SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "Infamous Iron Man" #1, on sale now
There's a new Iron Man in town; actually, there are two, but Riri Williams' debut as Ironheart doesn't happen for a few weeks yet. Rather, "Infamous Iron Man" #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev features a better-known character donning a new version of the armor, and he's a former supervillain who's no stranger to wearing armor already: the post-"Secret Wars" and now scar-free former dictator of Latveria, Victor Von Doom.
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Victor Von Doom Becomes the New Iron Man
Victor is first seen in a far more familiar setting; namely some years back, as Doctor Doom, in one of his secret meetings with the clandestine supervillain order known as The Cabal. An emboldened Parker Robbins, aka The Hood, effuses praise on Doom for his past defeat of the unnamed Mephisto and subsequent freeing of his mother's soul, but then questions Doom's purpose since then. A perturbed Doom teleports Robbins away -- whether it's via technology or magic is unclear -- but finds himself pondering Robbins' question, and revealing that his motive for seeking a higher purpose was seeded long before the events of the recent "Secret Wars."
Victor ultimately deduces that this purpose is to assume the role of a good guy. In the present day, in an attempt to establish his new role in a decidedly high-profile manner, Victor takes on a solo rescue mission and frees captured S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill from the villainous alchemist Diablo. Curiously, Victor appears to obliterate the villain in the process, showing more brutality in his outwardly-nicer incarnation than he did towards The Hood as the despotic Doom. Before his demise, though, Diablo makes mention of the disappearance of Reed Richards, whose seeming absence is part of the fallout from the aforementioned "Secret Wars," to which Victor acknowledges is more than it appears to be.
The relevance of this brief exchange remains a mystery, though it hopefully alludes to a potential encounter between Victor and the new world-making Reed down the line. For now, Victor feels the world needs an Iron Man, and Tony Stark is nowhere to be found. A semblance of Tony still exists, though, in the combined form of a digital projection and a downloaded copy of the information stored in his brain (not the first time Tony's done a brain dump), in what is likely to be revealed as another development necessitated from the events of "Civil War II." Despite digi-Tony's protests, Victor, aka the new and soon-to-be-infamous Iron Man, takes to the skies in a version of the suit that evokes both Doom's old armor, as well as the very first iteration of Iron Man's own.
Before Victor suits up, though, he pays a visit to biophysicist, and Tony Stark's almost-love interest, Amara Perera at her University of Cambridge laboratory, continuing a thread from Bendis' recently concluded "Invincible Iron Man" series. The two obliquely discuss Tony's recent fate, with details being danced around presumably for secrecy's sake, thanks to publishing delays in the still-ongoing, and lengthened, "Civil War II" series. While Tony clearly isn't around the corner, no one's quite ready to come out and say he's dead, either.
Victor also confesses to Amara that she reminds him of someone he knows, shedding only the dimmest light on his motive to prod along Amara's Alzheimer's Disease research; whether that indicates that Victor himself, or perhaps someone close to him, might be somehow afflicted with the disease is unclear. The soft reboot of the post-"Secret Wars" Marvel Universe wiped out a lot of memories, though, which could be a possible impetus for Victor's motive.
Ben Grimm – Agent of WHAT?!
After his discussion with Amara, Victor literally makes himself vanish, only for a shell-shocked Amara to behold the sight of a much more surprising visitor immediately thereafter -- Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, now a self-proclaimed S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, on the trail of Victor himself, presumably in the wake of his rescue mission. The shocking moment is the first significant appearance of The Thing outside of Bendis' "Guardians of the Galaxy" series in the new "Fantastic Four"-free Marvel Universe, and perhaps portends another consequence stemming from the to-be-concluded "Civil War II."
That fallout could be related to Ben's seeming abstinence from that conflict; while the Guardians of the Galaxy have taken sides in Marvel Universe's second Civil War, The Thing's involvement has been noticeably low-key, as he is only seen in two panels in the recent "Civil War II" #5. His visage is also absent from the Team Captain Marvel roster shown in that issue, and the battle pits him against many of his longtime former allies.
That conflict of interest hints at a possible turning point for Ben, and his appearance here clearly indicates he was changed by the outcome of the "Civil War II" event, setting up the character for new, and possibly more prominent, role in the Marvel Universe. Of course, Ben is no stranger to post-event upheavals, as two "Secret Wars" events, "Avengers Disassembled," and now "Civil War II" all have led to him playing for a new team.
Victor Has Mommy Issues, And Here They Are
While Parker Robbins might have done his research on Victor's mother, her presence in the Marvel Universe has largely been as a historical footnote. Readers doing their own research, or reading 1964's "Fantastic Four Annual" #2 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, know how Victor had learned of his mother's mystical interests long after she had passed, and how he sustained his life-defining facial scars in an accident while trying to contact her in the afterlife. The story behind his eventual freeing of her soul from Mephisto, with Doctor Strange's help, was told by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola in 1989's " Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment" graphic novel. Thus, if every quarter century or so signals a change in Cynthia von Doom's status in the Marvel Universe, this issue might herald her next metamorphosis.
On the final page, Victor's transformation into Iron Man is observed by a woman revealed to be, in fact, Victor's own mother, appearing to be young and in perfect health, observing his image in a small cauldron surrounded by candles, scrolls, and other arcane objects. Her location isn't revealed, nor is the identity of the unseen entity she communicates with.