"The Mandarin's Revenge!" by Stan Lee & Don Heck
This issue is mainly set-up with a cliffhanger ending, but it's interesting to see the Mandarin again.
Once again, Tony Stark is called to the Pentagon to answer for equipment failure. Seems his state-of-the-art missiles are losing guidance and crashing. After hitching a ride on an ICBM to Vietnam (in armor, of course), Tony is able to deduce that the Mandarin is using his rings to knock his missiles off course, so he takes the fight straight to the Mandarin for a re-match.
From there on, it's all-out action as the two face off. The Mandarin is still Iron Man's best and deadliest villain, even in only his second appearance. Not only because of his ten rings, but because he's a scientific genius. Oh, and he knows karate. That's always the thing Tony's worried about, because a well-placed karate chop could get right through Iron Man's armor... somehow. This is during that period of time when Western writers acted like karate was pure mysticism and could do anything. Actually, we're still in that time period, aren't we?
Iron Man really taunts Mandarin during the fight; I think Tony would just love to kill this guy and end it. The Mandarin is actually impressed that Iron Man is standing up to him, and makes Iron Man an offer: "Agree to become my ally--serve me--and together we can rule the world!"
Iron Man refuses, of course, so the Mandarin uses his rings to blind Iron Man, then capture him with steel cables. With his transistors losing power after a hard-fought battle, Tony is helpless. As the Mandarin begins to lower dynamos that will end Iron Man forever, Tony regrets that the last time he saw his friends, he was kind of a jerk...
As a wolf howls outside and the Mandarin gloats, the dynamos close in...
To be continued.
:: According to the Marvel Database, this is still the Mark III armor, but Iron Man has a new riveted face plate. I miss the old one with the "horns." That was my favorite, and it's already over. I think that was five issues. Dang.
:: This issue makes it clear that Tony would like to be with Pepper if he could, but refuses to expose her to the dangers Iron Man faces. He even rants when he's alone that he's jealous of Happy's attention towards Pepper, which gives us this nicely dramatic panel:
I just want a big wall painting of this.
:: Happy, to Pepper: "You're just angry because I always play so hard-to-get!" Pepper: "You're about as hard-to-get as the common cold!"
:: "You oughtta join the villains' union, cornball! You sure talk like one!"
"Tales of the Watcher: Hands Off!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Chic Stone
Last issue, we got the origin of the Watcher--after his people interfered in a civilization and gave them the means to destroy themselves, his people made a vow never to interfere again. This issue, the Watcher's vow is tested when he observes a planet sending its radioactive waste into outer space, regardless of whether or not it could endanger other worlds.
For decades, the Watcher follows the radioactive waste through the cosmos, until it finally heads into an inhabited system. The Watcher laments his dilemma very dramatically, but ultimately decides he must hold to his promise never to interfere. Just then, a star goes supernova and sends a planet hurtling towards the inhabited worlds. But, to the Watcher's surprise, the planet hits the asteroid of radioactive waste, destroying both the asteroid and the planet. Had the Watcher interfered and destroyed the asteroid, his powers would have been temporarily weakened and he couldn't have stopped the planet.
So the Watcher learns a valuable lesson about not interfering. I guess. I mean, it could easily have gone either way, right? I think what he really needs is a lesson in being okay with the fact that you can't control every possible outcome of every situation. He even takes the credit, too: "By keeping my vow, I have saved an entire civilization!" Slow down there, pal. That civilization just lucked out, is all.
:: The Watcher's dramatic turmoil and his overwrought lamenting reminds me of what's going to come in the first Silver Surfer series.
Next Marvels: a characteristically lame villain for Hank Pym.