Appearing in "Stark Realities: Part Four - With a Heart of Steel"
- Stark Unlimited
- Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)
- Machine Man (Aaron Stack)
- Avengers (Mentioned)
- Hulk (Bruce Banner) (Mentioned)
- Baintronics, Inc
- Pepper Potts (Construct)
- Iron Man Sentries (Constructs)
- Howard Stark (Construct)
- Stark Industries (Mentioned)
- God (Yahweh) (Invoked)
- T-800 (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Happy Hogan (Construct)
- Mandarin (Construct)
- Crimson Dynamo (Boris Turgenov) (Construct)
Races and Species:
- United States of America
- Russia (Mentioned)
- Hell (Invoked)
- Controller Suit
- Project eScape Interface
- Captain America's Uniform and Shield
- Grand Theft Auto (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Ms. Marvel's Suit
- Spider-Man's Suit
- Web-Shooters (Behind the scenes)
- Ironheart Armor Model 3
- Wasp's Suit and Bio-Synthetic Wings
- Pym Particles (Behind the scenes)
- Control Disk (Behind the scenes)
- Image Inducer (Mentioned)
- Gauntlet Armor's Glove
- Iron Man Armor Model 2 (Construct)
- Stark Soccer Robots (Construct)
- Black Widow's Suit (Construct)
- Iron Man Armor Model 1 (Construct)
- Mandarin's Rings (Construct)
- Crimson Dynamo Armor Mark I (Construct)
- Iron Man's Briefcase (Construct)
- Iron Man Armor Model 59 (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
- The Search for Tony Stark (Mentioned)
Synopsis for "Stark Realities: Part Four - With a Heart of Steel"
Jim Rhodes and Wasp continue fighting the Controller at the Baintronics facility in Cranbury where he had set up base. In the meantime, the Controller is using Bethany Cabe to threaten Amanda Armstrong's life, since her body is lying unresponsive while she's connected to the eScape, to stop Andy Bhang from building a makeshift jammer to stop the villain. Realizing that the Controller must be focused forcing his will on one person in particular, Wasp blasts him full-force in the eye with a stinger-blast, causing his connection to Bethany to temporarily sever, allowing her to toss over her stun gun to Andy to put her down. Baintronics' security team arrives led by Gauntlet to help Rhodey and Wasp.
Inside the eScape, Motherboard has Iron Man under her sway, and alters the appearance of Amanda's avatar to make him think she's a villainous Black Widow. Amanda escapes and is rescued by Machine Man, who is using his special eScape interface to mask his presence from Motherboard. Tony resumes his idillyc fantasy within eScape. Amanda has Machine Man distract Tony during a party, and she then interrupts their fight to sing a song which brings Tony back to his senses. Enraged, Motherboard blasts into the scene, declaring that she has the truth in her side. Pulling a scan of Tony's genetic data, she claims that there is no biological trace of the original Tony Stark left following his return from his recent coma. She invites Tony to stay in the eScape, arguing that in the outside world he is only a simulation, and he can only be free and truly real inside the eScape. Frightened, Tony concurs with Motherboard.
In Cranbury Township, New Jersey, the Controller and the Manticore blast out of the Baintronics manufacturing and fulfillment center. Jim Rhodes deploys his vehicle's arsenal to no avail while the villain gloats he's unstoppable. Rhodey calls for reinforcements, but all that reply tell him they're occupied. Captain America is chasing after a eScape driver in Washington, D.C.; the Champions are battling jetpack-equipped eScape users in Brooklyn; and Jocasta is fending off a swarm of eScape attackers on her way back to Stark Unlimited HQ. Wasp wonders how can the Controller be fighting them while also making the eScape users go berserk. Rhodey realizes the Controller isn't actually manipulating the eScape users, since he can usually only control only one person at a time, which requires concentration. Rhodey further deduces that whoever the Controller is focused on must be extremely important. In fact, a Controller-influenced Bethany Cabe has Andy Bhang cornered at the Stark Unlimited HQ's Medical Bay. Andy tries to continue building his makeshift jammer, prompting Bethany draw her gun and threaten to shoot Amanda Armstrong, whose body still lies unresponsive. Back in New Jersey, the Wasp shoots a full-power stinger-blast to the villain's eyes, which severs his sway over Bethany. Realizing her role in the Controller's plans, Bethany tosses her gun at Andy, telling him she's set it to stun and ordering him to shoot her before the Controller regains control. The Controller takes back control, but Andy shoots at Bethany. Enraged, the Controller lunges at Wasp, but he's knocked down by a giant green energy hand, signaling the arrival of Gauntlet and a team of Baintronics mercenaries. Rhodey expresses delight that this time he and Gauntlet are on the same side, but Gauntlet tells him not to push it, since this is still a job for him. He contacts Sunset Bain to ensure she's watching the situation. At the Baintronics Headquarters, Sunset is sitting on a chair with Arno Stark standing behind her, obscured. She reiterates that Baintronics is not to blame for the situation, arguing it is a "Stark-created" mess. Arno interjects, prompting Sunset to clarify that it's a "Tony Stark-created" mess. Consecutively, Sunset, Jocasta (who has just arrived at S.U.), Andy (who continues working on the jammer) and Wasp are shown exclaiming, "Where the hell is Tony Stark?!"
