In Iron Man #21, Tony Stark discovers that one of his oldest allies has been killed, and all signs point toward familiar villains as the culprits.
The following contains major spoilers for Iron Man #21, available now from Marvel Comics.
The death of one of Iron Man’s oldest allies is poised to uncover a sprawling mystery that goes back decades.
After digging into the goings-on of a newly uncovered black market known as Source Control in the pages of Iron Man #21, Tony Stark explains to his longtime ally James Rhodes — aka War Machine — his plan to amass as many of these black-market weapons as possible. Although Rhodey agrees to Tony’s plan and is open to the possibility of him acting as their ghost-buyer, it turns out that Vic Martinelli will not be able. Vic was not only the one that told Rhodey all about Source Control. He might also be their latest victim.
When Vic was last seen in Iron Man #20, he was in the process of leaving Tony an ominous voicemail while staring into a case containing what appeared to be the Mandarin’s iconic rings. These rings would make it clear that Vic wasn’t able to talk about them over the telephone. His possession of these powerful weapons could also place him on the radar for Source Control. This would make his call to War Machine more of a plea for assistance.
Vincent Martinelli first appeared in 1979’s Iron Man #132 by writers David Michelinie and Bob Layton and artist Jerry Bingham. After testifying against the mob, Martinelli was put under witness protection with his wife. He was able to keep him alive, and even secure him Stark International. Vic was a key player in the downing of classic villains like Backlash. He even continued to work with Stark International when Stane International took over from Obadiah Stane.
The Mandarin’s Ten Rings, also known as the Makluan Power Rings, are some of the most powerful weapons in the Marvel Universe. The rings made their explosive debut alongside the titular villain of 1963’s “The Hands of the Mandarin!” written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Don Heck for Tales of Suspense #50, in which they set lethal precedents for what they are capable of. Iron Man sent the Rings out with his new caretakers into space the last time he encountered them.
Iron Man #21 was written by Christopher Cantwell, with art by Angel Unzueta, colors by Frank D’Armata, and letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Alex Ross provided the main cover artwork, while variant covers were created by Iban Coello, Jesus Aburtov and Angle Unzueta. Marvel Comics is selling the issue.