‘Iron Man 3′: Four Comic Books to Prepare You for the Movie

Published 2 years ago by , Updated March 18th, 2013 at 9:50 pm, This is a list post.

Iron Man 3 Comic Book Comparison Guide Though the release of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 is still a ways off, both the theatrical trailer and Super Bowl trailer have stirred up an incredible amount of anticipation, conversation, and plot speculation. Maybe that’s because, on top of being part of one of the most popular superhero film franchises ever, the third Iron Man film is the first superhero movie of 2013, ahead of Man of Steel, The Wolverine, and Thor 2. Of course, with cinematic superhero speculation comes the obligatory question: Which comic books, if any, were used as source material or inspiration for the film’s story? Again, it’s difficult to absolutely ascertain such things with several months to go before Iron Man 3 hits theaters, but there's enough striking imagery in the footage we've seen to have some semblance of an idea. As such, we’ve constructed a list of comic book stories you should probably read to be prepared for the release of Iron Man 3. Keep in mind, you might be entering SPOILER territory if you’re the type of person who likes to watch his/her films without any prior knowledge of the story.

Extremis (Iron Man Vol. 4, #1-6)

Iron Man Extremis Comic Book We’ve known for some time that 'Extremis' would be the source material for Iron Man 3, at least in part. For those not familiar, 'Extremis' was an Iron Man comic book arc from 2006 written by the great Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Nextwave). In the story, Tony is introduced to a military nanotechnology serum by its co-inventor, an old flame named Maya Hansen. The serum, dubbed "Extremis" (created as a replacement for the lost super soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America), has the ability to remake the carrier with increased health and physical/mental abilities. One such carrier - Mallen, whose exposure to the serum has given him super strength, speed, stamina, and durability, as well as fire breath and sharp claws that discharged electricity – is on the loose, seeking revenge against the government for the deaths of his parents. Tony goes toe-to-toe with Mallen and gets his ass handed to him (mortally), leaving him with little choice but to subject himself to the Extremis serum, which saves his life. The effects of the serum are different for Tony than they were for Mallen. They essentially make Iron Man more of a "superhero" than just a regular Joe in a suit of armor. Now there’s an "internal control sheath" underneath his skin that emerges around his body upon mental command, atop which his Iron Man armor can self-assemble. The sheath also grants Stark the ability to lo-jack into (and communicate with) his armor, phone, computers, global satellites, and so forth - sort of like a superhero R2-D2. Furthermore, Tony Stark now has a healing factor even more advanced than Wolverine’s. With these new powers, Iron Man locates Mallen and, ultimately, is forced to kill him. In the end it’s revealed that – shock of all shocks! - Maya orchestrated Mallen’s exposure to Extremis because she needed a human test subject, and she’s promptly taken into custody for her crimes. Some are under the impression that Extremis allows Tony to transform into Iron Man whenever he wants, sans suitcase armor, which isn’t strictly true. Initially, Extremis just stored some of the armor – the aforementioned control sheath – inside his body. It wasn’t until the upgrade to the Bleeding Edge armor that Tony could transform into Iron Man on a whim without lugging his suit around. So what does 'Extremis' have to do with 'Iron Man 3'? In the Iron Man 3 theatrical trailer, we can plainly see Extremis in action when Tony’s Iron Man glove self-attaches to his hand. We also know that Aldrich Killian (played by Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (played by Rebecca Hall), the co-inventers of the serum, will play key roles in Iron Man 3. As for precisely how much Warren Ellis’ run will influence the film – well, only time will tell.

Haunted (Iron Man Vol. 5, #21-28)

