Armor Wars – what Marvel comics tell us about the next MCU movie

Tony Stark’s technology in Marvel Comics and in the MCU is/was constantly being updated. Marvel Studios’ upcoming Armor Wars project, which adapts the historic ’80s Iron Man story of the same name, has also been upgraded from a Disney Plus streaming series to a full-length theatrical film, starring Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / War Machine in the lead role.

Aside from the understanding that the story will follow what happens to Tony Stark’s Iron Man tech after he dies in Avengers: Endgame, Marvel hasn’t provided much information about the now-film version of Armor Wars. .

But in the comics, the story is one of the most formative events in Tony Stark’s modern superhero career, establishing the consequences of what happens when Iron Man’s technology gets caught between bad hands – a theme that has been central to much of recent Iron Man comics. the story.

In an adventure that travels to every corner of the Marvel Universe, Tony Stark must track down unauthorized Iron Man technology that has fallen into the hands of friends and foes, pitting him alone against numerous superheroes and armored villains.

Marvel’s official description of the film suggests it will be particularly faithful to the “classic” comic book source material, although it apparently focuses on Rhodey (who is not the inventor of the technology) as opposed to Tony.

And that makes sense, because the comic book version of the story has plenty of meat on the bone for Marvel Studios to bring to the big screen while pushing the Iron Man movie mythos into a larger arena with major new players. in the field.

And oh yeah… Doctor Doom is taking on the story, which fans have been patiently waiting to make its MCU debut.

What happens in Armor Wars?

Artwork from Iron Man: Armor Wars

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Armor Wars (opens in a new tab) is an ’80s story arc set in Invincible Iron Man #225-232, from legendary Iron Man writers Dave Michelinie and Bob Layton and artists Mark D. Bright and Barry Windsor-Smith (legends of full-fledged comic). In the story, Tony Stark discovers that the technology used to construct the armored suits of several characters, including the aforementioned Doctor Doom, the Beetle (who later became Mach I of the Thunderbolts), Stilt-Man, Crimson Dynamo (a contemporary Russian from Red Guardian), Titanium Man, and more.

After hiring Scott Lang (Ant-Man) to find out how his technology was leaked, Tony learns that his data was stolen by longtime Iron Man villain, the Spymaster, and sold to rival Justin Hammer – who would return to the MCU in Armor Wars, with Iron Man 2 actor Sam Rockwell reprising the role.

From there, he sets out to track down each of the armor wearers suspected of using his stolen technology and neutralize their armor with a special device that disables all of the Stark technology inside.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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First, he takes out C-List Daredevil villain Stilt-Man, who, as his name suggests, wears armor outfitted with massive stilts (talk about a one-sided brawl). Then he defeats his longtime enemy, the Controller, whose armor enhances his mind control powers. But after finding out he can’t use the courts to get his stolen technology back from others using it through legal means, Tony decides to continue hunting down those using Iron Man technology one by one.

Tony and Rhodey use their credentials to search for suspected users of Iron Man technology, finding clues that Avengers ally Stingray, who runs the Hydro-Base underwater facility that was once an Avengers HQ, could use Stark technology in its own special submarine. suit.

However, when Tony confronts Stingray, the underwater hero refuses to comply with Tony’s scans of his suit, prompting Tony to force him down and reluctantly scan the suit – which reveals that Stingray isn’t actually using no Iron Man technology. This carries consequences for the US government, which has a contract with Stingray, to end their relationship with Tony Stark and revoke his powers, demanding that he shut down Iron Man completely.

Artwork from Iron Man: Armor Wars

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

From there, Iron Man branched out into several armored groups, including SHIELD’s Mandroid Armored Corps and the Prison Vault’s armored security force, the Guardsmen.

During this last encounter, he meets Steve Rogers, who at the time was operating under the name “Captain”, having ceded Captain America’s identity and shield to John Walker (the current MCU US Agent). During the fight with the guards, Steve is injured and put into a coma by Iron Man.

After Steve’s injury, the other Iron Man West Coast Avengers confront him at the time. Although he explains that his technology was stolen, the Avengers cannot respect his cowardly cannon actions and Tony is fired from the team.

This doesn’t stop Tony however, and he flies to Russia to battle the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo, only to be intercepted by the US government’s new armored agent, Firepower, who uses the stolen technology himself. of Iron Man.

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In a final fight with Firepower in which he threatens to detonate his own armor like a neutron bomb, Tony shows up in brand new Iron Man armor, eliminating Firepower and averting disaster.

Although it cost him his relationship with the government and the allies, Tony is content that he did all he could to keep his technology from falling into the wrong hands – although there are still others villains suspected of using Stark technology who are not accounted for. for in history, notably Doctor Doom.

A sequel, Armor Wars II, was released in the early 90s, although the story focuses on Tony losing control of his armor in a protracted battle with his nemesis, The Mandarin.

Armor Wars in the MCU

Armor Wars Title Card

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

When it comes to how Armor Wars could be adapted for the MCU, there are plenty of options – and almost all of them could continue the theme of a quest to save Tony’s tech from falling into the wrong hands. With the reported inclusion of Justin Hammer, we’re guessing the story will have at least some direct similarities to the original Armor Wars comic, but with Rhodey replaced by Tony in the quest to defeat armored opponents.

And this might be a good time to mention that Pepper Potts’ debut as an armored rescue in the third act of Avengers: Endgame showed her to be pretty adept at handling herself in combat, so another Gweneth Paltrow’s appearance cannot be ruled out.

Tony’s daughter Morgan Stark and Iron Man 3 inventor/sidekick Harley Keener are still there too.

Armor Wars could also be an opportunity to expand the Iron Man corner of the Marvel Universe in the wake of Tony Stark’s death, both with the potential inclusion of new armored allies such as Ironheart, who makes his debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever before getting his own. streaming series, and possibly bringing in some new armored enemies that go beyond what we’ve seen before from Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger (Jeff Bridges) and Anton Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rourke).

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On the one hand, Armor Wars could be a golden opportunity to bring in Doctor Doom as Rhodey’s main adversary, potentially installing him in the MCU before the now-confirmed November 2024 Fantastic Four movie. He may have only played a minor role in Armor Wars comic book history, but few armored characters in history hold the profile Doom would have with viewers.

Whatever happens, the possible implications of bringing Armor Wars to the MCU are obvious, if a little murky as we wait to hear more. But for now, we can assume that something in the story was big enough to elevate Armor Wars from a streaming series to a full feature film.

Armor Wars is one of best iron man stories already.

Daniel K. Denny