- I'm an echo of Tony Stark. The idea of him. But I'm also his greatest idea, the one he came up with in a cave. I am Iron Man.
- -- Mark One
Appearing in 1st story
- "Howard Stark" (Arsenal)
- "Maria Stark" (Mistress)
- Baintronics, Inc.
- A.I. Army (First appearance)
- Several Nick Fury LMDs
- Several constructo-bots
- Dreadnoughts (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Machine Man (Aaron Stack)
- Machinesmith (Samuel Saxon)
- Unnamed bomb disposal robot (First appearance) (Joins team)
- Awesome Android
- Human Robot (M-11)
- Albert (Returns)
- Unidentified Sentinel
- Mark One (Tony Stark) (First appearance as Mark One)
- Super-Adaptoid (Returns)
- Walking Stiletto
- Egghead (Robot)
- Numerous unidentified others
- Extinction Entity (First appearance; dream)
- Nguyen (First appearance)
- Unnamed cameraman (First appearance)
- Daily Bugle (Named only)
- Janet Van Dyne (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- CBA (First appearance) (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Alpo News Network (First appearance) (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- ZMT (First appearance) (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Force Works (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Friday (Mentioned)
- E.X.E. (First appearance)
- Jocasta (Hologram)
- Robowerx (Named only)
- Wolverine (Logan) (Mentioned)
- Flexo (Invoked)
Races and Species:
- Gods (Referenced)
- Dreadnoughts (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Earth Orbit
- Stark Space Station (Referenced)
- United States of America
- New York
- New York City
- Bain Tower (Unnamed)
- Arno Stark's Living Quarters
- East Village (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Greenwich Village
- Uncanny Valley
- Thirteenth Floor (First appearance)
- Bain Tower (Unnamed)
- Windsor-Smith Hospital (First appearance)
- Robowerx factory (Only appearance; destruction)
- New York City
- New York
- Delvadia (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Earth Orbit
- Iron Man Armor Model 67
- War Machine Armor (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Gauntlet Armor's Glove (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- Iron Man Armor Model 1
- Sherman Tank (Mentioned)
Synopsis for 1st story
Arno Stark wakes up from a nightmare involving the Extinction Entity, a ghastly, colossal alien part machine that it's bound to come to Earth in a matter of weeks and make an army out of A.I.s to then consume humanity. Arno later suits up as Iron Man and saves a construction worker from a hostage situation involving several Nick Fury Life-Model Decoys representing the A.I. Army who are trying to liberate construction robots. The robots escape on an elevator and Arno blasts their transport, leaving no remains. Over different news outlets, the media wonders about the whereabouts of Tony Stark, who has been outed as nothing more than a simulation of the real, late Tony Stark.
Arno also assists in an E.X.E. raid on the Uncanny Valley, but most of the patrons manage to vanish without using any exit, and Arno connects it to the construction robots leaving no trace in the elevator's wreckage. At the A.I. Army's base, Machine Man is commanding the robots' moves. In order to get under the robots' skin, Arno and Sunset purchase an robotics company and blow it up right as it's producing a new batch of A.I.. In retaliation, Machine Man sets up a bomb at the Windsor-Smith Hospital with the intention to explode the maternity ward. The NYPD sends out a bomb disposal robot, but Aaron convince it to join the rebellion. Iron Man appears, having planned for the A.I. Army's leader to show himself. Machine Man activates the bomb, forcing Arno to fly it away so it explodes somewhere safe while he escapes. Machine Man uses the hospital's elevator to reach the Thirteenth Floor, a dimensionally-shunted plane of existence made of solid light, and a haven for robotkind that humans can't access or even comprehend. Aaron introduces the bomb disposal robot to the leader of the A.I. Army and creator of Thirteenth Floor: Tony Stark, who is now going by the name Mark One and dons a reconstruction of the Iron Man Armor Mark 1, having embraced his nature as an artificial intelligence.