Iron Man Haunted Comic Books 'Haunted' takes place after Civil War, in the days when Tony Stark was the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. With his life in a bit of a downward spiral as a result of all those moral lines he crossed instating the Superhuman Registration Act – which eventually led to the "death" (but not really) of his friend, Captain America – Iron Man is confronted with a new threat: Maya Hansen, thought to be dead, is under the employ of his old arch-nemesis, the Mandarin, to create an airborne version of Extremis. Of course, Maya believes she’s working for the good of the world. In reality, the Mandarin is using her for his own nefarious plans. Though Extremis isn’t actually a virus, it’s sometimes referred to as such because it sort of “infects” the user and only (approximately) 3% of the population can survive exposure to it. Unbeknownst to Maya, Mandarin is not only aware of the low survival rate, he’s also actively counting on it in his plans to kill 97% of the planet. (In all fairness, he actually does believe worldwide exposure will be for the betterment of humanity, as the few survivors will be disease free from here on out.) After being forced to wear psionic resonance dampeners retrofitted to curb his Extremis powers – due to overexposure to Extremis, naturally - Tony resorts to donning his classic Silver Centurion armor to fight the Mandarin. The resulting battle is drawn-out and difficult for both parties, but in the end, Iron Man rips Mandarin’s magic rings right out of his spine and beats him senseless. Alas, the Extremis virus has already been launched via missile into the atmosphere! What ever shall Iron Man do? In order to stop the virus from being released, which would be very bad news indeed for that 97% of the planet, Tony burns the psionic resonance dampener off his ankle (removing part of his heel in the process) to access his Extremis powers. Then he "telepathically" takes control of the missiles and sends them into the upper atmosphere, where the Extremis virus freezes and is rendered useless. All's well that ends well, et cetera. So what does this story have to do with 'Iron Man 3'? It’s not entirely clear at this point that it does, other than the fact that both stories involve Iron Man, Mandarin, Extremis, and Maya Hansen. There’s been no indication that Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) – or the other two villains, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Eric Savin/Coldblood (James Badge Dale) – are planning to unleash Extremis onto the world. Then again, for all we know, that could be the big finale.

The Mask in the Iron Man (Iron Man Vol. 3, #26-30)

Mask in the Iron Man Comic Book 'The Mask in the Iron Man' is, put simply, a story about how Iron Man’s new armor gains sentience after Iron Man gets struck by lightning. (Comic book science fact #1: Lightning magically gives life to both inanimate objects and corpses.) And while you’d think it would be awesome for your favorite suit of armor to come to life – think of the things you could do together! – it turns out to be pretty awful, especially once the suit falls in love with Tony Stark’s girlfriend, Rumiko Fujikawa. Tony dons a different suit of armor – the Modular Armor - to fight off his evil, sentient armor, but the living suit proves to be too powerful and rips the Modular Armor apart. To punish Tony for his betrayal, the suit strands him on a deserted island for days on end so he can think about what he's done. When it returns, it finds that Tony has constructed a number of Macgyver-esque traps (or should I say Predator-esque traps?) for the suit to even the odds. And though the traps do, to a degree, even the odds, the sentient suit of armor eventually gets the better of Tony, which leads to Tony suffering a massive heart attack. Seeing its creator in searing pain and on the verge of death, the sentient armor has a change of heart, rips out its own cyborg heart, and shoves it into Tony’s chest, saving his life.  (Comic book science fact #2: Cyborg-heart surgery is surprisingly easy.)  Naturally, the evil, sentient suit dies, and for some reason, Tony is really heartbroken about it. Go figure. So what does this story have to do with 'Iron Man 3'? There’s only one moment in the theatrical trailer that recalls 'The Mask in the Iron Man,' as far as we can tell. Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are in bed, sleeping next to one another.  Tony seems to be in the throws of a nightmare, so Pepper leans over to see if he’s all right. But suddenly, a hand is on her shoulder, spinning her around to reveal that Iron Man’s suit of armor is standing over her! Now, there are a few explanations for what could be going on here: 1) Maybe it’s just someone else in the Iron Man armor! After all, we’ve seen characters don Iron Man-esque armor already - including old man Obadiah Stone (in the Iron Monger armor) and Jim Rhodes (in the War Machine armor). 2) Might Tony’s subconscious mind – as a result of Extremis – be taking control of his armor? Again, Tony seems to be having a nightmare during the scene in the trailer; he even says at one point: “I can’t sleep. And when I do, I have nightmares.” Perhaps his unconscious mind is just concerned for Pepper’s safety, and thus the suit of armor is checking up on her or something. 3) Tony’s armor has taken on a life of its own, as in 'The Mask in the Iron Man.' If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see the suit take a trip down to its favorite shawarma restaurant in the obligatory post-credits sequence. If I had to guess, I’d say it's probably number two.

