Fans of Iron Man know that beneath the superhero's metallic battle suit lies Tony Stark. But what lies beneath Tony Stark? What is at his core? In the current "World's Most Wanted" arc of Marvel's "The Invincible Iron Man," writer Matt Fraction and artist Salvador Larroca are preparing to answer that question as they take Tony on a heroic journey that strips him bare of his fortune, his advanced armors, and even of his intellect and memories. "World's Most Wanted" ends with "Invincible Iron Man" #19, issue #20 begins "Stark Disassembled," an arc that shows who Tony Stark is when you remove all of his carefully crafted artifices. CBR News spoke with Fraction about the story, which was announced Saturday at the Mondo Marvel panel at Wizard World Chicago.
"Worlds Most Wanted" finds fugitive Tony Stark hiding from Norman Osborn a database containing the identities of every superhuman on the planet. Because the information is contained in Tony's brain, he's been using powerful technology to wipe it from his mind. The unfortunate side effect of this process is that other things are being erased as well, like memories and skills.
"In 'World's Most Wanted' Tony is going to win the race he set out to run, but Osborn kind of wins too," Fraction told CBR. "What you're going to see, to an extent, is all the King's horses and the King's men couldn't put Humpty back together again because maybe Humpty didn't want to get put back together again..."
Fraction's hints may sound bleak, but readers shouldn't assume that "Stark Disassembled" is a grim or hopeless story. "It's the third act of this first run of stories and my goal is to bring Tony all the way through this ordeal that started with my first arc, 'Five Nightmares,' and carried through to 'World's Most Wanted," Fraction explained. "The first arc was about destroying Stark, the corporation. The second arc was about destroying Iron Man and now this story is about Tony, who he is and why he is this way.
"There is a specific end destination in mind. There's a road map and I've been saying where we're going from the get go, but I don't think people realize the depth of what that means," Fraction laughed. "I've not been clever or coy at all. Tony's going to win the race he set out to run, but what does that mean? This story is about what makes Tony a hero."
Given that "World's Most Wanted" isn't finished yet, Fraction has to keep almost all the plot to "Stark Disassembled" a secret, but could reveal that Tony Stark's closest friends will be part of the story. "Pepper Potts, Maria Hill, and Rhodey are all going to be in this story," the writer said. "That's assuming though that those three characters make it out of 'World's Most Wanted.'"
Pepper, Maria, and Rhodey are Tony Stark's three closest friends, but he used to be a lot more connected with the other superheroes of the Marvel Universe. At the end of "Secret Invasion," many of Earth's champions considered Stark **persona non grata** as a consequence of the controversial moves he made during that storyline and others like "Civil War." That posture may change, though, by the time "Stark Disassembled" begins. "Tony's taking utmost responsibility for the choices he made and Osborn has stolen everything he's ever had. I think once people see the way Tony is going to bat for them, that he's manning up, making right, and ready to pay the ultimate price for the choices he made that's going to remind people that he's not a villain," Fraction stated. "And there's a spectacularly public finale to 'World's Most Wanted.' 'Stark Disassembled' is intimate and private in the way that wakes and vigils often are but 'World's Most Wanted' ends as the whole world watches."
It's not just Tony Stark the planet is watching at the end of "World's Most Wanted." "With both X-Men and Iron Man, I've been given the unique opportunity to show Norman Osborn's weapon of choice, the Media, used against him. When the good guys start to reveal the sort of cackling lunatic he is on the inside, the cameras will be there," Fraction said. "They're there when Norman looks heroic and when he's the Norman we all know. When you insist on having a camera around to capture every one of your good days they're going to be there to capture your bad days as well."
New readers and old fans will be able to find the "Stark Disassembled" storyline quite easily, because starting with November's "Invincible Iron Man" #20, the series will feature a new trade dress designed by former "2000 A.D." artist and acclaimed graphic designer Rian Hughes. "He and I talked and it was fun. I hadn't really talked design stuff since I [left graphic design firm MK12 and] went fulltime to comics and it was nice to be able to discuss things in a pure design sense. We we're both on the same page very quickly," Fraction stated. "'Invincible Iron Man' will look like a comic book about a futurist and tomorrow's test pilot. It will look like nothing else Marvel publishes.
"I first went to Warren Simons, the book's editor, and talked about wanting to do a trade dress redesign and I started off by talking about 'Immortal Iron Fist.' I think a lot of the success of that series came from David Aja's rather striking covers, and if you don't believe me go check out the 'Immortal Weapons' series that he's doing the covers for now. So this new [Iron Man] design is really looking to feel as unique as the 'Iron Fist' one, perhaps even more so. It's just beautiful. I want to put the covers on my wall."
"Stark Disassembled" promises to be a huge storyline and by the time it comes to an end, the whole Marvel Universe will have been put into play. "Tony has forced himself to evolve one step at a time and his best intentions didn't come out as smoothly as he would have liked," Fraction said. "But Tony isn't out of tricks yet..."