[Contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Infamous Iron Man #1 and Civil War II.]
The aftermath of Civil War II, although delayed itself, is already sounding across the Marvel Universe. As the Divided We Stand tableau from Marvel NOW! (part two) rolls out, there have been some major changes in the MU. In particular, the classic Iron Man – one Tony Stark – has stepped down from his role. In his place, a young MIT genius named Riri Williams has, with Tony’s blessing, taken on the Iron Man (or Ironheart) mantle. However, there is another person looking to fill Stark’s void (as if you could ever truly do so), none other than one-time intergalactic archfiend Victor Von Doom.
Over the past few years, the metal-faced menace has actually seemed, well, less-menacing. Heck, Doom has been downright helpful at points, aiding Tony Stark's escape from agitated Latverian rebels and figuring out where his vanished love interest Amara Perera worked. Of course, no one’s buying it. Supervillains don’t just turn good without a devious scheme or two, right?
Well, except for the fact that Lex Luthor did switch sides over at DC. But that doesn’t mean Doctor Doom’s turned over a fresh leaf, does it? And why does Tony Stark allow him to hoist the Iron Man petard, anyway (or does he)?
The New Face of Victor Von Doom
Infamous Iron Man #1 opens up with classic Doctor Doom around a table with his Cabal, including White Queen, Namor, the Hood, and Loki. After a smack talk-esque Q&A session with Hood, where he banishes the minor villain to India, the classic iron mask and cloak morphs into a fresh-faced Victor – the same one Reed Richards gave Doom after he relinquished his godlike powers at the conclusion to Secret Wars.
Shifting gears yet again, readers discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill has been captured by C-list alchemist villain Diablo. As he outlines his plans to torture her in the name of reestablishing himself as an A-list baddie, Von Doom pops into his lair. A pitched battle ensues between the two adversaries, with Diablo eventually recognizing the ‘reformed’ Doctor. Doom defeats him handily – presumably destroying or banishing him in the process – and frees Director Hill. He informs the agent that he won’t tell anyone about a S.H.I.E.L.D. bigwig being “subdued by a troll,” before vanishing in a puff of smoke to Hill’s utter bewilderment.
What Happened to Tony Stark?
The true fate of Tony Stark begins to unravel within the plot of Infamous Iron Man #1. During Von Doom’s meet and greet with Cambridge researcher Amara Perera (an on-again off-again love interest of Stark's), it’s revealed that Doom has sponsored her research. We also learn that, whatever tragedy befell Mr. Stark, it takes place on national television, presumably during the events of Civil War II. Clearly, Amara is shaken, but the once-nefarious villain seems oddly drawn to her, as if recognizing something in her.
Later on, Von Doom decides that he must make amends for his past wrongs by taking on the Iron Man role in Stark's absence. As he hoists one of the iconic helmets, Tony appears to him in holographic form. Doom compliments him on his ingenious use of computer to hold his intellectual 'essence.' Although not total confirmation, it would seem that Stark’s physical form was destroyed during the events of Civil War II. Even so, some aspect of the original Golden Avenger remains alive and well, at least as well as can be under the circumstances.
AI ghost or not, he’s adamantly against Von Doom taking on his superhero alter ego. The one-time overlord will hear nothing of the sort, and soars off into the night wearing his mystically repurposed iron suit. Although things look bad for Tony, early artwork for the restart of Incredible Iron Man shows a physical form of Tony Stark meeting with his young replacement, Riri. Although this could be a flashback, it leaves fans to wonder how dead Tony truly is or will remain – after all, Hulk didn't stay down for long.
Ben Grimm Ain’t Buyin’ It
As perplexing as Von Doom’s new attitude is to Tony Stark and Director Hill, no one in the Marvel Universe is truly convinced the longtime villain has amended his ways. Among the least-certain of the 'good' doctor’s sincerity is his perennial combatant and former Fantastic Four member Ben Grimm.
Following Doom’s visit to Amara’s lab at the University of Cambridge, the researcher only has a few moments to her thoughts before she gets another surprise visitor. A shadowy figure appears in her doorway, asking whether she had any information on the whereabouts of Victor Von Doom. The man in the shadows reveals himself to be Ben Grimm, who's now apparently an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. As her latest super-visitor asks about Doctor Doom’s whereabouts, Perera remains speechless. What she tells Grimm, eventually, remains uncertain, at least until the next issue.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The first look at a new and improved Victor Von Doom comes courtesy of Marvel creative stars Brian Michael Bendis (Civil War II) and Alex Maleev (Star Wars: Lando). Through Bendis’ somewhat jarring but intriguing storyline and Maleev’s expressive characters and detail-oriented backdrops, we’re exposed to another side of Doctor Doom, as well as getting a fuller picture of Tony Stark post-Civil War II. Much like Lex Luthor’s early foray into heroism, it appears that Victor only has a minor grasp on mercy and a basic awareness of altruism.
At the same time, he truly seems to want to remake himself in a positive manner. That beings said, of course, Marvel’s best and brightest (as well as comic fans) are undoubtedly well within their right to suspect Doom’s duplicitous intent. With a new metal face and body (ah, irony), the Latverian ne’er-do-well has set out to clear his name and conscience; make his mother proud; or, if nothing truly good can come from Doom, fulfill his nefarious agenda. The full depth of Victor’s schemes (or lack thereof) will be revealed in due time.
At this point, fans can definitely look forward to an inevitable confrontation between Victor's Iron Man and Agent Thing of S.H.I.E.L.D. But it will also be fascinating to see how things develop between Doom and Tony Stark's younger protege, Riri Williams.
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Infamous Iron Man #1 is now available in print and online.