WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Invincible Iron Man #595 by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Stefano Caselli and Marte Gracia, on sale now.
If there’s one thing you can depend on when it comes to Tony Stark, it’s that he’s always got a contingency plan. As a futurist, Tony is one-step ahead of his competition and is known for putting his scientific mind to work, creating new suits of armor as the superhero Iron Man.
Over the years, we’ve learned that tinkering with technology isn’t the only thing Tony has excelled at. He’s altered his physiology to better control his armor through Extremis, deleted his entire mind so his memories wouldn’t fall into the hands of Norman Osborn during the “Dark Reign” (a period when the former Green Goblin was in control of the world security task force H.A.M.M.E.R.), and turned his consciousness into a fully-functional artificial intelligence for his replacement, Riri Williams aka Ironheart. Long story short, the man isn’t afraid of a little self-experimentation.
Surprisingly, Tony saved his most impressive feat for last. He has essentially rebooted his body in order to recover from the injuries he sustained during the second superhuman Civil War. Here’s how it all went down.
Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Stefano Caselli and Marte Gracia kicked off Invincible Iron Man‘s Marvel Legacy era with “The Search For Tony Stark” following the the armored Avenger’s mysterious disappearance. Supporting cast members Amanda Armstrong (Tony’s biological mother), Mary Jane Watson and the artificial intelligence Friday are working with Ironheart to figure out whether Tony was taken, or if he played a part in his apparent kidnapping.
During the quartet’s investigation, Friday points out how Tony’s biology now includes wavotech implants that allow her to track his location. (A real-world example would be microchipping the family dog.) Unfortunately, Friday is currently unable to connect to the implants, which means they’ve been removed, someone has shut them down, or, worst case scenario, Tony is dead. At the same moment this was explained, a hairless man emerged from a chamber in a secret facility, physically unable to walk. It took all of his strength to crawl across the floor and slip on an older model of the Iron Man armor.
Thus far, the main question of “The Search For Tony Stark” revolves around the identity of this mystery person. Sure, the man seems at peace in Iron Man armor, but he couldn’t possibly be Tony Stark… could he? His signature facial hair is nowhere to be found, automatically eliminating him from the prestigious Awesome Facial Hair Bros.! Invincible Iron Man #595 answered this question by revealing the hairless gentleman is, in fact, Tony, a revelation that offered up a new question: How did this happen?
After spending an unidentified amount of time lying on the floor, the man that would be Tony Stark is apparently found by his mother in Invincible Iron Man #595. This is when Tony begins to tell Amanda the physical toll that being Iron Man has taken on his body. Apparently, running an advanced superweapon through one’s body involves messing with human biology, to the point where the “system,” aka the body, resets itself to heal from life-threatening injuries. As a result, he’s lost all of his hair… and a little thing called immortality.
Tony’s new look reminds Amanda of his father, prompting her to try and tell Tony something about him before she’s cut off by Mary Jane. Not one to let an opportunity like this pass her by, Mary Jane makes sure to remind Tony of his missing hair, with jokes consisting of buying a fake goatee and finally seeing his actual chin.
Amanda and Mary Jane weren’t the only people looking for Tony. The entire superhero community came together for their fellow man. The Avengers, Champions, Defenders and more showed up in full force to welcome Tony back, and to remind him that he’s loved. The two figures at the head of the line are Captain America and Captain Marvel, which is fitting since they were the heroes opposing Tony in the event series’ Civil War and Civil War II.
However, the presence of the two Captains wasn’t the big surprise of the welcoming committee. That honor went to their fearless leader, an apparently resurrected James “Rhodey” Rhodes.
Rhodey died during the opening salvo of Civil War II at the hands of the Mad Titan Thanos. His death and the subsequent argument for-and-against free will when determining suspects split Iron Man and Captain Marvel down an ideological line. The former War Machine seems alive and well here, at least for one panel.
As it turns out, this entire scenario isn’t real; it all played out inside Tony’s head.
However, even though Tony was hallucinating, that doesn’t mean his bombshell regarding his rebooted body can’t be taken as fact. As far as he knew, everything was real in that moment, so why wouldn’t he open up to his mother? Also, it fits a pattern of behavior for Tony established earlier, where he’s constantly making improvements to not only his armor, but to himself as well. There’s no telling what secrets lie in Tony’s reworked body — secrets we’re likely to learn sooner than later. A.I. Tony did spill the beans that he knows where the real Tony is located, after all, even if nobody thought to ask him before this issue.
With Bendis completing his Marvel run with Invincible Iron Man #600 in 2018, he’s most likely laying the groundwork to leave Iron Man with a clean slate for the next writer to pick up his adventures. We will have to wait and see why Tony has kept these secrets from those who care about him, and what his physical status will be once Bendis says his farewell, but even while the status quo looks to be reset, it won’t be without leaving an irrevocable mark on the heroes legacy.