Why Armor Wars Has to Wait Until (At Least) Phase 6

The Marvel Studios panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 revealed a lot more than expected. Yet, one glaring absence was the project given to longtime supporting Avenger James Rhodes as played by Don Cheadle. Yet, it makes sense that Armor Wars has to wait until Phase 6 in The Multiverse Saga.

The “Armor Wars” story in the comics focused on Tony Stark’s character, specifically him losing control of his Iron Man technology. With Robert Downey Jr.’s Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration of that character dead, the Armor Wars series is likely about rounding up the loose Stark technology after his death. However, outside Ms. Marvel and the two Spider-Man films, they’ve not really established that the technology is being abused. Once RiRi Williams is introduced in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and then her series Ironheart, the series will have its hero.

Don Cheadle has appeared for a few brief Marvel cameos since Avengers: Endgame. He voiced his character in What If…?, and he also showed up in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. He is still in the Air Force, and may pop up here and there in movies where the military requires a presence. So, The Marvels and maybe Wakanda Forever, though Martin Freeman’s Ross is there to represent the “good” side of America’s war machine. Nonetheless, Cheadle’s Rhodey is a character who easily fits into most spots in the Marvel Universe. (He’s no Wong, though!) But everything announced with the series is either out or has a release date, but Armor Wars hasn’t even begun. It’s no surprise that some Marvel fans worried the series was already canceled.

Luckily, in the wake of the SDCC 2022 snub, Black Monday writer Yassier Lester confirmed the series was still on. So whether the reason for the delay is a narrative one or simply Don Cheadle’s schedule, Marvel Studios can make it work. Remember, Doctor Strange 2 was supposed to debut before Spider-Man: No Way Home. When those dates shifted, Marvel Studios was able to adjust the films so they made narrative sense. With this time already baked in, it means that Feige and company can help ramp up the threat so that Armor Wars feels inevitable and not merely a victory lap for the definitive James Rhodes in the MCU.

We’ve already seen the EDITH drones in use by the Dept. of Damage Control in Ms. Marvel. This makes sense since the glasses were last seen in their custody in No Way Home. Also, in that film, Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock told Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan he was in legal trouble for a lack of accountability for Tony’s technology. This may have been a reference to the replicator in the apartment or something more. Either way, shows like Secret: Invasion and movies like Captain America: New World Order can further build up the threat of all this loose Stark tech.

Dominique Thorne’s Riri Williams will debut in Wakanda Forever, yet her relationship with Rhodes may be the defining one for the character in the MCU. Ironheart will be Iron Man’s true successor, and there’s no better way to earn that than by making Tony’s closest friend one of her mentors. Fans of Iron Man, War Machine, and other armor-suited superheroes will have to wait until Phase 6 to enjoy Armor Wars, but knowing Marvel Studios they’re building up an incredibly epic problem for Rhodes and Williams to fix.

See Riri Williams debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on November 11, 2022, and her own series Ironheart hits Disney+ in Fall 2023.

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