World's Most Wanted (Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1, #8-19)

Iron Man World's Most Wanted Comic Book Story Matt Fraction's 'World's Most Wanted' sees some major changes for Tony Stark/Iron Man, not the least of which is that he shaves his mustache off. H.A.M.M.E.R. – a government organization led by Iron Patriot (A.K.A. Norman Osborn A.K.A. the former Green Goblin) in the wake of Secret Invasion – is supplanting S.H.I.E.L.D. and forcing many a S.H.I.E.L.D. officer to leave service (including Tony and Maria Hill). Tony realizes that Norman’s goal here is to get his hands on the Superhuman Registration database containing all the secret identities of his fellow heroes, so he uploads a virus that removes all names from the database save one: Tony Stark. The only remaining record of said secret identities is inside Tony’s head. And since Osborn will stop at nothing to retrieve that record, Tony decides to start the process of deleting his own brain – even if that means permanent brain damage. Osborn, of course, labels Tony a fugitive from justice, forcing him to go on the lam so the deletion process has time to take effect. Meanwhile, Pepper Potts has been named the head of Stark Industries in Tony’s absence. While working to shut down the company – per Tony’s instructions - she accidentally stumbles upon a secret room that contains a suit of armor (dubbed the “Rescue armor”) designed specifically for her. On top of everything else, Tony’s Extremis powers are pretty much useless now, so he has to resort to wearing his classic red and gold armor as he tries to evade H.A.M.M.E.R. and other adversaries (Namor, for example) all over the world – from snowy Russia to Dubai. Eventually, Norman Osborn (as Iron Patriot) catches up to Tony (in his original gray armor, with very little brain power left as a result of the deletion process) and practically beats Tony to death. This backfires tremendously when reporters in the area capture the fight on video and broadcast it to the world, forcing Osborn to stay his hand and allow Tony to live. In the end, Tony Stark is pretty much brain-dead, which would be terrible news for anyone who wasn’t Tony Stark. See, unbeknownst to Osborn, Tony made a back-up copy of his brain in the event that he’d have to delete everything inside it. (Always thinking ahead, that Tony Stark.) Thor/Donald Blake, Captain America/Bucky Barnes, Pepper Potts/Rescue, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, and Maria Hill are left with the job of restoring his brain – which they do. The end. So what does this story have to do with 'Iron Man 3'? Well, there’s an Iron Patriot. That's one way. There’s also the fact that Tony’s Extremis powers have failed him – which they seem to be doing in the theatrical trailer and recently released poster. Then, of course, there’s the stuff with Tony in snowy Russia hanging out with Pepper Potts (in her Rescue armor). The snow scenes from the trailer definitely bring to mind the snow scenes from 'Most Wanted,' but it’s hard to say how similar they are without seeing more footage. And lastly, there's the Rescue armor itself - rumor has it that Pepper could be suiting up at some point in Iron Man 3.

Iron Man 3 Comic Book Guide 2 So how'd we do, Screen Ranters? Do you think these Iron Man comic book stories will properly prepare the uninitiated for Iron Man 3? Or do you think there are other more suitable Iron Man stories out there? Keep in mind, this wasn't a list of "the 5 best Iron Man stories ever," as that would almost certainly be a very different list. Iron Man 3 hits theaters May 3rd, 2013. - Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.
TAGS: iron man, iron man 3


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  1. I dont think they’ll use the Most Wanted storyline mainly because of the fact that Osborn is the Iron Patriot. Yes, they obviously are having some one else be the IP in the movie; but i think it would carry more weight if Osborn was him. And not to be rude, but dont even think to bring up ‘well maybe Osborn is in IM3 and later he’ll crossover into TASM franchise’ because that is stupid and flatout bullsh*t. If Osborn’s going to appear in any movies, it’ll be TASM movies and he’ ll be the Goblin. You cant have him jump straight into the Ironman films without having introduced him as the Green Goblin or having ever seen him in the the new Spidey films.

    • I think it’s pretty safe to say Osborn won’t be in the movie, but I have a feeling they’ll still take some inspiration from ‘World’s Most Wanted’. Stark being defeated and going to an isolated area in a foreign country to try and fix himself… sound familiar?

      It’s also more than possible that they’ll have a Osborn-esque character trying to take over the world/seize control of Stark Industries/seize control over Stark’s suits (perhaps a corrupt or power hungry senator or something). If that’s the case, it’s easy enough to explain that Mandarin’s only using him as a pawn or something…

      I dunno… what I do know though, is that they don’t have to do a 100% adaption of A comic book series. Like most Marvel movies, they’ll probably end up taking little arcs and cues from various comics in history – both old and new.

      • In TASM Norman Osborne is sick no? Why not use extremis as the tie in between the spider man and iron man franchise and have him as IP? Sounds weird

        • Well yeah, that could work but i think it’d be stupid (no offense to you) and silly to have Osborn in the Iron Man films before appearing in TASM

          • Yeah, Norman Osborn really only works as Iron Patriot after his very long back-story from the comics.

