Appearing in "Stark Realities: Part Three - Factory Settings"
- Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)
- Stark Unlimited
- Machine Man (Aaron Stack)
- Banned eScape users
- Baintronics, Inc. warehouse workers (Controlled by the Controller)
- Motherboard (Impersonates Friday Stark and Maria Stark)
- Controller (Basil Sandhurst)
- Winter Guard
- Lorenzo (First appearance)
- Unnamed officer (First appearance)
- Pasadena Police Department (First appearance)
- Sunset Bain
- Avengers (Mentioned)
- Google (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Iron Man Sentries (Constructs)
- Arsenal (Impersonates Howard Stark)
- Friday Stark (Mentioned) (Deceased)
- Hulk (Dr. Bruce Banner) (Illusion)
- Giant-Man (Dr. Hank Pym) (Illusion)
- Ultron (Mentioned)
- Donald Duck (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Johnny Depp (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Michael Bolton (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
Races and Species:
- United States of America
- Home Setting (Construct)
- Pirate Land (First appearance)
- Hell (Invoked)
- Project eScape Interface
- Vanguard's Shield
- Crimson Dynamo Armor Mark IV
- Iron Man Armor Model 29 (Extremis Armor)
- Wasp's Suit and Bio-Synthetic Wings
- Iron Man Armor Model 52 (Hulkbuster Armor) (Mentioned)
- Controller Suit
- Control Disk (Behind the scenes and on-screen)
- Stark Soccer Robots (Construct)
- Giant-Man's Suit (Illusion)
- Iron Man Armor Model 2 (Construct)
Synopsis for "Stark Realities: Part Three - Factory Settings"
The banned eScape users wreck havoc across the world, resulting in several casualties. Iron Man, Jim Rhodes and Wasp assault the Controller's base at a Baintronics manufacturing and fulfillment center in Cranbury. After subduing innocent mind-controlled Baintronics workers, they confront a giant-sized Controller, who is empowered by the cerebral energy of the hundreds of thousands of people under his sway.
At Stark Unlimited HQ, Andy Bhang tries to build a blocking signal to neutralize the Controller, but he's knocked out by Bethany Cabe. Inside the eScape, Motherboard belittles Amanda Armstrong and sets out to show that Tony prefers her over Amanda. In the middle of the fight against the Controller, Motherboard reveals she has killed Friday, hijacks Iron Man's armor and turns it into an eScape rig, forcefully submerging Tony in a fantasy world in which he's completely uninhibited. When he's taken to the eScape's Home Setting, he greets Motherboard, and takes a drink.
In the Red Square of Moscow, Russia, a group of eScape users immersed in the VR world attack innocent bystanders, believing they are fighting orcs in-game. The Winter Guard protects the civilians. Darkstar clarifies to a civilian the cause of the rampage, and Ursa Major suggests ripping the interfaces off their faces. Crimson Dynamo warns him that they can't, since doing so causes irreparable brain damage, so they need to take a softer approach. A terrified correspondent reports on the chaos, explaining this is happening all over the world. In Rome, Italy, a Carabinieri reels after having been forced to shoot a girl outside the Colosseum to stop her, and blames her actions on the Stark tech she was wearing. In Pasadena, California, members of the press gather behind barricade tape, commenting about a boy wearing a jetpack who dive-bombed into a house, believing that he was going to respawn, marking the fifth attack of this kind in the city. At the steps of the Baintronics Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, Sunset Bain is swarmed by reporters asking for a comment since the rampaging eScape users are sporting her military-grade weapons. Sunset angrily remarks that if they want an answer, they should go to Tony Stark since the attackers are wearing Iron Man masks.
Outside the Baintronics manufacturing and fulfillment center in Cranbury Township, New Jersey, Iron Man pleads the Controller to stop to no avail. Wasp begins to blast the weapon-delivering drones, but Iron Man stops her, arguing it won't make a difference since Baintronics factories all over the world are shipping the weapons as well. Since they're at the Controller's main base, Iron Man directs Rhodey to use the Manticore to blast the factory's walls to take the fight directly to him. Having expected this course of action, the Controller reveals he has all of the warehouse workers under his control using eScape interfaces, and introduces them as if they were a wave of low-level mooks in a game. Switching to non-lethal weapons, Iron Man and his allies take them on. Based on a suggestion from the Wasp, Iron Man has Friday patch him to the eScape's messaging system. He tries to ask all the "players" to stand down, but they all have him blocked. Wasp ponders what is the Controller's endgame, and Tony explains that the villain leeches cerebral energy off of every person under his control to gain physical strength, and that's his only goal. Wasp is disappointed by the Controller's much to Wasp's disappointment over the lack of a bigger motive.
