- I am...Tony Stark. I always have been. And it's time to get to work!
- -- Tony Stark
Appearing in 1st story
- A.I. Army
- Ghost in the Machine (Friday Stark) (Revealed to be alive) (Identity revealed)
- Andy Bhang
- Baintronics, Inc.
- Devil (Satan) (Invoked)
- Amanda Armstrong (Recap)
- Howard Stark (Recap)
- Maria Stark (Recap)
- Happy Hogan (Recap)
- Rescue (Pepper Potts) (On-screen in main story and also appears in recap)
- Avengers (Recap)
- Loki (Recap)
- Melter (Bruno Horgan) (Recap)
- Wraith (Brian DeWolff) (Recap)
- Whiplash (Marco Scarlotti) (Recap)
- Bethany Cabe (On-screen in main story and also appears in recap)
- Jim Rhodes (Recap)
- Bambi Arbogast (Recap)
- Riri Williams (Recap)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers) (Recap)
- Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) (Recap)
- "Howard Stark" / Arsenal
- "Maria Stark" / Mistress
- Controller (Basil Sandhurst) (Mentioned)
- Motherboard (Mistress) (Mentioned)
- Jude (Mentioned)
- Fantastic Four (Mentioned)
- Doctor Shapiro
- Mandarin (Mentioned)
- Sunset Bain (Stasis)
- God (Yahweh) (Invoked)
- Stark Industries (Mentioned)
- Howard Stark (Mentioned)
Races and Species:
- Humans (Main story and recap)
- Asgardians (Recap)
- Frost Giants (Recap)
- Human-Kree Hybrids (Recap)
- United States of America
- Hell (Mentioned)
- eScape (Mentioned)
- Iron Man Armor Model 67
- Bain Battle Mechs (First appearance)
- Iron Man Armor Model 1 (Main story and recap)
- Iron Man Armor Model 1 MK III (Main story and recap)
- Mjolnir (Recap)
- Melting Ray MK II (Recap)
- Iron Man Armor Model 4 (Main story and recap)
- Captain America's Uniform and Shield (Recap)
- Iron Man Armor Model 29 (Extremis Armor) (Recap)
- Ironheart Armor Model 1 (Recap) (Helmet)
- Captain Marvel's Suit (Recap)
- Iron Man Armor Model 54 (Recap)
- Rescue Armor Model 5 (On-screen)
- Hoarders (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Weekend at Bernie's (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- The Secret Origin of Tony Stark (Recap)
- Civil War (Recap)
- Civil War II (Recap)
- Stark Realities (Recap)
Synopsis for 1st story
As Iron Man and his Iron Legion smack down the robot protesters outside Bain Tower, Tony Stark's remaining allies escape with his body. Tony wakes up inside the Thirteenth Floor, where he is greeted by Friday, who had plucked Tony's consciousness from his body during his fall. Days later, Machine Man takes Jocasta's head to Andy Bhang, and he manages to remove the submission code from her programming. As "Ghost in the Machine," Friday tells them to share the counter-code worldwide. Andy clarifies to Machine Man he isn't the mole inside Stark Unlimited, and had only owned up to it to help the real mole.
In the streets, Arno tracks down the duplicates of his parents, who had escaped from Bain Tower. They are sick, and Arno explains they needed to stay in his living quarters to avoid succumbing to the illness they inherited from him, since Arno had used part of his own DNA to recreate their bodies. However, they die on the way back. In the Thirteenth Floor, Friday explains to Tony that when Motherboard tried to kill her, her code became assimilated into the eScape and then into the Thirteenth Floor after Tony reformatted the eScape into it. She tries to convince Tony that he is not an A.I. duplicate as he currently thinks.
At Arno's work station, Sunset Bain confronts him for building new bodies for the engrams of his parents, modeled after their original forms as Mistress and Arsenal. He also intends to change his approach from taking A.I.s under his control to people, since they are more unpredictable. When Subset objects, Arno reveals she is an A.I. herself, a duplicate of the real Sunset Bain whom Arno replaced back when she solicited him to heal a scar in her face. After learning of Arno's new plan, Dr. Shapiro sneaks into a computer and warns Friday about it, revealing that he is the actual mole. When Friday relays that only Tony Stark can stop Arno, Tony insists that he isn't the real Tony Stark. He is then confronted by holographic manifestations of himself in different points of his life, until they all merge into him and he acknowledges that he has always been Tony Stark.
