"Invincible Iron Man's" Stark Future

Tony Stark is one of the Marvel Universe's foremost engineers, having designed and built a number of inventions over the years, the most famous of which are his many different Iron Man battle suits. Stark's most impressive invention, though his least publicly known, however, has to be himself., Over the year's, he's suffered numerous defeats that have crushed his body, spirit and mind. After each one, he has built himself back up and attempted to be a better, stronger man. His personal demons may sometimes get in the way of that, but Stark never stops striving to be and do better.

Recently, Tony Stark's quest for personal improvement has led to him found a new company: Stark Resilient. The plan is to use Resilient as a way to provide the world with a cheap and plentiful energy source, one based on the repulsor technology that powers his armor. That plan resulted in Stark having to contend with industrial espionage from other companies as well as a team-up between Iron Man and Spider-Man that allowed Stark -- and his descendants -- to win a battle against the villainous Mandarin in the far future.

In "Invincible Iron Man's" current "Fix Me" storyline, by writer Matt Fraction and artist Salvador Larroca, Tony Stark has been caught off guard and has become embroiled in a scheme by one of Spider-Man's oldest foes -- Doctor Octopus. The story comes to a conclusion in "Invincible Iron Man" #503, but Stark won't have time to reflect on his encounter with Doc Ock, because that same issue also sets the stage for the series tie-in with the current Marvel event saga "Fear Itself" -- also scripted by Fraction. CBR News Spoke with Editor Alejandro Arbona about the coming plans for the series.

CBR News: Alejandro, in "Invincible Iron Man" #500, Matt Fraction had Tony team up with Spider-Man and Peter Parker outside of the Avengers for the first time in quite a while. How important are these individual relationships to Tony? Will we see Spidey and/or Peter in upcoming issues?

Alejandro Arbona: As we saw in "Invincible Iron Man" #500, Tony depends on his relationships with the other heroes of the Marvel Universe like Spider-Man, as well as with his own friends and colleagues like Peter Parker -- although little did Tony know they were one and the same. But in the end, those partnerships, alliances and friendships are one thing that give Tony an edge over his rivals, both corporate and super villain. Where Tony can turn to a respected colleague like Peter Parker for help figuring out a way around his Titanomech inventions, and Iron Man can get help from Spider-Man to fight them, the Mandarin will never have anyone he trusts enough to ask them for help. Tony's support structure means everything to him, like our own relationships mean to us in everyday life.

In the current "Fix Me" storyline, Tony has gone from teaming up with Spidey to going one on one with one of the wall-crawler's most iconic foes, Doc Ock. It seems like Tony was surprised by just how cunning and ruthless Doctor Octopus could be. Did Tony just get caught off guard? Or did he genuinely underestimate Doctor Octopus?

Both. One of Tony's key flaws is his arrogance, and in his arrogance he never thought that a scientist he saw as being beneath him could put him in a position where Tony would be at a disadvantage. Tony thought he had someone like Octavius totally figured out, and Octavius showed him that people aren't that easily pigeonholed -- especially when they cheat to win.

The Doc Ock storyline comes to a conclusion in "Invincible Iron Man" #503. How important is this storyline to the ongoing tale Matt is telling? Also, will it have any impact on "Amazing Spider-Man," where Doc Ock appears to be working on something behind the scenes?

Matt's run on "Invincible Iron Man" has been a long-form story, unfolding and evolving since the very first issue, and this arc is no exception. Many of the threads that have run through "Invincible Iron Man" develop in this story: remember, Spymaster has infiltrated Tony's team to bring it down for Hammer Industries; Pepper Potts is embracing her role as a boss and as a hero; Tony's company, Stark Resilient, is growing and working toward constructing the future, breakthrough by breakthrough; Pepper is much more reticent about her feelings for Tony than Tony appears to be; and through it all, Tony is living his daily struggle to cope with life without giving in to his demons. Every one of those threads and more runs through this storyline, with no shortage of explosions, injuries, repulsor blasts and narrow escapes.

We aren't directly tying in to "Amazing Spider-Man," but I think you'll find that Octavius' character and his future actions in that book are enriched and illuminated by going through this experience.

