By Ethan Kaye
From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on down to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, everybody loves a good buddy team. When it comes to the Marvel Universe, few friends have been through more than Tony "Iron Man" Stark and Jim "War Machine" Rhodes. Before another chapter in their history gets written in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #12, hitting stands April 30, let's take a look back at their often rocky relationship.
These two's tale goes back to a chance meeting in Vietnam, after Tony's first outing in the Iron Man Mark I armor. Jim Rhodes, a helicopter pilot with the Marines shot down in Viet Cong territory, met fellow American Stark, himself running from a Viet Cong prison camp with his brand spankin' new metal suit. Finding themselves in the same boat—literally, as they stole an enemy helicopter—the two of them made their way to American territory. And a metal-coated friendship emerged.
With Tony back in the States and running a thriving business with Stark International, Rhodey became his private pilot and his confidante. Still, Tony kept his Iron Man identity a secret from everyone, including Rhodes, which didn't become an issue until Stark's drinking problem emerged. After battling the villain Magma, an inebriated Stark tapped Rhodes to repair the Iron Man suit and the secret was out. But friends don't let friends down, and Rhodes volunteered to don the Iron Man armor so Tony could work his life out. Sadly, that consisted mostly of drinking more.
Rhodey did a splendid job as Iron Man, fighting alongside the Avengers and even weathering the Beyonder's "Secret Wars" conflict on Battleworld. The buddies reunited when Stark emerged from his trials sober and on less shaky ground, but glitches in the armor caused Rhodes to snap and distrust his friend. These things happen, as most good friends can tell you, although spats don't normally end with both pals strapping
on missiles and launching them at one another. After an inevitable battle with Tony in a scaled-down suit of his own, Rhodes came to his senses. Rhodey went back to his role as pilot and Stark went back to his playboy/industrialist lifestyle.
Until Tony died.
Or, to be more fair, until he faked his own death. Tony stepped out of the spotlight—without telling Rhodey—to recover from a nervous system ailment and on his "deathbed" transferred all power of Stark Enterprises to his best friend, along with a high-tech Iron Man suit, known as the "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit," aka "War Machine." War Machine, in case you don't know, equals hella awesome. And War Machine stuck around even after Tony got better and returned to work, although it took some time for the whole "Hey, I didn't really die" apology to set in.
So where can you find the best buds now? Running the country, more or less! Stark has become the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the 50
State Initiative that places super hero teams in every state. And who did he ask to head up the Stamford, Connecticut Initiative training camp known as Camp Hammond? James Rhodes of course!
Check out the final showdown between murderous ex-Initiative member KIA and War Machine on April 11 in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #11 and then look for a confrontation between Rhodes and Stark in issue #12, on sale April 30. Tony and Rhodey also hit the silver screen May 2 in "Iron Man" courtesy of Robert Downey Jr. and Terrence Howard!
For more Iron Man, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
And remember: "Iron Man" comes to a theater near you on May 2!
Visit the official "Iron Man" movie site!