Avengers: Endgame marked the end of the arc of some of the original Avengers, including Iron Man, who made the ultimate sacrifice to save Earth from Thanos’ invasion - but Tony Stark can still return to the MCU. Marvel has a tendency to bring back dead characters, and while it seems unlikely they will pull that move with Iron Man, it’s not completely outside of the realm of possibility – there are some ways he can return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though not as some would imagine.
The MCU’s Infinity Saga began in 2008 with Iron Man, led by Robert Downey Jr as the titular hero, and recently came to an end with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Prior to it, the MCU reached its peak with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which brought together all the current superheroes to fight against Thanos, reverse the snap, and get rid of the Mad Titan once and for all. Of course, all that came with a price, and Iron Man, in a truly heroic move that brought closure to his arc and his role as the leader of the Infinity Saga, died after wielding the stones for the final snap.
Iron Man’s death, although one that fans had been expecting, was a big shake-up for the MCU, especially for Peter Parker, as Tony Stark had been serving as his mentor. Spider-Man: Far From Home even addressed his death and how it has affected Peter and the world in general, so Iron Man’s presence could still be felt even though he’s gone. There are reasons for both his comeback to the MCU in the near future and for his permanent departure, but if Marvel ultimately decides to bring him back, here’s how it could be – without undoing his death.
Why Iron Man Will Probably Return To The MCU
Iron Man is the biggest character the MCU had: he was the first hero introduced as part of this universe, a key member of the Avengers, and the most popular character (thanks to Robert Downey Jr). Marvel knew where they were going and what they wanted for each character, meaning they knew Tony’s time in the MCU would be up once Endgame happened, and yet gave him an important role in Spider-Man’s arc. Tony was the one who went after Peter and brought him to fight against Team Captain America in Captain America: Civil War, and ended up serving as a mentor to young Peter.
Maybe Marvel’s plans for Tony continue beyond his death, but in a different way – one in which he could still guide Peter, without directing playing the role of superhero anymore. Or Marvel simply wanted to add some attachment between characters (and therefore strengthen the one between viewers and characters) to make his death even more emotional. Either way, Iron Man can still have a place in the MCU, and his death hasn’t made him any less popular or less loved by fans, which is why it can work – as long as he remains dead.
Iron Man’s Endgame Death Can’t Be Undone
As previously mentioned, Marvel has a tendency to kill characters but not for long, except for Quicksilver and some villains. The most recent example is Loki, who was supposedly dead for good after being strangled by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, only to be brought back in Avengers: Endgame through an alternate timeline. Marvel does what it wants, regardless of how much sense it makes or how unnecessary those decisions might be. That said, Marvel could find some in-universe way to “undo” Iron Man’s death and bring him back – but as much as fans love him, that would be the worst decision they could make.
Iron Man’s death, as heartbreaking as it was, couldn’t have been done better. Tony Stark began as a self-centered, egocentric man with more money than he could spend and no real purpose in life. Over the course of nine films (including Spider-Man: Homecoming), viewers witnessed the character development of Tony Stark, who truly became a hero after many obstacles, both inner and in the shape of (many) villains. His ultimate heroic action was sacrificing himself for the safety of the universe by wielding the stones and doing the final snap. Tony’s journey was complete, and his death was not in vain.
Undoing his death would be Marvel’s riskiest move, and one that wouldn’t appeal even to the most hardcore Iron Man fans. He shall remain dead, but bringing him back doesn’t necessarily mean erasing his death – being the genius he was, he could have been a step ahead of the game and left everything prepared for a different type of comeback, one that wouldn’t allow him to go into battle but would still give him a place in the MCU.
Iron Man Can Return As An AI
Iron Man’s return can be possible if he does so as an AI. Tony Stark himself relied on artificial intelligence throughout his time in the MCU, first with J.A.R.V.I.S and later with F.R.I.D.A.Y when J.A.R.V.I.S became Vision. Tony even left one for Peter – E.D.I.T.H, introduced in Spider-Man: Far From Home. As seen in Avengers: Endgame (and confirmed in Far From Home), Tony knew it was fairly possible that he could die during the process of reversing the snap and planned ahead, even leaving a recorded holographic message for his daughter. As such, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that he left a “back-up” of himself in the shape of an AI, thus making his return to the MCU possible.
Tony as an AI isn’t a new concept within the Marvel universe: in the comics (specifically the Ironheart storyline) he created an AI of himself as back-up in case his body no longer worked. When Tony was left in a comatose state after the second superhero Civil War, the AI was shipped to Riri Williams with the intention of serving as a mentor to her. The AI guided Riri in the creation of a better suit of armor (as she had already built one, with which she assisted Iron Man during the aforementioned Civil War) and came up with her superhero alias: Ironheart. This AI presented itself in holographic form, and even controlled the Iron Man armor by projecting himself in it.
It’s unlikely that Marvel would opt for the holographic version of Tony Stark’s AI, as it would be more expensive and wouldn’t really work, as it would essentially be like undoing his death and having him back in semi-physical form. However, they could bring him back as an AI the same way J.A.R.V.I.S, F.R.I.D.A.Y, and E.D.I.T.H have operated, and through this he could still serve as Peter’s mentor instead of Ironheart’s – unless they decide to add her to the MCU in a not-so-distant future. This way, Iron Man could still have a place in future MCU films but without being the leader and key team member he was for a bit over a decade, while continuing guiding Peter Parker for as long as needed – or until Spider-Man goes back home to Sony.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022