Outside Bain Tower, Iron Man obliterates the robot protesters gathered outside the building, and deploys his Iron Legion, a team of mecha-wearing pilots, to join the fight. As Awesome Andy cradles Tony Stark's body, Machinesmith tells him and H.E.R.B.I.E. to leave it behind and escape. An incoming call to Andy's tablet interrupts Machinesmith. It's Ghost in the Machine, who tells them to protect Mark One's body at all costs, prompting Machinesmith to quickly change his mind and tell them to do as she says. Iron Man flies towards them, but once he is close enough, Andy uses his mimicry powers to adopt the features of his armor and knocks him back with a repulsor ray. Arno shakes off the attack to see his a hole in the ground and his targets escaped.
Somewhere unknown, Tony finds himself falling through projections of different moments of his life: As a newborn being held by Amanda Armstrong, as a kid standing next to Howard and Maria Stark in elegant clothes, as a teenager drinking heavily at a party, as Iron Man wearing the Model 1 Armor for the first time, as Tony Stark introducing Happy Hogan to Pepper Potts, and with the original Avengers fighting Loki. Tony cries out that this life is not his own as the mesh of images shatters into pieces, showing more events. Iron Man confronting the Melter, Whiplash, and Blizzard; Tony Stark walking past Bambi Arbogast with Rhodey Rhodes and Bethany Cabe; Tony staring at a mirror with a bottle by his side; his final battle against Captain America during the Civil War; Tony meeting Riri Williams; the final blow in Tony's battle against Captain Marvel; and finally Tony emerging from the regeneration pod. Tony lands on a white room, and wonders whether his life is flashing before his death or if he is in Hell. In front of him stand two rows of podiums with one shard floating above each. The closest to him show glimpses of recent events. Tony comes closer to a shard showing his fall from Bain Tower and notices a glow surrounding his body. Friday approaches Tony, revealing that glow marked the exact moment she pulled his consciousness out of his body and into the Thirteenth Floor. Tony is shocked with delight to see her, and she greets him.
Inside Bain Tower, Sunset Bain holds a meeting with a board of several defense ministers from all over the world. She informs them that, without their leader, the A.I. Army has fractured into scattered cells, causing them to become more violent. She mentions Baintronics has completed the first Iron Legion upgrades of the Bain Battle Mechs, having demonstrated their effectiveness during the attack on the tower, which now has happened days ago. Bain emphasizes that there are currently only two sides, humanity and the robots, and claims her products will make sure humans are in the winning team. When one ministers reproaches that Iron Man should stop the robots on his own and another demands the obedience O.S., Sunset sardonically welcomes their questions.
At his residence, Andy Bhang walks down the stairs to his kitchen threatening an intruder he finds out to be Machine Man, who is lounging drinking beer. He takes out Jocasta's disembodied head from a bowling bag and hands it over to Andy, pointing out he's the only human he knows who is familiar with her programming, and asks him to fix her since she's under the influence of the obedience code. Andy proceeds to work on Jocasta's head, revealing that Bain had him work on the code, and while it was not in anything crucial since they didn't trust him, he had managed to slip a back door key into the program. As he finishes the repair, Andy reveals the fix won't work unilaterally, and Jocasta has to want to be free. The patch works, and Jocasta thanks Andy for returning her to normal and Machine Man from saving her. Friday's silhouette appears in a screen in Andy's lab, surprising him. Identifying herself as Ghost in the Machine, she tells Andy to give her the specs for the counter-code to distribute it worldwide. Machine Man is confused that Andy doesn't seem to know her, pointing out that he was the mole inside Baintronics. Andy explains that he had only owned up to Bain's accusations to help the real mole, whose identity he doesn't know, carry on the fight.
At the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, a hooded couple walk among the crowd, trying to lay low. Iron Man flies down and lifts them off the ground, catching the attention of the bystanders. Arno chastises them, unveiling that they are the duplicates of Howard and Maria Stark, coughing and sick-looking. They berate Arno for his treatment of them, but Arno interrupts them to express that because he had to use part of his own DNA to re-create their bodies, they were afflicted by his disease, and that their quarters in Bain Tower were a controlled environment to keep them safe. Arno stops his explanation once he realizes that they have died. Faltering, he disregards death as a setback, proclaiming that he can fix them, Tony, and everything.
