If you're curious about just where James "Rhodey" Rhodes AKA War Machine was when New York was being invaded by an alien army in The Avengers, then don't worry - moviegoers who haven't checked out the official Iron Man 3 prelude comics will get their answer when the film opens next week in the UK and the week after in North America.
With development already in progress on The Avengers 2, the less-immediate question has arisen of whether, having completed whatever secret mission kept him away last time, Rhodey will return to face the new threat for Joss Whedon's second Marvel hero team-up.
That was one of the questions asked by Collider in a recent interview with Don Cheadle, who took over for Terrence Howard to play Rhodey in Iron Man 2 and the tie-in video game - and who will reprise the role in Iron Man 3. At last year's Comic Con, Cheadle seemed eager to get involved with The Avengers, joking that fans should keep building up the rumors until they become a reality - but nine months later he still isn't able to give a clear answer of whether or not Rhodey will make an appearance in The Avengers 2:
"I know that [there are] conversations that have been happening, so we’ll see what happens. If that’s able to happen and it makes sense for the story, I’m sure it’ll happen, and if not it’s fine. It has to work within the world and sort of the mythology of the whole Marvel universe.”
The general sentiment coming across is that Cheadle would still like to make an appearance in the film, but that fans of War Machine should temper their expectations. Whereas The Avengers already had the unwieldy task of bringing together characters from four different Marvel movies, all with their own mythologies and story arcs, The Avengers 2 has to do the same thing again, keeping the plot consistent with the developing stories of its component parts in Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as also potentially begin to build connections with planned Marvel newcomers Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man. Producer Kevin Feige has been jokingly referred to as "the dungeon-master" of all the different movies.
In addition to keeping continuity with all the various branches of the Marvel universe, The Avengers 2 will also have its own central story, complete with what we're told will be awful consequences. As great as it would be to have War Machine working alongside the rest of the Marvel heroes (the character features in the Avengers comic books as part of the team), the question is whether or not there's room for Rhodey amidst all the characters, story arcs and relationships that already need development.
Of the Marvel movies currently slated for future release, the only one filming right now is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When asked if Rhodey will make an appearance, Cheadle replied:
"I think I’m gonna go to the set, so maybe if I bring the suit in my trunk I’ll just walk on."
That sounds like a "no," unless Cheadle's sneaky plan to insert himself into the film works out. Questions will probably be asked about why he's visiting the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier if he's not officially involved, but Don Cheadle's place within the Marvel universe means that it could easily just be a social visit.
In summary, it's still too early to give up hope of seeing War Machine alongside Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America and Thor, and it's possible that the "conversations" Cheadle mentioned will decide that he deserves a cameo appearance at the very least.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6, 2015.