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Quote1 I never played with toys. I made them. I made my ideas into reality, and then I re-created myself the exact same way! I'm an idea. My own idea. I'm the Invincible Iron Man and that's all I'll ever need to be! Quote2
-- Iron Man

Appearing in "Stark Realities: Part Five - Parental Code"

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Synopsis for "Stark Realities: Part Five - Parental Code"

Brief Summary

Jocasta leads the Stark Unlimited as they monitor the global rampage of the eScape users under the Controller's influence, while Jim Rhodes and Wasp continue fighting the villain with help of the Baintronics security team led by Gauntlet. Amanda Armstrong and Machine Man remain inside the eScape, where Tony Stark breaks free from Motherboard's influence. However, she begins to reshape reality to try to placate Tony, eventually turning him back into a child who doesn't remember Amanda.

While Andy Bhang is figuring out a blocking signal to cut off the Controller's influence, Sunset Bain assumes a helpful guise to convince Jocasta to grant her partial access to the eScape systems, allowing her ally Arno Stark to work his way to full access. Andy finishes the blocking signal and it is broadcast all over the world, freeing the eScape users. Inside eScape, while Tony depreciates Amanda before forcing her to log off, he also turns against Motherboard and the construct of Howard Stark, who are revealed to be the A.I. duplicates of Maria and Howard Stark, salvaged from the super-computer Mistress and the real-life Arsenal robot by Tony years earlier. Reasserting his independence from Howard's legacy while destroying Arsenal, Tony then uses the unlimited potential within the eScape conceive the ghastly Godbuster Armor with which he kills Motherboard. Still trapped inside the eScape, Tony's virtual avatar collapses since in the real world his armor was left adrift in space by Motherboard, and it's running low on oxygen.

Detailed Summary

Inside the Stark Unlimited HQ Command Center, authorities and superheroes all over the globe are informing the S.U. staff of the havoc caused by eScape users. Jocasta is pulled away from the task at hand when she notices Friday's body on the floor. Demanding an explanation, an employee tells her that it is a temporary condition since Iron Man had downloaded her into his armor. Jocasta lashes out at her coworker for leaving her body on the floor, comparing it to leaving a human coworker in a similar situation if they passed out, and orders they take her away. Jocasta turns to communicate with Andy Bhang to check on him, since he's still at the medical bay working on an override device while Bethany Cabe and Amanda Armstrong lay next to him, the former unconscious and the latter unresponsive, still connected to the eScape. Jocasta then contacts Jim Rhodes and Wasp to assess their progress fighting the Controller with help from Gauntlet and Baintronics' security team at the company's manufacturing and fulfillment center in Cranbury. Rhodey states they're holding the villain at bay for the moment, but he continues to grow in size. Sunset Bain establishes contact with Jocasta and offers to help purge the Controller's presence from the eScape's network if she's granted access to its secure files and Jocasta concedes in light of the situation. At Bain's HQ, Arno Stark notices Jocasta only gave them partial access, but plans to have a full access work-around for their security protocols in short time. Back at the Stark Unlimited HQ, Wasp asks Jocasta if there are any news on Tony. Jocasta is confused to notice his armor's GPS indicates he's in the same position as them. From inside the eScape, Machine Man reveals to Jocasta that Tony is with him and Amanda in the virtual world.

Inside the eScape, Tony is on his knees, struggling to break out of Motherboard's influence in front of Machine Man and Amanda. Motherboard floats over his glitched out avatar, which is shifting between his armored and naked human form. Amanda tries to reach out to Tony, but Motherboard insists that he ignores her. Tony finally breaks out, declaring his revenge on the Controller, blaming the villain for Motherboard's actions. After suggesting Tony to get dressed, Machine Man clarifies that Motherboard is actually acting independently. Since Machine Man's eScape interface cloaks him from Motherboard, she's baffled that Tony appears to be talking to himself. The construct of Howard Stark detects Aaron and switches into Arsenal to attack him. In an attempt to placate Tony, arguing that she only wants to make his life perfect, Motherboard reshapes reality into a medieval world, changing Tony and Amanda's outfits accordingly; cladding Tony in knight armor resembling his Iron Man suit and recounting how the Knights of the Round Table was his favorite fable when growing up. Tony berates Motherboard while Amanda wonders why is she toying with them instead of outright destroying them. As he continues to fight Arsenal, Machine Man tells her to shut up to avoid giving her that idea. Arsenal rips off Aaron's arm, which is reflected in his real-life body.