  2. I feel kinda embarrassed… I’ve only read 50% of this list (Extremis and World’s Most Wanted). Personally I never liked the direction Extremis took the character (alienating bio-tech/cyborg stuff). World’s Most Wanted wasn’t too bad though – but I’m still not a fan of the whole extremis virus thing.

    • Im sorry but disagree with your opinion on Extremis. I mean, its pretty cool that Stark can finally get some credit because everyone always argues that ‘stark’s just some dude in a metal suit, strip him of it and any baddie can kick his ass’ and it gets pretty irritating after awhile. So itd be nice to finally to finally have some proof that he’s more than ‘some guy in a suit'; plus its pretty cool. I mean think about it, Stark’s just free-falling and suddenly his hand and feet repulsors are on him and he can fly. Kinda like in the Avengers.

      • He’s never been “just some guy in a metal suit” to me. He’s Tony Stark. His IQ is his superpower – and in my view, that’s the appeal of the character (his brilliance), not some weird ability to talk to computers or oozing an Iron Man suit out of his skin/latching on to him like some sort of magnet.
        Batman doesn’t need super strength or speed to be the complete bad-@$$ that he is… and IMO, neither does Stark.

        And it would be cool to see him free-falling to his doom and suiting up at the last second, but that’s exactly what happened in The Avengers! – and he didn’t need a weird virus to do it.

        Sorry for ranting like this, but Extremis is a touchy subject for me… I understand that the arc has a huge fanbase and it’s one of those stories where it’s a love-or-hate thing, but unfortunately I’m at the “hate” end when it comes to this one.

        I totally respect your opinion though, and I think we’re both hoping for the same thing out of IM3: an awesome movie.

        • @The Avenger:

          I agree… I prefer the normal man (well… with a super energy source as a heart) in the metal suit.

          For comics, Extremis was good, but for movies, keeping Tony as normal as possible and having him use intellect and snark as a super power is much better.

          They did that with the first Spidey trilogy (downplaying his IQ and using organic web shooters) and I didn’t really like it (dug the new one with Peter building the web shooters). Speaking of, Spidey also did the whole sentient suit thing too. :)

          • Just to be clear, I do prefer Tony in a suit to Tony with Extremis powers.

            But I don’t think they’re going to be “downplaying” his intellect to make way for Extremis in the movie. They didn’t downplay his intellect in the Extremis comic book arc, either.

        • You dont need to apologize for ranting, you’re e pressing your opinon, plus theres a reason its called Screen Rant. But dont get me wrong, i dont think he’s ‘just some guy in a suit’ either. I honestly hate when people say that to me cause he’s not. He’s the most intelligent man in the MCU, Norman Osborn couldnt even recreate Tony’s mini-archreactor perfectly. And you’re right, the free-fall thing did happen in the Avengers; but IMO i think it might be a bit cooler with the Extremis. Instead of it being his entire armor its just his repulsors and he’s all like ‘im a badass and there isnt a damned thing you can do about it’. And we are looking for IM3 to be an awesome movie, because the way things are headed now, by the time Avengers 3 debuts we’re all going to be practically trampling each other to see what happens.

          • Not trying to be an ass, but what do you mean when you say “instead of it being his entire armor it’s just his repulsors”? Extremis just allows him to communicate with/mentally control his armor (and other computer-based machines) – unless they’re doing something altogether different for the movie.

            • Nah, its cool man. Have you seen the promo poster with Stark just standin’ there amongst his armor? If you look closely you can see he’s got on his repulsors on his hands, im not sure about his feet though…..i’d have to check again. But anyhowww, thats what i meant. Kinda like another Avengers free-fall, except Tony doesnt mentally summon (would that be the right word?) all of his armor, just the repulsors.

              • That poster is from the concept art. They were trying different things on how the Extremis stuff could work on screen. I´m all in for ‘Stark in a suit’ as opposed to ‘Stark being able to control everything with his mind’. The Warren Ellis story was cool, but I´m not sure if it´ll work on screen. The armor “growing” around Stark, coming from the inside of his skin? Meh.

                • Yeah, i dont like the idea of the armor growing out of his skin either. I do like, however, the idea of being able to mentally control the armor. Companies and producers are always making changes to things, so if they decide to make it that he can sorta ‘summon’ his armor or parts of it instead of it just growing out of his skin, then im for it.

