Marvel Has Set Up Iron Man’s MCU Return For 10 Years

Marvel is reportedly eyeing the possibility of Iron Man’s return to the MCU, and has already been setting up the conditions for such an event for the last 10 years. Despite being halfway through MCU Phase 5, Iron Man is still a central figure in the MCU, with even The Marvels’ final trailer featuring Tony Stark and his collection of suits in the opening shots. The MCU lingering on Tony Stark four years after his death only helps to cement the notion that it isn’t through with him yet. Short of being a cause for concern, however, this may not be a bad thing given that Tony Stark has some unfinished business in the MCU.

Tony Stark was the hero who kicked off the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man, with one of the most iconic comic book movie arcs in history culminating in his heroic sacrifice. Despite Tony Stark’s heroics, however, he left behind a rather problematic legacy that he had briefly rectified in Iron Man 3 before the following 10 years worked to reverse it entirely. That legacy was one he had attempted to combat throughout his life, but unfortunately, one that persisted past his death.

The MCU Has Made Iron Man’s Legacy A Problem

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The Woods
Cinque Terre
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The overarching motif throughout Tony’s tenure has focused on the repercussions of his manifested ideas either falling into the wrong hands, being replicated by the wrong hands, or, as was the case with Ultron, being the wrong hands. Iron Man saw his first-ever suit of armor being commandeered by nefarious actors. Iron Man 2 saw his technology being suboptimally replicated by less competent figures, to dangerous effect. Iron Man 3, meanwhile, culminated in Tony Stark triggering the “Clean Slate Protocol,” amounting to the destruction of his suits, which at least went some way to keeping them out of the reach of less worthy characters.

Soon after the shocking conclusion to Iron Man 3, however, Tony Stark resumed building tech that would continue to be misappropriated. Among the most cataclysmic was Ultron, who was intended to be an AI protector of Earth before it turned genocidal. Even Thanos nearly utilized Stark’s nanotech gauntlet to commit the Snap once again. Following his death, Stark’s tech has continued to be misappropriated, with E.D.I.T.H. and its access to Stark’s drones falling into the possession of Mysterio before E.D.I.T.H. was most recently seen being used by Damage Control to hunt down super-powered individuals.
Vision, meanwhile, has been “revived” by S.W.O.R.D. to become White Vision, initially presented as a dangerous mindless husk of his former self whose destructive potential is now unchecked. Then, from what is known of Armor Wars, Tony Stark’s armor is doomed to fall into the wrong hands without him around to prevent it to catastrophic effect. All of this combined practically leaves Stark’s MCU legacy in tatters.

Iron Man Should Return To Reclaim His Own MCU Story

Evidently, Stark’s legacy requires some TLC to circumvent the possibility that his tech has caused more harm than good. The events of Iron Man 3, in which he wiped the slate clean by destroying the Iron Legion, seem like a drastic but necessary route towards this. Only by removing his tech from the equation can Stark and the Avengers be certain his work will not be misused by unscrupulous characters who fail to approach it with the correct level of competence and nuance that only a handful of Stark tech-wielding characters can embody.
If this is the route that the MCU takes, then it must be Stark himself who pushes the “self-destruct” button. A huge part of his character arc was the recognition of his technology’s destructive potential, and how dangerous it is in the wrong hands. By replicating the events of Iron Man 3 and ensuring that he seizes control of his own destiny, Tony Stark’s story can reach a second satisfying conclusion following his apparent death in Avengers: Endgame. This does, however, necessitate his return to the MCU.

Will Iron Man Really Return To The MCU?

It already seems apparent that the MCU is gearing towards some kind of Tony Stark reprisal. Iron Man is so central to the MCU’s identity that it seems almost remiss to not revisit the character in some capacity, particularly with his legacy being so starkly threatened by the likes of Armor Wars and whatever Damage Control ends up doing with E.D.I.T.H. Whether it will be an Iron Man portrayed by Robert Downey Jr, however, is up for debate.
On one hand, RDJ so perfectly embodied the character of Tony Stark that it would feel wrong to see an Iron Man that isn’t him. On the other, his story came to such a satisfying conclusion that bringing him back could seem like a desperate attempt from Marvel to recoup its recent losses by redeploying its biggest star. Whatever the case, the multiverse offers plenty of opportunities to have Iron Man return in a satisfying capacity, if only to have him tie up the final loose end he left behind.

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