By Tobey Cook
If the 90's taught Tony Stark anything, it was to learn from his mistakes. The battles he would undertake in the next few years would not only test him inside the armor, but outside as well. Friendships, relationships and even his own body would be changed in unexpected ways.
However, as we turn the corner into the 21st century, an encounter with a sentient version of his armor would cause him to suffer a heart attack—only for the armor to sacrifice itself and create an artificial heart out of its components to save his life.
At the tail end of the 1990's and as we pushed into the new millennium, Tony Stark had set up Stark Solutions, turning from a corporate business to a consultant offering to fix the problems of other companies. Interestingly enough, this brought him into contact with a couple of old acquaintances, most notably Sunset Bain and Countess Stephanie DeLa Spirosa, whom he had not seen in years.
IRON MAN v3 #78
Tony would continue his on-again/off-again relationship with Rumiko Fujikawa. Sadly, their relationship would be cut short when she was assassinated by someone posing as Iron Man, further damaging Tony's credibility.
IRON MAN #1
His work as a consultant would lead to the many changes Tony would go through in the next few years. He would run for Secretary of State in IRON MAN v3 #78, starting his long road to working with the Government. He was removed as Secretary of State after being framed for assassinating a politician, but was exonerated.
Eventually, man would meet machine when Tony, having been injured by a raging thug who had been injected with the Extremis virus in IRON MAN v4 #3, would ask Dr. Maya Hansen to inject him with the Extremis virus, leading to the biggest and most drastic change yet. Tony Stark had truly become a 21st century man.
This newfound control over everything would give him the ability to see how things would play out in advance, leading him to support the Superhuman Registration Act following the events that unfolded in CIVIL WAR #1. This would directly lead him to become the director of S.H.I.E.L.D, which is where you can find him currently in issues of IRON MAN and the upcoming INVINCIBLE IRON MAN—on sale Wednesday, May 7!
IRON MAN v3 #44
The first major specialty armor Tony would create for the 21st century would be the Outer Atmospheric Armor (IRON MAN: BAD BLOOD #4), a heavily modified version of his current armor design. It was much more lightweight than his previous armor, but still required an external rocket booster to get him into space.
Following a battle with a sentient version of his armor possessed by the consciousness of Ultron, Tony would create the S.K.I.N armor in IRON MAN v3 #44. The main drawback to this armor was that it was much bulkier than previous models, hearkening back to his original designs. However, it had to be destroyed when Ultron managed to make short work of it, forcing Tony to go back to the drawing board.
IRON MAN v3 #50
The Tin Man Armor (IRON MAN v3 #50) would be the next step up for Tony, basically designing it from square one as he had previous armors. A heavily modified version of that same armor called the Thorbuster was revealed in IRON MAN v3 #64 in order to stop Thor—but it couldn't stand up to the thunder god!
The biggest change in armor would come in IRON MAN v4 #5 when Tony was forced to create the Extremis armor to save his own life. This would be the armor he would continue to use, as it was made of memory metals, with the undersuit portion wired directly into his brain. The undersuit allowed the armor to move as if it was merely a shell attached to his body.
IRON MAN v4 #5
Tony would continue his association with both Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, who would be integral parts of his life as the century began. Sadly, however, Happy Hogan would sacrifice his life to save Tony from an attack by a villain, resulting in him being placed in a coma, from which he would not recovery.
Following the dissolution of the Avengers during AVENGERS DISSASSEMBLED, Tony would create the New Avengers, whose membership consisted of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Daredevil, Captain America and Sentry.
But Tony wasn't quite done yet. It was soon revealed that for several years he had secretly been meeting with other top heroes (Professor Charles Xavier, Black Bolt of The Inhumans, Prince Namor, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and Black Panther of Wakanda)—the group keeping an eye on events that would continue to play out for many more years to come.
The Superhuman Registration Act would test many of his friendships, with some heroes coming to join up with him and others supporting Captain America's non-registration side. However, with the recent reveal of Skrulls masquerading as other heroes in NEW AVENGERS and SECRET INVASION, it's hard for Tony to know who he can trust…
SECRET INVASION #1
The Mandarin as well as his son Temujin would plague Tony Stark at the beginning of the 21st century, further cementing their hatred of Tony Stark. Other classic Iron Man villains such as Ultimo, Titanium Man, MODOK and the Crimson Dynamo would also get their chances as well.
Even Tony Stark's old friend the Hulk would turn against him. The Jade Giant believed that his wife and son were killed and Tony was one of those responsible for launching the Hulk into space when it was determined he could not be controlled.
That wouldn't be the end of Tony's problems. It has recently been revealed that the alien race known as the Skrulls has been impersonating heroes, and setting their sights on taking over Earth! Much more information about this can be found in SECRET INVASION #1, which is in comic shops now!
Need to catch up on your Iron Man reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring Ol' Shellhead? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Iron Man fan!
"Iron Man" opens this Friday, May 2 at a theater near you! Visit the official "Iron Man" movie site! Also, Saturday, May 3 is FREE Comic Book Day—get your FREE Iron Man comic at comic retailers everywhere that day!