes and goes so quickly that we don’t even see him drop her off somewhere safely. I mean, did he just break her free and tell her to run away or did he actually take her to safety? Because one moment they’re talking and the next he’s flying in the sky (by himself). Other than this little nagging problem, the rest of the issue worked well for me.

In some ways, this storyline reminded me of a good Tom Clancy novel. But, as I reached the final few pages it reverted back to its superhero roots. And what I got was another fantastic brawl fest care of Roberto de la Torre. This time it’s Iron Man (in his silver centurion armor), versus The Mandarin, and boy, does Torre make every punch hurt. Much like David Aja’s work on Iron Fist, Torre’s fight scenes are electrifying and intense. This is probably one of the most brutal fights I’ve seen with these two characters, and a couple of panels almost made me squirm.

If you’ve been following this book for the past year or so, prepare for a very gratifying conclusion. For the rest of you waiting to jump on, wait till next month when we’ll most likely get a Secret Invasion related story. Or, you could pick up this issue for the buttkicking alone. Either way, it’s a win-win situation. (Grade: B+)

– J. Montes