Back in the Thirteenth Floor, Friday recaps her life to Tony, showing glimpses of it on the shards in their surrounding, before explaining her survival. Friday reveals that when Motherboard attempted to erase her code, she actually only scattered it, and it was absorbed into the eScape. When Tony reformatted it into the Thirteenth Floor, Friday became the holographic realm itself, which is the reason the structures throughout the place resemble the human ganglia; a manifestation of Friday's evolving mind. Tony apologizes for forcing Friday into the eScape, mentioning that it took him becoming an A.I. to realize that. Friday corrects Tony, claiming that he is not an A.I., but the real Tony Stark. Tony brings up that he saw the evidence that his body was artificial, but Friday disregards the artificial elements that replaced some of his biological matter as no different than a prosthetic. She brings up a holographic screen showing Pepper Potts and Bethany Cabe, revealing that the two are on a mission to get DNA samples from Tony's biological parents to fill the gaps in his genetic code and make him exactly like he used to. Tony expresses disapproval for bringing Pepper into the equation, and calls it a fool's errand, doubling down on his conviction that the real Tony Stark is dead.
In New Jersey, H.E.R.B.I.E., Awesome Android and Machinesmith have brought Tony's body to the latter's laboratory. Having discovered that Mark One's body is alive, Machinesmith attempts to download his consciousness into him to no avail. H.E.R.B.I.E. jokingly suggests to prop up his body to pretend it's alive. Machine Man, Jocasta and Andy Bhang communicate with the three on a computer screen, delivering the news of Andy's success in blocking Arno Stark's obedience O.S., and send them the update so that they can spread it far and wide.
At Arno's work station in Baintronics, Sunset Bain approaches Stark with Dr. Shapiro on her arm. She reproaches him that he isn't actively participating in the fight against the robots, and catches a glance of two stasis tubes containing bodies resembling those of Mistress and Arsenal, which Arno explain are new more durable forms for his parents. When Sunset brings up that she hopes an update on the obedience O.S., Arno mentions that he has moved on to a different project that involves installing into the Stark Space Station a combination of the Mandarin's hypno-rays and the Controller's brainwashing technology. Sunset questions how he intends to make it work on robot, to which Arno reveals that, since robots are actually far easier to predict, he actually pretends to bring under his control the humans. Sunset objects to this, since she is a person, but Arno surprises her casually commenting that she is actually an A.I., and has been for some time now. Arno directs Sunset to the set of stasis tubes in his laboratory, recalling the time Sunset insisted Arno fixed a scar on her face. He reveals one of them containing the real Sunset Bain, expressing that he took the opportunity to make a whole new Sunset Bain, and tells Sunset that all this time he wasn't been working for him, but rather she was been working for him. Sunset stands in shock staring at the tube containing her real self. Dr. Shapiro slips off her arm, and sneaks his way into a coms room, here he accesses a computer.
In the Thirteenth Floor, Friday receives a message from Shapiro detailing Arno's new plan, and signs off stating that only Tony Stark can stop him. When Tony grumbles that he isn't Tony Stark but Mark One, he is interrupted by an image of himself as a kid, who shuts him down and tells him that he is ready, and has been ever since he was a kid. He is then approached by teenage Tony dressed in a racing suit, recounting his triumphs at such young age. A dapper Tony in his twenties brings up how he turned Stark Industries into an empire after taking the reins. When Tony says that none of it matters, a vision of himself as a captive points out that Tony is the man who can do anything, especially with his back against the wall. A Tony clad in the Model 1 Armor exemplifies that Tony remade himself into a hero. A Tony Stark wearing the Classic Armor descends, recalling that as a new age of heroes was starting, Tony remained ahead of the curve and stood shoulder to shoulder with gods and super-soldiers, becoming a legend without any powers except his mind. Tony rejects that notion, comparing himself to Thor and Captain America and pointing out that he made mistakes constantly. An image of a drunk, disheveled Tony interjects that he learned from it, and asserts that that is what science is; failures that teach how to succeed. The drunk Tony mentions that the last time Tony drank it was by force, but when it came to making a choice, he managed to abstain, and encourages him to push forward. Tony turns his back, as his armor is holographically restored, and asks Friday to stop. Tony insists that he is only an echo of Tony Stark, his idea; Iron Man. With the different versions of Tony by her side, Friday explains that she is too one of Tony Stark's ideas, but also more, and so is Tony himself. She clarifies that Tony himself has created the aspects of himself that he has been taking to, and that they are himself. After a moment of realization, the different manifestations of Tony reach out to him, merging in a flash of life into a singular Tony Stark dressed in a suit. He asserts that he is Tony Stark and has always been, and gleefully declares that it's time to get to work.