Motherboard approaches Tony with a mug of beer, but he resists. In response, Motherboard reshapes reality into an alien bar, outfitting Tony in his Deep-Space Armor. Amanda affirms that Tony's real mother would never put him through this kind of strain. Tony pleads to Motherboard to let him go to stop the Controller, but she brushes it off. Claiming that Tony is stressed and needs to return to a more innocent time free of responsibilities, she returns everyone to the Home Setting modeled after the Stark Mansion, turning Tony into a child in the process. Amanda checks on Tony, but he doesn't recognize her. Motherboard points out that Tony didn't know of Amanda at the time, reiterating that she is Tony's mother since she raised him. Arsenal returns, taking the form of Howard Stark again, holding Machine Man's decapitated head.

Inside Aaron's apartment, his body lays twisted and mangled on the floor. Jocasta tells him to eject from the eScape, but he insists to stay since he's the only person who can relay messages between the real world and Tony, who is the best chance at stopping the eScape rampage. Jocasta gets back to Andy, who has successfully used his blocker on Bethany. When he prepares to disconnect Amanda, she refuses to leave without Tony. Andy tells Jocasta he has encoded his blocking signal into a sound file and tells her to forward it to as many people as possible to play it at eScapers at close range. Jocasta proceeds with the plan, contacting the Avengers and allies. In Russia, Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn, the respective heroes on each location: the Winter Guard, Captain America, and the Champions, are shown broadcasting the signal and liberating the eScape users while Jocasta urges them to head to the Baintronics complex as soon as possible.

The heroes on the scene at Baintronics continue fighting the giant-size villain. The Controller swats away the Manticore, crashing it into a facility nearby. Rhodey notices inside the facility a series of 3D printers mass-producing illegal eScape interfaces and shipping them as fast as they're done. Bain lies blatantly, claiming it's the Controller's doing. Afraid that their true intentions have been revealed, Sunset advises Arno to gather as much intel as possible. Arno silences her, revealing that he has gained access to the eScape's surveillance systems, allowing him to observe everything.

Back in the eScape, Amanda implores Tony to recognize her. She assures him that while she wasn't there for him growing up she is with him now, and promises to not leave the virtual world until he is safe. Tony interrupts Amanda, backing up Motherboard's perspective. He points out that they don't have a common past, and don't even share the same DNA anymore, meaning she's not his mother in any sense of the word. After claiming that he and Amanda are nothing to each other, Tony snaps his fingers, logging her out. Full of delight, Motherboard declares that they can be the happy family they always meant to be, and tells Tony to upload his mind into the House Setting to live with her and Arsenal forever. Tony shoots down the idea, stating that he is Tony Stark, who builds worlds instead of hiding inside them. Arsenal interjects, scolding Tony for his tone of voice under the argument that they're his parents and brought him to the world. Tony retorts that the opposite is true, since Motherboard and him are the engrams the real Howard downloaded into the Arsenal robot and its control-unit called Mistress. Arno listens as Tony explains that he had salvaged Motherboard and Arsenal's programs on one of his adventures and placed the on them eScape for reasons he refuses to disclose.

Howard transforms into Arsenal, crowing about the life that had been given to Tony. As he commands the soccer robots present at the House Setting to transform and shapeshift into armor, Tony admits that he tried to live up to the legacy of Howard Stark, but eventually realized it didn't feel right, which is why he made Stark Unlimited his own. Clad in an amalgam of his different armor, Tony speaks that he never played with toys, but rather made them; turning his ideas into reality and eventually re-creating himself the same way. Stark proclaims that he is an idea, his own idea. The Invincible Iron Man; and that's all he'll ever need to be. Tony's suit changes shape into the Extremis Armor as he disintegrates Arsenal with a blast, and into the Bleeding Edge Armor when Motherboard demands that Tony brings him back. Tony taunts Motherboard, saying that while she might have godlike power in the eScape, creating is not her strength.