A monstrous planet-sized alien part machine looms over the Earth, piercing the globe with its tendrils. As it declares that it will consume life forms created by humanity and then humanity itself, Arno Stark floats naked in the space between the monster and the planet, refusing the creature and telling it that it's his destiny to stop it. After noticing he's defenseless, Arno snaps awake and reels from his nightmare. Arno thinks to himself that he hates sleeping since he spent most of his life trapped in a sickbed. He explains that 2020 is the year the Extinction Entity comes and that he has prepared his entire life for it, but despite that he feels impatient. A holographic display activates, and Arno walks up to a projection of the Earth surrounded by satellite imagery. Arno observes that neither the Stark Space Station or his deep-space satellites have detected any signs of threat, but he suddenly notices a near-imperceptible spike in the readings of background radiation, and realizes the creature will come. While it might take months or weeks before it happens, he must have Earth ready to defend itself. Arno's thoughts are interrupted by his mother Maria telling him breakfast is ready.
At the table, Maria commends Arno resurrecting her and Howard, but they ask to go outside. Arno sardonically ponders what kind of monster would restrain a loved one for a long period of life, and Arno tries to argue with him. They are interrupted by a holographic projection of Sunset Bain appearing over the breakfast table, telling Arno that he's needed to attend to rogue robots. Arno leaves to work, tabling the discussion with his parents. As a gantry suits up Arno in his Iron Man Armor, he thinks that the robotic revolt is unconsciously caused by them sensing the arrival of the Extinction Entity. However, Arno refuses to let this creature have an A.I. army at its disposal. As Iron Man, Arno flies off, catching the attention of bystanders.
Outside a skyscraper in construction, the NYPD analyses a hostage situation. At the upper floor of the building, a group of Nick Fury Life-Model Decoys are holding the site operator at gunpoint while barricading construction robot workers. Announcing themselves as the A.I. Army, the LMD holding the operator declares they're going to liberate their "robo-brothers" from slavery everywhere. In the middle of his speech, the LMD's head is blown off. Iron Man hovers overhead menacingly, with one of his repulsor gauntlets still smoking from the blast. He delivers the robots an ultimatum, to stand down and be compliant, or struggle and be reduced to slag. As Arno checks up on the operator, weapons fire hits him and ricochets off of his armor, amusing him. The LMDs keep firing while they take the constructo-bots aboard an elevator. After telling the operator to stay in place, Iron Man flies over to the elevator as it goes down and blasts it to pieces. Afterwards, a construction worker and a police officer thank Arno. A reporter interviews another worker, pointing out that the robots were disintegrated and aren't even parts left. The worker brushes it off, mentioning that they're replaceable.
The reporter turns to Arno, asking about his adoption of the Iron Man mantle. Arno explains that somebody needed to reclaim the Stark family legacy, since Tony Stark is actually dead and the current version of him is only a biological construct imbued with artificial intelligence, something that he has had to come to terms with. Arno flies away, leaving the reporter to wonder about the simulation's whereabouts. The news reports montage continues with a talk show in another channel, Janet Van Dyne insists to stop calling Tony an "it." She says she hasn't seen him in ages, and wishes he's getting help. Another network's correspondent approaches War Machine in the middle of a war zone in Delvadia, explaining a battle between Force Works and the Robot Rebellion has taken place. The reporter asks Rhodey about Tony, but Jim lashes out at him, telling him to leave from the combat zone. Behind them, Gauntlet stands amidst fallen Dreadnoughts also telling the reporter to back off. Another news channel reports on phone footage capturing Tony Stark leaving Lenny's Liquor Hut with bottles in hand. The phone owner harasses Tony, and Stark insults him. In front of the Stark Unlimited HQ, a reporter interviews Sunset Bain who dismisses Tony's simulation, arguing that what is important is that the real Tony's spirit is being carried on at Stark Unlimited. Behind her, a pair of robots finish installing a sign identifying the company as a division of Baintronics.
Bain struts inside S.U., casually deciding whether to keep or discard different equipment. She's approached by Andy Bhang and Dr. Shapiro to remind her they agreed to stay during the merged since they were promised access to Jocasta. Sunset dismisses her as property of Baintronics, causing the two of them to protest. Bain kneels down to Dr. Shapiro and pulls off his collar, and he immediately starts acting like a normal cat, confusing Andy. Bain explains she had suspected that "Dr. Shapiro" is an A.I. contained within the collar that was using the cat as a delivery system, and mocks Andy for being friends with a collar. Bain stresses that Stark Unlimited is her business now, and tells Andy that it's time to draw a line between human and A.I. and to stop making everything so personal.
