By Tim Stevens
James Rhodes is an adult male dressed in a high tech exoskeleton. He refused to remove even the helmet at any point during any of the sessions. His tone over the course of the interview was brusque at times but largely respectful.
The purpose of these sessions was to evaluate the fitness of this individual to fulfill Director Stark's position as interim director in the case of an emergency. It should be noted that Rhodes was unaware of the specific reason for the meetings, having only been told they were routine assessments that all members of the Initiative training staff must undergo.
The writer has found that the client suffers from no Axis I or Axis II mental disorders. Rhodes has handled a variety of combat situations over the years and has developed a number of crisis survival strategies that have served him well. He shows little to no signs of long term PTSD-related consequences from either his tours
in the Marines or his previous times serving as War Machine. At this time, though, there are concerns of that nature that will be discussed later in this report.
That noted this writer is not without concerns about Rhodes' mental fitness. The first area of interest in this matter comes from several years ago when Rhodes first donned the Iron Man armor at Director Stark's request. Over a period of time, the client became increasingly paranoid and prone to recklessness. This culminated in a battle between Rhodes and Stark that sent the client into hiding; he claims it was to search for a "cure" for his headaches which he signals as the root cause of his erratic behavior.
While past MRI and CAT scans reveal no evidence of lasting brain trauma, the writer remains unsatisfied with the client's claims of mystical healing. However, acknowledging certain biases in these matters, the writer does not suggest this, alone, is grounds to disqualify Rhodes. At this time, it is only an item of interest to be closely watched.
The second matter is Rhodes' moral code. While, in most walks of life, his steadfastness and dedication to the truth would be considered admirable, this is S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that trades in subterfuge and espionage. Director Stark knows this and recognizes its necessity. The client, on the other hand, has clashed with the Director many times about such issues in the past. It has, at points, been a
source of division between the two. If the client has difficulty accepting needed short-term secrecy on a one-on-one basis, how will he react when it is more widespread, indefinite, and he is the one with whom the decision of what to tell and what not to tell ultimately lays?
Finally, and most importantly, is the issue of the client's refusal to remove the War Machine armor. Given the limited information Rhodes has shared with staff, it is unclear the nature of the accident or the wounds he received necessitating his full-time use of the armor. Even if one concludes that they are absolutely horrific, living within the armor at all times is not acceptable. It indicates a disquieting desire to disconnect from others around him and to deny the reality of his situation. The only acceptable scenario for this would be if Rhodes' life depended on him wearing the armor, as Director Stark's did for a time. Unfortunately, none of the data indicates that this is the case. As alluded to earlier, the writer can only conclude this is a case of burgeoning PTSD that must be take seriously.
I encourage both Director Stark and those in his counsel to take this report to heart and recommend a series of sessions for Rhodes to move him out of the armor and force him to confront the results of the accident that put him there in the first place.
Further information on the client can be found in file IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #33, which was prepared by Doctors Christos Gage and Sean Chen and will be available for perusal on September 17.
Tim Stevens is a Mental Health Supervisor currently pursuing his Psy D who has experience in dealing with individuals with PTSD.
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