Yeah. That horrible thing actually happened last issue. We know. It was NOT cool. So we are totally making it up to you RIGHT NOW. That character you really liked from a while ago? The one who you thought was absolutely, certifiably dead? Surprise! She’s back! But how is that even possible? And what does that mean for the future of all things Iron–Man? Read the book, fleshbag.
- This issue's trade dress doesn't include the series' legacy numbering. The return of the legacy numbering in Iron Man (Vol. 6) #4 corresponding that issue to Iron Man #629 indicates that this issue corresponds to Iron Man #623.
- Out of the moments of his life that Tony Stark reminisces when falling through the Thirteenth Floor, the following correspond to specific issues:
- Tony contemplating in wonder as the Iron Man Armor Model 1 keeps him alive comes from Tales of Suspense #39.
- Tony introducing Happy Hogan to Pepper Potts comes from Tales of Suspense #45.
- Iron Man confronting Loki as part of the original Avengers comes from the cover of Avengers #1.
- Iron Man surrounded by the Melter, Whiplash, and Blizzard comes from Iron Man #123.
- Tony staring at his reflection on a mirror while drunk comes from the cover of Iron Man #128.
- Iron Man fighting Captain America comes from the cover of Civil War #7.
- Tony chatting with Riri Williams comes from Invincible Iron Man (Vol. 3) #12.
- Iron Man being attacked by Captain Marvel comes from Civil War II #8.
- Tony emerging from the regeneration pod comes from Invincible Iron Man #593.
- While the event of Tony walking past Bambi Arbogast with Rhodey Rhodes and Bethany Cabe doesn't correspond to a specific moment, it pertains to the era in Tony's life set roughly between Iron Man #118 and Iron Man #166.
- Machine Man obtained Jocasta's head in 2020 Machine Man #2.
- Friday recalls that Tony Stark had created her to be "a voice for [his] heads-up display" and later mentions being "a voice in a suit of armor." However, Friday was never a disembodied voice and always projected her image holographically since her first appearance in Iron Man (Vol. 3) #53. She also didn't operate Tony's armor until Invincible Iron Man (Vol. 3) #1.
- Friday mentions the instance when Tony requested her to be the operating system for his armor during the Controller's attack, which, in turn, led her apparent death at the hands of Motherboard. This happened in Tony Stark: Iron Man #7.
- Friday reveals she is having Bethany Cabe send Pepper Potts to gather DNA from Tony's birth parents. This is detailed in 2020 Rescue #1–2.
- At Andy Bhang's residence, H.E.R.B.I.E. brings up that he told off the Fantastic Four. This happened in Incoming #1.
- In this issue, Arno Stark reveals that Sunset Bain has been a clone of the real Bain ever since Tony Stark: Iron Man #18.
- When Tony is taking to different aspects of himself, his drunk and disheveled self recalls that the last time Tony drank he was forced to, whereas when it came to choosing, he managed to abstain. Tony was forced to break his soberty in Tony Stark: Iron Man #8 by Motherboard, when he was brainwashed in the eScape. The second instance happened in Tony Stark: Iron Man #19, when Tony went to a bar and ordered a drink, which Iron Man 2020 (Vol. 2) #2 established Tony didn't actually take.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. compares Machinesmith's laboratory to "a #$%& episode of 'Hoarders'." Hoarders is an American reality TV show that documents on the lives of people who suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder.
- After Machinesmith fails to download his consciousness into Tony Stark, H.E.R.B.I.E. jokingly suggests to tie him to the Awesome Android and "'Weekend at Bernie's' him." Weekend at Bernie's is a black comedy film in which two insurance employees drag along the corpse of their boss Bernie and even manipulate the body's limbs to maintain the illusion that he is alive.
- The outfit the manifestation of kid Tony Stark is wearing when talking to his older self is the same Tony was wearing in the opening flashback of Tony Stark: Iron Man #1. These clothes are, in turn, one of the outfits worn by Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. in Weird Science.
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