Could Tony Stark Lead The MCU's New S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Tony Stark wearing anyone's uniform instead of Iron Man's armor, let alone S.H.I.E.L.D's uniform, is an odd occurrence in itself. Stark isn't a fan of being bossed around and his team-spirit only stretches as far as his own self-interests. He likely isn't donning a S.H.I.E.L.D. insignia out of respect or admiration, either - that's just not his style. Being the chief enlistment of the Sokovia Accords and someone who's on a mission of atonement, however, perhaps he takes on a new job to demonstrate how responsible he is - he becomes the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D?
There's precedent in the comics - Tony became Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of the 'Civil War' crossover in 2007, with Maria Hill serving as his deputy. Under his watch the group acted as normal, fighting superhuman terrorism and such, even defeating the Mandarin at one stage. The 'Secret Invasion' crossover involving the Skrulls saw Stark ousted and Spider-Man villain Harry Osborn take over, transforming S.H.I.E.L.D. into H.A.M.M.E.R. While we don't know the ins and outs of Marvel and Sony's deal for Spidey and adjacent characters like Osborn, this route feels like a stretch for the time-being, but the root of it – Tony becoming boss and leading the charge on the Accords – definitely feels plausible.
Part of the purpose of Avengers 4 is to shift the MCU's roster around going forward. It's expected some main heroes will die and be totally written out, while others take a more reduced position. Where Robert Downey, Jr. fits into this is one of the biggest question marks - Iron Man's arc is pretty much rounded off, but would he or Marvel want to stop the money rolling in? With that in mind, Tony Stark taking on a position of guidance with the option to appear in almost anyone else's movie should the writers deem it necessary - like, say, the role Agent Coulson and Nick Fury once fulfilled - is a neat compromise. As much was teased in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which showed this is a role Stark is incredibly suited to, even if he himself would balk at such sentimentality.
Is Tony A S.H.I.E.L.D. Member In Another Timeline?
While the two prior theories are logical, there's also the suggestion that Tony becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. member is part of a grander cosmic scheme. Thanks to a string of set photos - including the ones revealing Stark's new look - it's becoming increasingly likely that Avengers 4 involves some form of time travel. How is still a mystery - one of the Infinity Stones has power over time itself, and Captain Marvel, which comes in between Infinity War and Avengers 4, is set in the '90s and features conflict with the shape-shifting Skrulls - but if so then it seems we're going to be dealing with alternate timelines.
Putting aside logistics, if we're seeing an alternate reality then it would stand to reason S.H.I.E.L.D. would be a different organization to what we're used to in Avengers 4. This would explain Tony being on board, pointing towards both a skewed outlook for the hero and the agency, providing a classic alt-take on what we know.
Whoever's at the helm, be it Fury or Stark, it's exciting that S.H.I.E.L.D could possibly come back to the silver screen in Avengers 4. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not just a fantastic concept that is indelible to the MCU, it deserves to be restored to prominence. S.H.I.E.L.D. also deserves its place in waving goodbye to the Avengers line-up that has defined the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point.
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