Motherboard turns into a being of energy, twisting the world around herself and Tony, threatening him and declaring herself the god of the eScape. Tony refutes her, stating that he is the architect of the eScape and that she can't control his imagination. Declaring that there are no limits to what he can build within the virtual world, Tony further changes the shape of his suit into an atypically freakish giantic suit he dubs the Godbuster Armor. The two engage in combat, and Motherboard promises Tony that what she's doing is out of love. Tony surprises Motherboard with the revelation that since their last encounter when she was Mistress, he has learned about his foster brother Arno. He accuses Maria of loving Arno instead, believing that for her, Tony was only a decoy to protect him. Unbeknownst to both combatants, Arno watches the confrontation unfold. Iron Man blasts Motherboard into nothingness while she pleads for forgiveness.

Bidding the expy of his mother farewell, Tony logs off into a blank void. He encounters the severed head of Machine Man, who congratulates his victory with sarcasm. Tony contacts Jocasta through Aaron, and she tells him worried that they can't find him. As he begins to struggle to speak, Tony explains that his armor has no remote systems. Tony's avatar suddenly collapses. Through the eScape's audio, Aaron explains that Tony's avatar isn't even breathing virtually, and fears Tony is dead. In the real world, Tony is floating unconscious in space, and his armor's HUD warns that he's running out of oxygen.

Solicit Synopsis

“STARK REALITIES” continues with “THE IMPOSSIBLE ARMOR”!

Iron Man isn’t a suit. It’s an idea born from the mind of Tony Stark. And in a place where thought and reality are one and the same, a place where Tony’s imagination is unchecked, what kind of terrifying, all-powerful Iron Man armor will be born?!

Notes

  • This issue includes a page reprinting a "Stan's Soapbox" column from October 1967 written by Stan Lee, continuing the mourning of his passing.
  • Motherboard cites the Knights of the Round Table being Tony Stark's favorite story when growing up. This was established in Iron Man #287.
  • When turning Tony back into a child, Motherboard dresses him as he appeared in the flashback scene of Tony Stark: Iron Man #1. These clothes was inspired by one of Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr.'s outfits in Weird Science.
  • Motherboard additionally references Tony's space-faring adventures between 16 when creating the environment of an alien bar, cladding Tony in his Deep-Space Armor he used during that time.
  • In this issue, Tony reveals the eScape Arsenal construct is in fact the donwloaded program of the original Arsenal, and that Motherboard is actually Mistress, Arsenal's computer-unit and companion. How Tony salvaged Mistress following her apparent self-destruction in Avengers Annual #9 and why he uploaded her and Arsenal into the eScape is explained in Tony Stark: Iron Man #14.
  • Tony mentions that as part of his attempts to live up to Howard Stark's legacy, he used to "drink like him." Howard was also an alcoholic, as established in Iron Man #285.
  • The Godbuster Armor sports cogs on its shoulders, the trademark characteristic of the Iron Man 2020 Armor, worn by the Arno Stark of Earth-8410, who in this universe is Tony Stark's first cousin once removed.
  • In the following issue, the Godbuster Armor is referred to as the Godkiller Armor instead.
  • Tony refers to himself as a decoy used by the Starks to protect Arno. As revealed in Iron Man Vol 5 #17, Tony was adopted by the Starks in case they needed to delude 451, a Rigellian Recorder who genetically engineered Arno in-womb, whose alteration process was tampered with by Howard behind his back, since 451 had secretly planted a genetic kill switch on the baby. Howard developed a biococktail to disable the kill switch, but accidentally resulted in Arno becoming fatally ill, so they decided to adopt Tony in case 451 ever returned to Earth and pass him off as their healthy son.

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