Warning: SPOILERS for Tony Stark: Iron Man #16
Tony Stark's death in Avengers: Endgame is still an open wound for millions of Marvel fans, but they may want to prepare for even more heartbreak with Iron Man in the comics, too. But look on the bright side: at least if THIS Tony Stark dies, it's really just the death of a copy of the true Tony... who died already.
It's hard to believe just how much has changed for Iron Man in Marvel's Universe, following the Civil War II battle that saw Tony Stark get killed by Captain Marvel. When a new body was grown and Tony's digital consciousness uploaded, it seemed like Marvel's way of undoing the death (like so many before). But as the artificial nature of his body and brain has set in, Tony is questioning whether he's 'Tony' at all. Which makes it the perfect time for Marvel to start hinting at his replacement--but who will wear the armor as Iron Man 2020?
The latest issue of Tony Stark: Iron Man #16 ended on a massive twist, seeing Tony's body merged with his Iron Man armor in classic body horror fashion. Ordinarily that would seem like the kind of trouble a genius like Tony could solve--if the same issue didn't also make it clear that he doesn't know how to. With his body destroyed, the question of whether Tony is a man or a program has never been more pressing. And the synopsis for Tony Stark: Iron Man #17 isn't playing coy, showing which side of the equation Tony--sorry, Iron Man is likely to lean:
Whatever he is, he IS Iron Man. And he’s all that’s standing in the way of Ultron Pym and everyone that Tony Stark loves. Or loved. Because Tony might be dead. 2020 is coming. The robot revolution has begun. So suit up, fleshbags. Suit up or die.
The synopsis reminds fans that if Tony is unable to exist inside of his disfigured, tortured body, his decision to let it die can only be so tragic--because this isn't Tony's true body, anyway. That one died with him during Civil War II. But it's the message that "2020 is coming" that may hold the real secret of Tony Stark's death, assuming readers know what it's referring to...
For fans who aren't familiar with the 1984 story 'Iron Man 2020,' the name is given to the alternate universe version of the hero: Arno Stark, Tony's brother in the (then-futuristic) world of 2020. And just as fans realized the year was approaching in the real world, Arno Stark returned to Marvel Comics to start scheming with a Stark corporate rival. Oh, and Tony created his newest prototype armor... the same one Arno wore as Iron Man 2020. With the digital, program version of Tony losing its grasp in a physical form, and the version of Iron Man made famous by Arno now taking form, has the time finally come for everyone (characters and readers) to accept Tony Stark's death? And if there's no longer any Tony, is it time for a different Iron Man to take the role?
The teases and suggestions that such a shift is coming next year are piling up, but the exact meaning is still vague. For instance, Arno Stark claiming the armor and role of Iron Man makes the most sense, but that doesn't account for the digital Tony's fate. Would Arno embrace his role as the villain everyone expects, and steal the spot from his long-dead brother? Or is it a chance for Tony to play digital assistant?
When CBR got the chance to ask writer Dan Slott about the '2020' looming in the real world, and the growing uncertainty surrounding Iron Man, he didn't shy away from showing his hand to readers. Referring back to the re-imagined version of the 2020 armor, and the growing manipulation and scheming of Tony's brother Arno, Slott isn't confirming anything...yet:
"The Ultron Agenda" goes all the way up to the end of 2019, and it will have dire repercussions for the Marvel Universe of the year 2020. It's almost like it's a major catalyst! [Laughs] Perhaps something major is going happen? Maybe these are books you should really be following now? You only get one 2020! We can do 2099 books whenever we want! We could do one, today, tomorrow, and even a few years from now... 2020 is no longer a future world. It's now! Something is about to happen.
When Tony's mind was free to do whatever it wanted in the virtual E-scape we saw him create the ultimate armor, the God-Killer. That armor had clockwork style cogs on the shoulders. How interesting? Plus, Arno Stark had broken into the system and seen all of this. It's almost like month after month in 2019 we've been setting up this chain of dominoes.
How interesting, indeed. Even more interesting is the last issue of 2019's "2020 Variant Cover" by artist Larry Stroman, depicting the Iron Man 20202 fans know from the comics... tearing Tony's Iron Man Armor into pieces over his head. Just in case that's a little too subtle, the full credits and plot synopsis confirm fans should prepare for a BIG change.
- TONY STARK: IRON MAN #19
- Written by: Dan Slott & Christos Gage
- Art by: Francesco Manna
- Cover by: Alexander Lozano
- 2020 Variant Cover by: Larry Stroman
- VARIANT COVER BY PETE WOODS
- THE ULTRON AGENDA FINALE! What if there is no Tony Stark? What if there is only the Iron Man? At the end of 2019, the boundaries between man and machine are blurred and broken... and the Marvel Universe will be a very different place in the year 2020. A new Iron Age is coming... and you do NOT want to miss this pivotal issue.
Tony Stark: Iron Man #16 has officially begun the "Ultron Agenda" story, available in comic shops now. The next age of Iron Man will begin when Tony Stark: Iron Man #19 arrives on December 18th, 2019... and Iron Man 2020 begins.