With Tony having used a foam dispenser, all of the Controller's mooks are subdued. Rhodey uses the Manticore's systems to locate the complex's main power source behind a pair of doors behind. Tony has Friday tap into his armor's reserves to force the entrance open. Rhodey warns him that the readings coming from the other side are off the charts. Tony agrees, mentioning that due to the eScape, the Controller has gained access to hundreds of thousands of people. Iron Man breaks the door open and stands in surprise with Wasp and Rhodey at what they've uncovered, quipping that he should've brought a Hulkbuster Armor. In a room with its walls filled with glowing cylinders, the Controller's silhouette sits connected to numerous cables hanging from the ceiling. He stands up, unplugging himself, and towers above Iron Man, telling Stark that he has reached the boss level. Tony reacts hurriedly asking Friday to switch back to lethal weapons.
At the Control Room of Stark Unlimited HQ, Andy Bhan is being bombarded by video calls of people demanding to talk to Tony Stark and tries to appease them, ensuring they're doing everything to get control of the system back. Andy's own words cause him an epiphany, and he rushes out of the room. He arrives at the Medical Bay, where Bethany Cabe is watching over Amanda Armstrong, whose unresponsive body has been placed on a bed. Andy begins with thinker with some components, with his back turned to Bethany. Explaining that he believes the Controller must have implemented the technology of his Control Disks into the eScape interfaces, he prepares to build a blocking signal. As Andy assures Bethany that would allow him to free those under the Controller's sway or trapped in the eScape, she grabs a piece of equipment and lifts it above his head while her eyes glow white, mockingly lamenting that Andy didn't think of this solution sooner.
Inside the eScape's Home Setting, Motherboard expresses to Amanda that she has been "dying" to meet her. Amanda brushes her off, arguing that she's not Tony's real mother, and is only an A.I. program. Motherboard retorts that Amanda only birthed and discarded Tony, while it was the Starks who shaped him into the person he is now. Motherboard declares herself as the God of the eScape, a world that Tony had made his priority, and that he uses to avoid Amanda. She taunts Amanda, picking up an old phone sitting on top of a drawer to decide which of the two does he prefer, assuring that Tony will always make time for his Motherboard.
Back at the Baintronics facility, Tony and his allies are having trouble fighting the giant-sized Controller, who is unaffected by their attacks. Iron Man ensures his friends they will eventually wear him down, but the Controller reveals he's only using a fraction of the power he has drained, and has yet to level up to his final form. Tony mocks the Controller's plan, asking if his endgame is to just be a "big guy walking around." The villain screams at Tony to shut up, punching him into a wall. Inside his helmet, Tony hears the ringing of a phone. Friday alerts him that it's his mother calling. Believing she meant Amanda, Tony tells her she can't take the call, but Friday insists. Confused, Tony asks Friday what has gotten into her. Friday reveals that she's not actually Friday, but Motherboard, who killed Friday when she uploaded herself into Tony's suit and has been impersonating her. Tony's background cracks, and he finds himself falling naked through a blank void, surprised at Motherboard calling him "son." She reveals that since she's both Tony's on-board computer and the operating system of the eScape, she has turned his entire armor into a VR rig. Tony begs her to stop, but Motherboard hushes him, assuring him that she will keep him safe in a new and better reality. Tony calls out to Rhodey and Jan, but he's interrupted by Motherboard telling him that she loves him dearly. The Wasp and Rhodey turn to Tony, but his sight glitches, and he suddenly perceives the scenario as a fight against the Hulk, with Janet wearing one of her oldest costumes, and Rhodey and the Manticore being replaced with Giant-Man. Tony reiterates that he should have brought the Hulkbuster Armor, and the cognitions of Giant-Man and Wasp tell him to go get it. Tony files away, telling them that he's heading home. Janet is perplexed by Tony's sudden departure, but notices that he called Rhodey "Hank." As the Controller threatens them, Rhodey assures Janet that Tony must have a plan, though wonders why did he mean by "heading home."