The next issue is also where Tony becomes embroiled in "Fear Itself." Since that storyline involves a malevolent god of fear (the Serpent), it's sure to feature magical and supernatural elements. Unlike many scientists, Tony seems quite comfortable with and even curious about magic and the supernatural. Is it simply because of what he's seen in his career and his friendship with people like Thor? Or is there something else involved in Tony's relationship to the supernatural?

Issue #503 sounds the initial clarion call of "Fear Itself" advancing. It's issue #504 when Iron Man becomes fully entangled with the forces of that story, horrifying mystical forces beyond his or any man's ken. Tony may be more accustomed than most humans to witnessing the fantastic and awe-inspiring majesty and terror of Thor and his people, but he's still only human, and a man of science and empirical evidence at that. Confronting a malevolent being of pure magical power, and the devastation that creature wreaks with a power Tony can't begin to wrap his mind around, much less think of a way to stop, will challenge Tony more than virtually any earthly villain he's ever faced.

In discussions and interviews, "Fear Itself" has been billed as a storyline heavily involving Thor and Captain America, but Matt is writing both "Fear Itself" and "Invincible Iron Man" and Tony has close ties to both characters. Could one safely assume Iron Man will have a big role to play in the story?

Absolutely. Iron Man, Steve Rogers and Thor, the figureheads of the Avengers, each exert different positive influences on the people of the Marvel Universe. All three of them will be instrumental in projecting those examples if the Marvel Universe is ever going to overcome "Fear Itself." Thor represents unparalleled strength and power, applied in the spirit of benevolence, to defend those who aren't as strong. Steve Rogers embodies strategy, cunning and an ideal of leadership that inspires everyone he commands. And Iron Man? In "Fear Itself" #1, Tony asked Steve Rogers to remember how his generation dealt with the Great Depression: "You built." Tony Stark invents and creates. Maybe Steve can come up with a plan and Thor can put his muscle behind it, but without Tony, the Marvel Universe won't have the tools to pull itself through and to build itself up.

Overall, what will the "Fear Itself" tie-in storyline of "Invincible Iron Man" deal with?

How does the world's foremost technologist combat a mystical force with the powers of a god? What can the world's shrewdest futurist do against a mythic foe who tormented humanity before recorded history? And what does the flawed, powerless man within the armored shell do in the face of insurmountable challenges that are bigger than he is? These are the questions Tony will grapple with. Meanwhile, the world going to hell in a handbasket isn't enough to dissuade Hammer Industries from their quest to cripple, humiliate and vanquish Stark. Hey, guess who's back? Detroit Steel!

Beyond the just-named Detroit Steel, who are the antagonists for this arc and how dangerous are they?

Iron Man flies to Paris to confront one of the Serpent's chief operatives. Any question as to how dangerous this guy is will be cleared up in the first few pages after Tony's arrival in the City of Lights, as he discovers what appear to be the casualties of his rampage, numbering in the hundreds -- or thousands -- or more -- and which right away will very nearly include Tony himself.

What can people expect from Salvador Larroca's art in upcoming issues?

I've worked with Salvador Larroca since "Invincible Iron Man" #1 -- and before that, with him and Matt both on the "Sensational Spider-Man Annual," which won an Eisner -- but when Salva turned in pages for the sequences of fighting and devastation in Paris coming up in issue #504, I made a special point of telling him how exciting and dynamic they were. It's also going to be a particularly chilling and unsettling sequence, as Tony finds Paris to be virtually a ghost town and the scope of devastation is revealed. The qualities of Salvador's style are really selling that eerie and disturbing vibe.

Can you hint or tease what's coming up in "Invincible Iron Man" in 2011? After the chaos and shake ups of "Fear Itself," both Ezekiel Stane and the Mandarin are likely waiting in the wings to take on Tony.

Ezekiel Stane! The Mandarin! Spymaster! Hammer! Old demons! Detroit Steels! Wait, Steels? Detroit Steels!

"Fix Me" concludes in "Invincible Iron Man" #503, in stores April 27

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