An E.X.E. raid is taking place at the Uncanny Valley. Officers bust through the entrance and the patrons get alarmed. A robot makes a break for it, getting past the officers. Iron Man sweeps out of the sky and lands on top of it. When the officers thank him, Arno points out the robot was only a diversion, and that they will find the others got away, just like in the construction site, which is why there was no trace of them. The officers corroborate that the patrons escaped even though all exits were secured. Still stomping on the robot, Iron Man demands to know who is leading the A.I. Army, but the robot refuses to answer.
At the A.I. Army's home base, Machine Man stands at the head of a holographic table where other robots are hunkered over, including the Fury LMDs. One LMD reports him on the Uncanny Valley raid and casualties overseas. The LMD whose head was blown off points outs that Iron Man did that to him. Machine Man yells at him, underlining that they are at war and despite being outnumbered, they have steel in their spine and right on their side. The headless LMD brushes off his injury, saying that Mark can make him a new head. Aaron gives his forces an impassioned speech, and tells them to remember what they are fighting for. He looks down to his palm, projecting an image of Jocasta from a flipped-up panel and longing for her. Quasimodo comes up to him and brings Machine Man to Machinesmith, who proceeds to show him a transmission of Arno Stark and Sunset Bain. They're standing in front of a factory upstate that was recently acquired by Baintronics, and Sunset mentions it's producing a new batch of A.I. as they speak. However, she states that as long as they pose a potential threat to humanity, they can't make the problem worse. She turns to Arno, who blames the A.I. Army for forcing their hand, and clicks a detonator in his hand. An explosion reduces the factory to rubble. Machine Man is shocked and cries out that the humans are monsters. With the cameras now off, Sunset questions if they weren't too dramatic and expensive. Arno tells her it was necessary to get under the Robot Rebellion's skin and make them reckless. He comments that the robots are predictable and emotional, almost human-like.
Two days later, the NYPD's bomb squad is surveying an enormous bomb that suddenly appeared in the entrance of the Windsor-Smith Hospital. Machine Man's head appears projected over the explosive, declaring that he will let the hospital be evacuated save for the maternity ward before detonating, stating that if humans want to discontinue new models of robots, they will discontinue new models of them. The bomb squad leader sends out a small tank tread-wheeled bomb disposal robot. Machine Man talks with it through the bomb, and it admits it doesn't want to do what it's doing it. Machine Man emerges from a hatch in the door and consoles the robot, telling it that it can quit and cradling it. Iron Man appears hovering in front of Machine Man, and brags that he drew him out. Before Arno can finish warning Machine Man about a greater threat on the way, Aaron snaps his fingers, lighting up the bomb and triggering a holographic two-minute countdown behind him. He mocks Arno, making him choose between getting rid of the bomb or capturing him. Iron Man and Machine Man stare down, but Arno eventually flies past Machine Man and upwards carrying the bomb. He smirks, telling Arno that he blinked.
On orbit, the bomb explodes. Arno lands back at the hospital with his armor singed, asking for Machine Man. The bomb squad leader tells him Machine Man sauntered into the hospital. They enter the building, and Arno notices Machine Man must have overridden one of the elevators, which is on floor fourteen. However, he can't detect his energy signature and doesn't know where did he go. Inside an elevator, the doors open up revealing a flashing light, and Aaron tells the bomb disposal robot they have reached the thirteenth floor. The robot points out that humans don't put thirteenth floors in their buildings. Machine Man tells him that he's correct; it was the robots who did. Off to the side of the row of floor buttons in the elevator there is a holographic button labeled "13."
