Sumerak Kills Tony Stark in "What If? Fallen Son"

It was the shot heard 'round the Marvel Universe. It rang out on March 7, 2007, in "Captain America" #25, and it killed Steve Rogers -- a.k.a. Captain America. Rogers was killed climbing the steps of the courthouse where he was to stand trial for his actions during Civil War. The fallout of Rogers' death was explored in "Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America," which depicted just how much Captain America meant to the heroes of the Marvel Universe.

This December, in the "What If? Fallen Son" one-shot, writer Marc Sumerak and artist Trevor Goring take readers back to that fateful day-- only this time, it's Rogers' former ally and Civil War rival, Tony Stark -- a.k.a. Iron Man -- is the one who perishes. CBR News spoke with Sumerak about the book.

Sumerak was a fan of the death of Captain America storyline and "Fallen Son," so editor Mark Paniccia didn't have to do much to convince the writer to take on "What If? Fallen Son." "To be able to explore what would have happened if Steve had lived on was an interesting exercise," Sumerak told CBR News. "Would his trial have been completed? Would he have served time? Or would he have just returned to life as normal? And how would he have reacted if his one-time best friend -- the same man who became his greatest opponent during the Civil War -- had fallen in his place? That's a lot of possibilities to explore--and it's those questions that fueled this one-shot."

Iron Man's grief over the loss of Captain America was an integral point of "Fallen Son," and in "What If? Fallen Son" the Sentinel of Liberty's mourning will be just as great. "I think Tony and Steve were more than just friends after all these years. They were brothers," Sumerak said. "And like all brothers, they often had major fights and disagreements. So while they may have had fundamental differences that landed them on opposite sides of the battle during Civil War, there was still a mutual respect they held for each other. We saw that respect displayed in the way that Tony dealt with Steve's final wishes regarding Bucky and the future of Captain America. And we'll see that same relationship explored from Steve's side in this story."

Captain America isn't the only character Sumerak examines in "What If? Fallen Son." "We'll be packing a lot of Marvel characters into these 22 pages, as there were many important players who would have been deeply affected by Tony's death," the writer said. "Definitely look for Pepper Potts, Jim Rhodes and Jarvis to get some attention, as well as members of the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers and the Initiative."

Like the original "Fallen Son," "What If? Fallen Son" focuses on the first few days after Tony Stark was killed. "The story takes place in multiple locations throughout the Marvel Universe that had particular significance to Tony -- such as Stark Tower, Camp Hammond and more," Sumerak explained."

"What If? Fallen Son" also follows the story structure of the original book in that it shows Tony Stark's friends and fellow heroes dealing with the different stages of grief. That doesn't mean the one-shot will be lacking action, though. "While there won't be any major 'hero vs. villain' clashes in this story, I can assure you that there will be plenty of fighting," Sumerak confirmed. "And if the bad guys do show up here, it might not be in the ways you might expect. Sometimes, unpredictable events lead to unexpected behavior-- and unexpected opportunities...."

Like many stories dealing with death and the struggle to accept it, "What If? Fallen Son" is a tale of raw and extreme emotions. "Love him or hate him, Iron Man is a major player in the Marvel Universe, and his death will hit a lot of people very hard and change the course of events in the MU, just like Cap's death did," Sumerak remarked. "Hopefully, a few of the 'Tony-haters' out there will give this a read and remember that he wasn't such a bad guy after all."

Sumerak is happy to have Trevor Goring bringing to life his script for "What If? Fallen Son." "Trevor has a very dark, realistic style that brought a lot of strong emotional weight to the story," the writer said. "He really did a nice job portraying the grim reality of this piece, while still capturing the majesty of the Marvel Universe."

Sumerak found the chance to work on a "What If?" title to be both fun and refreshing. "The chance to explore the events of the Marvel Universe from another angle and reshape them in a completely different direction has been a blast! It's definitely something I'd consider doing again sometime," he said. "Beyond that, it was a lot of fun to switch things up a bit in terms of the tone of my work. Lately, I've been writing a lot of humorous all-ages material, so to have the opportunity to write a piece that has a lot of strong emotional resonance was a nice change of pace."

"What If? Fallen Son" is a tale designed for all Marvel Comic fans, but Sumerak feels a certain type of reader should find the story especially interesting. "There are a lot of readers out there who wish that the events of the past few years had unfolded differently. They feel that Steve Rogers should still be alive and wearing the red, white & blue-- and they think Tony Stark made some grave mistakes during the 'Civil War' that he should finally answer for," the writer explained. "Now, those readers will have a chance to see what could have happened if they got their wish."

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