Death has always been something of a revolving door in superhero comics. Whether the superhero in question is an A-lister or a Z-lister, whether they're Superman or Stature, most heroes have had a brush or two with death. Frankly, I suspect that lawyers in the Marvel Universe insist on adding resurrection clauses to the wills of active superheroes. Now, less than a year after Marvel took the step of (almost) killing off Tony Stark, it looks as though everyone's favorite Avenger is already set to return — in a big way!
Does "Secret Empire" Feature Tony Stark?
Marvel is currently teasing their Summer 2017 event, the politically-charged "Secret Empire". It's set to pick up from the controversial 'Captain America: Agent of Hydra' arc Nick Spencer launched in May 2016, and will feature all of HydraCap's darkest plans coming to a head. But meanwhile, take a look at the beautiful sample art Marvel's released, by Andrea Sorrentino.
Can you spot a familiar face there?
What's Happened to Iron Man?
First, some background. Last year's Summer event — which actually finished in December, as it was running late — was "Civil War II", and the core issue featured a conflict between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. As is so often the case with Marvel, the two heroes came to blows. It didn't end well for Tony Stark; he was left in a coma.
That's not to say Tony Stark's been taken off the board entirely, though. He sent a hologram — based on uploads of his mental engrams — to Riri Williams, the superhero who's starring in the current Invincible Iron Man book. As Pepper Potts observed, he actually thought giving Riri a hologram of himself without a mute button would be a cool gift. (And not creepy at all for his friends and loved ones, of course.)
Meanwhile, Tony Stark's body has been the subject of real interest. Captain America had it taken to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, where — in private, of course — he told the comatose Ton Stark his every secret. More to the point, he expressed a dark wish that Stark were awake for it, just because he'd love to beat him, love to prove to him that his ways and ideals had finally been cast aside by the world.
But Is a Return Imminent?
We've not had any hints of a resurrection in the solicits so far, but those images are significant. Although the Stark hologram has indeed controlled Stark's old suits (pitting them against Riri in a training montage), the artistic style around Tony Stark's face doesn't match the way the hologram has been rendered in Invincible Iron Man. Meanwhile, it's definitely not a flashback; the Vision has his modern look, you can't miss the female Thor, and Ironheart is fighting alongside Stark in her current armor.
It's too soon to know what's going on, but that image seems to make it pretty clear: Tony Stark is set to return.
That's a big deal, and not just for the obvious reasons. As I've already mentioned, Steve Rogers - the twisted HydraCap, as he's been dubbed by fans — has already expressed a deep desire for Stark to be alive and well. So it's entirely possible that Captain America will put in some real effort to bring about the resurrection of his ol' buddy, ol' pal, just to make his triumph complete. Meanwhile, of course, the fly in the ointment is that sometimes people can remember what they heard when they were in a coma. If Stark remembers what Steve Rogers told him in The Oath, or even suspects it, then he could become a key player in the main "Secret Empire" arc.
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Right now, this is only a single image — but it's a tantalizing one, rich in possibilities. If I'm right, then Tony Stark was taken off the board for "Civil War II" precisely so he could be set up as a major figure in "Secret Empire". It's worth noting that a resurrection would fit well with rumors that, in the aftermath of this year's Summer Event, Marvel will be taking a 'back-to-basics' approach that sees classic heroes - like Tony Stark — back in the spotlight.
Only time will tell, but right now it looks as though Marvel may have just tipped their hand.
Do you want Iron Man to return this quickly?
(Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)