When we discussed four possible ways Crossbones could have survived the explosion at Lagos — his apparent death in Captain America: Civil War — one of the theories included the organization A.I.M. I explained how A.I.M. could've experimented on Crossbones via the Extremis program, which would allow him to absorb energy like Aldrich Killian. With that being said, let's explore how A.I.M. could be connected to Crossbones and the real Mandarin.
A.I.M. Is Working With Crossbones?
We last heard of the organization in Iron Man 3, and we don’t know exactly who fixed up Brock Rumlow and turned him into Crossbones after The Winter Soldier (No more Hydra after Cap 2, Avengers 2 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season three). Additionally, we don’t know who hired him to steal the biological weapon at Lagos. We know it wasn’t Daniel Bruhl’s Helmut Zemo because first, he is not exactly wealthy, so he couldn’t have hired Crossbones, and second, the biological weapon doesn’t exactly fit into his plan to “destroy the Avengers.”
Crossbones’s terrorist pals were ready to drop the bioweapon at Lagos, which would infect thousands of people and would gradually keep infecting the rest of the region. Blaming Bucky for that wouldn't make any sense because everyone would obviously know Crossbones was the one behind it. Even more, the Avengers were after Crossbones for quite some time already, as Cap said in the beginning of the Lagos scene and as we saw in the newspaper camera shots which depicted Crossbones as a globally infamous terrorist. So, is A.I.M. working with Crossbones?
A.I.M.'s Motives And The Real Mandarin
In Iron Man 3, Aldrich Killian and his company A.I.M. were posing as a terrorist group led by a fake Mandarin. So that terrorist connection is there. Killian later acquired the ability to regenerate his body and project large amounts of heat via his Extremis program. While Killian and many of his Extremis soldiers were defeated and killed by the end of Iron Man 3, the organization A.I.M. was not disbanded.
With probable financial loss after the death of Aldrich Killian, one possible way they could retain some fortune would be if they release a virus which only they would have the cure to — the failed Lagos terrorist plot. Crossbones could be just another puppet of the organization, a new experiment. Alternatively, we know the real Mandarin is out there as we saw in the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King, so if it’s not A.I.M. that’s working with Crossbones, then what if it’s the Mandarin?
That could be a fascinating way to fully introduce the real Mandarin, making him a possible villain in a possible Iron Man 4, with an appearance from Crossbones. Could the real Mandarin have taken over A.I.M.? After Killian and Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) posed as him and destroyed his reputation, it's a high possibility.