Warning: SPOILERS for Tony Stark: Iron Man #17
In the world of Marvel's movies, even being paralyzed couldn't keep James 'Rhodey' Rhodes down for long. But in the comics, War Machine was actually killed. Now that he's been brought back to life, it's time for the real tragedy to strike: Tony Stark's best friend just became a mass murderer as a result of his own past trauma.
The tragic event has unfolded in the pages of Tony Stark: Iron Man, bringing the ongoing comic series to a close before Tony's brother becomes Iron Man 2020 in the new year. But before that happens Tony and his friends must first defeat the forces of their old friend Hank Pym, permanently merged with Ultron (a tech-organic villain lurking in the shadows for years). And it's those forces that have stirred up Rhodey's fear of blurring the line between man and machine--and those forces he slaughters before realizing he's committing murder.
It isn't hard to understand why Rhodey, Bethany Cabe (the former War Machine 2.0), Wasp, and the rest of Tony's friends are in a panic. To build his army, Ultron-Pym secretly lured in unsuspecting victims with makeover promises, not telling them they would actually be test subjects. The finished product is an army of human beings who have had their bodies merged with artificial parts and intelligence. Victims operating against their will... but when Rhodey shows up to save his friend Tony, he sees only monsters in need of being "put out of their misery."
As tragic as their appearance and zombie-like demeanor may be, Bethany is clearly horrified at Rhodey's lack of hesitation. After all, since Tony's been merged with his armor, the heroes have to hope a cure can be found. Rhodey justifies his killings internally, claiming Tony and Jarvis were only slightly corrupted by Ultron-Pym, and can be reversed and saved. But even as he agrees to "use lethal force only as a last resort," he soon proceeds to riddle wave after wave of oncoming cyborgs with bullets.
Only minutes later, Tony gets the call from his friends at Stark Unlimited that having spent hours searching for a cure, they have successfully reversed the process! A message Rhodey also overhears, instantly realizing that ignoring Bethany's objections and insistence that these victims be restrained was the right course of action. Deciding he knew better, Rhodey killed dozens of innocent victims whose torment and corruption could have been reversed. If not a guarantee, then certainly a chance everyone Ultron-Pym hurt could have been saved.
It's a grim turn in the life of James Rhodes, and the issue sees him forced to don his War Machine armor once more. He has been unable to wear it since his death in the Civil War II event, but he's done waiting--almost certainly motivated by the innocent blood on his hands, put there by his own trauma and fear clouding his decisions. The future of Tony Stark in the Iron Man 2020 series is unknown, but it looks like Rhodey will survive this fight, at least. But with the plot synopsis promising "War Machine will have a role to play in the new series," it's anyone's guess how this tragic scene will direct him from here on out.
- TONY STARK: IRON MAN #17
- Written by: Christos N. Gage, Dan Slott
- Art by: Francesco Manna
- Cover by: Alexander Lozano
- "THE ULTRON AGENDA” continues! Chapter 2: Compatible Parts! Is Tony Stark dead? Is he alive? Who can tell? 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.
Tony Stark: Iron Man #17 is available now from your local comic book shop.