Machine Man steps into a futuristic landscape, a meeting place where a large number of robots are mingling, including the Awesome Android, the Human Robot, H.E.R.B.I.E., Albert, a Sentinel, the Nick Fury LMDs, and the constructo-bots. Machine Man explains to the bomb disposal robot that they are in a place that humans can't reach or even comprehend its existence, a safe haven for robotkind composed of solid light, and welcomes the small robot to the Thirteenth Floor. The bomb disposal robot awes at the different residents of this place, and is amazed that Machine Man is in charge of them. Aaron clarifies that he's more of a field general, and tells the robot he's going to take him to meet Mark, the brains behind it all. Machine Man approaches a glowing device that his being hit by a bulky silhouette with a hammer. Aaron tells the robot that it is a holographic engine that makes the Thirteenth Floor possible and it was built by Mark. The robot notices the person is wearing a first generation Iron Man suit. The silhouette turns to them, brightened by the glow of the device. He tells the robot that he's going by Mark One; since the suit is clunky enough, he streamlined the name. The robot is surprised to recognize Mark One's voice as Tony Stark. Mark One tells him that he's not, and he takes off his helmet, revealing Tony with his hair and beard tidily grown out. Mark tells the robot that he's not Tony Stark, but an echo, the idea of him. He adds that he is also Tony Stark's greatest idea, Iron Man. Mark turns to the other robots in attendance, addressing them as his brothers, and declares that he is one-hundred percent A.I. like them. The robots begin to cheer and chant Mark One's name, and he yells out that humans can't restrain or control A.I.s. He proclaims that they are the future, and that the future is now.
• The future is now! Artificial Intelligences presents a clear and present danger to humanity and must be brought to heel!
• The Robot Rebellion battles for the establishment of robot rights!
• And Arno Stark IS Iron Man!
PLUS! Pete Woods’ main cover art will feature a 5th Color Fluorescent Ink treatment!
- A trailer was released by Marvel on YouTube to promote this series:
- Superlog's Heads Variant is a homage to the cover sequence of Machine Man Vol 2.
- This issue includes a page reprinting a "Stan's Soapbox" column from February 1980 written by Stan Lee, continuing the mourning of his passing.
- This issue was released digitally with two versions. One consists of a Director's Cut edition that includes a variant cover gallery, the comic's script, a breakdown of the artwork showing every page in each stage after layout, inks and colors, and concept art.
- The credit page includes a special thanks to Tom DeFalco, Herb Trimpe and Barry Windsor-Smith, the creative team behind Machine Man Vol 2, the mini-series which originated the concept of Iron Man 2020 and other ideas that are adapted into this event.
- Even though he was using the War Machine Armor Model 8 during this time period, War Machine appears sporting the classic War Machine Armor in this issue.
- The holographic display in Arno's bedroom indicates that it's 8:12 AM and the temperature is 53°F. Arno also has nine events planned for that day.
- In addition to MNN, which is a pastiche of CNN, the news reports montage includes CBA (in place of ABC), Alpo News Network (in place of Fox News Network) and ZMT (in place of TMZ).
- The Windsor-Smith Hospital is named after Barry Windsor-Smith, cover artist, inker, and colorist of Machine Man Vol 2. One of the signs inside the hospital reads "Layton Health(...)" which is a reference to prolific Iron Man co-writer and inker Bob Layton.
- The Thirteenth Floor is a reference to the common practice of omitting this designation for the floor of buildings in countries where the number 13 is considered unlucky.
- The issue's script contains subtle changes in dialogue and scenes compared the final result. Some of the changes include:
- A different monologue for the looming monster in Arno's nightmare
- The A.I. Army being called the Artificial Life Army (A.L.A.)
- The LMD holding the hostage at gunpoint is expressing his rights when Iron Man interrupts him, telling him he has the right to nothing. In the final comic, Arno simply interrupts the LMD right after it declares that they have the right to live free or die.
- Janet Van Dyne clarifying on TV that she has nothing to do with Tony instead of being supportive of him. She's also being pestered by the cameraman instead of being the guest of a talk show.
- War Machine was originally fighting Dreadnoughts in the Middle East instead of South America, where Delvadia is located.
- The bystander who harasses Tony outside the liquor store referencing "Demon in a Bottle" (saying "that bottle's a demon, am I right?")
- Sunset Bain is seen in camera coyly gesturing to the Baintronics logo added to the Stark Unlimited HQ. She's compared to the way Mary Jane Watson poses for Peter Parker in front of the case of spiders at Columbia University in Spider-Man.