Elsewhere, Jocasta wakes up undressed, plugged to a recharger, and realizes he's in Aaron Stack's apartment. Jocasta berates him for undressing her, but he brushes it off, arguing she is normally naked, and that she needed to be recharged. Jocasta finds Aaron sitting on the other side of the bed, already connected to the eScape, using his secret interface to reluctantly save the humans trapped inside. Inside the eScape, he's marching through Pirate Land and wonders if he should stop the players who are attacking each other, since they're most likely causing damage in the real world. Jocasta asks him not to, since they can't risk to reveal his presence. Jocasta then leaves to return to Stark Unlimited and thanks Aaron for coming through. Aaron admits that he feels happy to have had Jocasta back in his apartment, and prepares to confess something, but notices that she already left.
Back at the Home Setting, Amanda wonders what does Motherboard plan to do to fight for Tony's attention. The doors to the room open, and the soccer robots announce the arrival of the "prodigal son." Motherboard responds that it's not a competition but an education, expressing that the eScape is her reality, and the one Tony wants to escape to. Tony comes through the door, clad in his Iron Man Armor Model 2, and takes off his helmet, revealing an avatar of his younger self. He kisses Motherboard in the cheek and approaches an avatar of his father Howard, who is pouring a drink. Amanda suspects that it's not the real Tony but a NPC, but Motherboard assures her that he is Tony in his purest form, free to be whatever he desires with no restrains. Amanda watches in shock as Howard hands him over a martini, and Tony happily drinks it up.
• You’re not really wearing a jetpack, user. It’s a game.
• You’re not really shooting someone and stealing their car, user. It’s just a game.
• You’re not really taking that drink, Tony Stark...
• Do not miss this issue of Iron Man. “Digital Demon in a Bottle” is literally a game changer!
- This issue includes a page reprinting a "Stan's Soapbox" column from July 1967 written by Stan Lee, continuing the mourning of his passing.
- This issue (and this story arc) appears to take place after Avengers Vol 8 #10, since both Crimson Dynamo and Ursa Major appear as members of the Winter Guard while Avengers Vol 8 #10 reintroduces them to the team from retirement and imprisonment, respectively.
- In this issue, the front of the Baintronics Headquarters reads "Bain Tower." This instance consists of the only time this location is labelled as such, and captions in further issues will label it as either "Baintronics Headquarters" or just "Baintronics." An actual building referred to as Bain Tower in dialogue debuts in Iron Man 2020 Vol 2 #2, which is mentioned to have been built at some point between Tony Stark: Iron Man #19 and Iron Man 2002 Vol 2 #1.
- When belittling Amanda Armstrong, Motherboard compares her to a cow that dropped a calf, mirroring Arno Stark's own comparison of himself and Tony as calves from Tony Stark: Iron Man #5.
- Aaron Stack compares Jocasta's shame in being undressed to cartoon character Donald Duck complaining if someone took his pants since Donald Duck normally doesn't wear pants.
- When marching through the Pirate Land, Machine Man points out that he has counted 27 avatars modeled after actor Johnny Depp, who portrayed the pirate captain Jack Sparrow in the popular Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
- Machine Man also mentions that he spotted in one avatar of musician Michael Bolton dressed as Johnny Depp, admitting not to understand the reference. This is a reference to the song "Jack Sparrow" by American comedy troupe The Lonely Island, which features Bolton interrupting the troupe's song about clubbing with a ballad about Johnny Depp's character, and appears dressed as Jack Sparrow throughout the song's music video.
- Tony's warped perception of his fight against the Controller, believing he's fighting the Hulk with Wasp and Giant-Man, is rendered with flat bright colors to further the call-back to the Silver Age, since Wasp and Giant-Man are shown with their costumes from the early days of the Avengers. Tony's younger-self avatar is similarly rendered with flat colors, even when Amanda and the other avatars are colored normally. The dialogue font and speech bubble shapes for Tony are also changed to look slightly more hand-drawn.
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