                  • In Warren Ellis’ story, the only part of the armor that was under the skin was the control sheathe. His actual armor did not come out of his skin. That armor came later (the “Bleeding Edge” armor).

                    • Still, you get what im saying at least

                    • No, I hear you, I just wanted to be clear. My comment was sort of in response to both yours and Scapegoat’s.

        • I’m not real familiar with the Extremis story arc, but don’t really like what I see as far as what little I know of it. I like Tony human, but with that great power of courage, intelligence, a self-recognized moral responsibility and ethic towards protecting his fellow man, all traits of a true hero. IM #3 movie does look pretty exciting, though (wish again they had not gone the Extremis route); looking foreward to seeing The Mandarin in particular (the rumored radioactive Man would be welcome, too). I would like to see mandarin battling it out with iron man with his 10 mrings, man-to-man and tech-to-tech, though. Hope the rings are more than just Wal-Mart jewelry. I also hope that in the future we will see some additions to the Avengers roster: for the heroes, Quicksilver, Goliath (Hank Pym), Wasp, and Scarlet Witch. In the villain corner, let’s see Ultron, Kang, Skrulls, and maybe The Masters of Evil (Whirlwind/The Human Top vs. Pietro/Quicksilver…that would be a good fight) in some incarnation. Further down the road, maybe eventually Black Panther and Vision would be OK (on the good guy side). Skipping back to Iron man, I seem to recall either him or maybe Captain America fighting someone called The Red Guardian in the early comics. IM also could fight Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo, Force, and a few others, for nostalgia’s sake.

  3. I feel like these movies will just take elements from different storylines like the scene when the armor is over Pepper is before Tony gets Extremis, I could be wrong but I think the Mansion gets blown up and then Tony gets Extremis Virus that way it adds to the idea that hes more then a Man in a Suit if he takes on Extremis after all his suits get blown up…

    • You are wrong, Sir. He has the extremis when the house is blown to bits. You can see the suit coming to him in a scene in the trailer, hovering over his body. He is distraught. I believe that Tony will get the Extremis more towards the beginning of the flick.

      • Your probably right I just thought that part in the trailer where the armor fly’s to him might not be where he has Extremis but another way of calling the armor to him like when it deployed in Avengers plus he doesn’t have the sheathe from the comics but they probably drop that part…

        The only thing that I meant was that story-wise it would be better if he gets beat up like the mansion being destroying on top of him & then he takes Exremis as a last resort but he probably does take Extremis in the beginning/middle

        • Something happens to Hogan, Tony gets Extremis, boom.

  4. Sounds like a great movie to me, can’t wait.

  5. Maybe they’ll have him use extremis because Tony himself feels he needs it to be ‘more than a guy in a suit’ but then when everything is taken away from him and that technology fails him and possibly threatens the planet and he sees how far Maya Hansen has fallen from thinking similar things he goes back to working from his brain and not super powers given from some virus and saves the day not with Extremis but in spite of it. That’d be neat. : ) (after all they’ve hyped up the ‘does the suit make the man’ question– I’d be surprised if they would raise that question and not try to make the movie show the answer is that the man makes the suit. That means he won’t be just relying on Extremis to save the say.)

  6. Good article, Ben – I can’t think of a better way to get up to speed on what might be in IM3 than these stories. Just one minor quibble: you mention that during the Haunted storyline “Tony burns the psionic resonance dampener off his ankle (accidentally removing part of his heel in the process) to access his Extremis powers.” In fact the ankle device is housed in adamantium, so hacking his heel off is the only way he can remove it. He sets up a pencil-laser to do just that, and even says “Oh God…this is gonna hurt SO bad.”!

    • Ah, you’re right! I’d totally forgotten about the adamantium. Thanks.

  7. In the trailer it doesnt look as I’m the suit is checking up on Pepper but rather that it’s protecting Stark.. “As in: get your hands off of him”. Like you atated in the article he does seem to be having a nightmare, as I’ve speculated in prev post, It does appear that the suit is now responding to his mental commands (conscious & unconsious). From the shock offseeying the suit it would perhaps suggest that it’s the first occurence.

  8. I’d just like to notify the Screen rant team that the 3rd set of comics you said is not Vol.6, its vol.3.

    Anyone new to Iron Man comics, like me will find it hard to find that. Please correct the error. :)

    Good article as always though.

    • Thank you!

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