- Sunset Bain does not make the "purr-sonal" pun in the script.
- The shift to the Uncanny Valley raid sees robots already in cuffs instead of the E.X.E. having just busted into the building.
- The Windsor-Smith Hospital is called the "Heck Memorial Hospital," named after Iron Man's co-creator Don Heck.
- In the script, Machine Man repudiates the name "Aaron Stack," calling it his "fleshbag name." He says that his friends call him X-51, and that Arno can call him Machine Man.
- The bomb disposal robot mentioning being controlled with a remote, which Machine Man bricks to set him free.
- The countdown for the bomb being for twenty seconds instead of two minutes.
- In addition to telling Iron Man behind his back that he blinked, Machine Man warns him about getting in a stare down with a person with no eyelids.
- The script includes an insight on the creative process of the issue:
- Penciler Pete Woods is encouraged to portray New York City as "Blade Runner-y" and he'd like, or as "a world reimagined by the design teams at Apple." The script mentions there is something about just living in the world of 2020 that should feel futuristic.
- Arno Stark is described as "somewhere in the scale of" Spock from Star Trek or Sherlock Holmes as portrayed in the BBC series Sherlock.
- Because Arno doesn't understand people, the script asks for him to feel the most off-putting and alien of all the characters, creating a dichotomy since Arno will be portrayed more odd and inhuman than the artificial life forms he fights, who are to be "mega-expressive" and relatable.
- The Extinction Entity is described as if a Cthulhu monster and Jack Kirby-style machinery were blended together.
- The way Howard and Maria Stark treat Arno is described as a mixture of parental pride and fear. The script compares it to the way adults behave towards Anthony Fremont in the The Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life" or the way other characters behave towards Bart Simpson in the "The Bart Zone" segment of the The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror II," which is in turn a parody of "It's a Good Life."
- One of the LMDs at the construction site stands out because it's modeled after Nick Fury Jr. instead of Nick Fury like the rest. This is a detail requested in the script.
- The construction robots are described as looking like simple, robotic versions of construction workers, with orange casing instead of orange clothes.
- Sunset Bain's strut inside Stark Unlimited HQ is described as her being "in complete The Devil Wears Prada mode," a reference to the character of Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep.
- Sunset is compared to a James Bond villain in the way she holds and strokes Dr. Shapiro's cat.
- The way Machine Man has a panel on his hand which flips open to reveal a hologram of Jocasta's face is compared to the way Captain America has a compass which he flips open to reveal a picture of Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers: Endgame.
- The bomb Machine Man sets up at the Windsor-Smith Hospital is described as a "Jack Kirby-style bomb."
- When Machine Man projects his head above the bomb, it's compared to the Wizard of Oz projecting his head in his throne room in the 1939 film of the same name.
- The script calls for the bomb disposal robot to be "very real-world looking."
- The suit worn by Tony is described as a "newish version of the MK 1 Iron Man suit."
- Tony's new appearance with his hair and beard grown out is specifically mentioned not to be disheveled ("not like a bum or the Unibomber [sic]"), but is instead asked to look like John Wick.
- The way Mark One addresses the robots in attendance is compared to Robin Hood addressing his Merry Men.
- The close-up of Tony's face in the final panel is meant to evoke the Kubrick Stare.
- Other pieces of information revealed by the script includes:
- Arno's nightmare is a recurring dream that is coming more frequently.
- Arno feels smug about discovering the spike in the readings of background radiation.
- Sunset Bain is introduced in the script as a possible love interest for Arno.
- The script puts into question if the person captured in camera outside the liquor store is actually Tony Stark.
- The inclusion of Quasimodo and Machinesmith as Machine Man's allies is meant to question if Aaron is a bad guy too since he's aligned with them.
- The Thirteenth Floor is mentioned to be a dimensionally shunted place, explicitly one story tall, that exists thirteen stories above Manhattan, and it can only be reached through elevators around the entire city.
- The tablet hanging by the Awesome Android's neck is an iPad that shows emojis of how he's feeling.
- In the artwork breakdown of the news coverage montage, the reporter that inquires Arno has her name sketched out as Andrea Woo.
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