Inside the eScape, Tony Stark's life has been turned into an idyllic version of his early days as Iron Man, evidenced by a music-accompanied montage of Tony's corporate and superheroic life. Inside the Home Setting, Amanda slaps Tony to stop him from drinking, and warns him about his addiction. Nonchalantly, Tony dismisses her and asks Motherboard who is she. Motherboard alters Amanda's appearance, dressing her in one of Black Widow's early costumes, and telling Tony she's a Russian spy threatening to destroy Tony's family and fortune. Tony attacks Amanda without a second thought, forcing her to dodge a repulsor blast and jump through a window to escape. As Amanda is running into the park, a pair of robotic hands appear from bushes and abduct her. Iron Man notices that his armor's scanners can't find her, and Motherboard notices that as well, wondering how could it be possible.
Machine Man introduces himself to Amanda, explaining that he's using his special eScape interface to mask his presence from Motherboard, and can hide them both as long as Amanda stays close. He tells Amanda that Jocasta sent him to get her, but Amanda insists they can't leave without Tony, revealing that he's under Motherboard's sway. Iron Man sweeps the grounds of the mansion using his armor's roller skates, prompting Machine Man to criticize Tony's transport method. Tony determines that Amanda escaped, but shrugs it off. Motherboard and the construct of Howard Stark cheer Tony, and Motherboard insists that everything here is for him. Motherboard's words of encouragement are accompanied by scenes of Tony fiddling with his armor, mingling with constructs of Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, beating up the Mandarin, fighting Crimson Dynamo on the Moon, and attending a cocktail party. Amanda and Machine Man observe the last one undercover.
After continuing observing Tony, Amanda asks Machine Man how did the Controller set this up. Aaron explains that it's not the Controller's bidding directly, but a side-effect from when he hacked into the eScape network. Motherboard's operating system was damaged, causing her to behave the way she's acting as a twisted way of protecting Tony because she loves him. Wondering how can she counteract Motherboard, Aaron suggests Amanda try proving her love for Tony is stronger than Motherboard's. Amanda first asks Machine Man to distract Tony, so Aaron attacks the party, changing his appearance with a red and white color palette, declaring to be the "Russian Troll-Bot." Eager to fight a Russian enemy, Tony deploys his briefcase and begins to suit-up, though he has to ask Machine Man to wait a few minutes until then, much to Aaron's chagrin. Amanda grabs hold of the microphone of a band playing at the party, and declares that deep in Tony's heart she knows how much she means to him. As he's fighting Aaron, Iron Man claims whatever Amanda plans to do won't work. Amanda presents herself and begins to sing a song called "Sleepwalker." Tony is entranced by Amanda's singing voice. She assures Tony that he knows her, reminding him that he searched the whole world to find her because he knows the truth, which is that she will always be his mom.
Just as Tony snaps out of Motherboard's hold, Motherboard appears in a blast of lightning. She brushes off Amanda, pointing out that Amanda didn't raise Tony and was never there for him. She assert that she could destroy Amanda in an instant, but doesn't need to because she has something more potent than violence to defeat Amanda; the truth. Motherboard recalls that Tony came back from near-death by reconstituting every cell in his body and that his first major project was the eScape. Motherboard reveals she has been watching Tony, and brings up footage of him disclosing to Rhodey and Jocasta his worries about his the state of his body and soul after his return. Motherboard calls to attention to the fact that the eScape allows Tony to mix freely with other programs, free of physical baggage. Unveiling a scan of Tony's genetic data, Motherboard claims that there is no biological trace of Tony's original self within him. As Tony reels from the shocking revelation, Motherboard contends that in the outside world he is nothing but a simulation, and invites him to stay in the eScape with her, where he is truly real and can be free. Tony looks at his hands in horror, and concur with Motherboard, uttering that he can feel it and that her claims are all true.
“STARK REALITIES” PART FOUR!
• Who controls the eScape? Who controls the real world? And who is in control of Iron Man?
• The answer to at least one of these questions is the Controller.
• The answer to the others might surprise you.
• It’s an all-out battle on multiple fronts with reality, the cyberscape and the heart, mind and soul of Tony Stark at stake!
- This issue's recap page mistakenly credits Paolo Rivera as co-artist instead of Paolo Villanelli.
- Jim Rhodes recalls to Gauntlet their last encounter from Tony Stark: Iron Man #2.
- Motherboard cites Tony's ongoing internal conflict on whether he's still human or not after returning from a coma in Invincible Iron Man #597. She shows footage of Tony confessing his insecurities to Jim Rhodes and Jocasta, from scenes that originally happened in Tony Stark: Iron Man #2 and #3, respectively.
- This issue's Marvels 25th Anniversary variant by Alex Ross is a recreation of a panel from Tales of Suspense #50.
- Captain America references the video game franchise Grand Theft Auto when chasing after a reckless driver.
- Jocasta calls the group of eScape users attacking her as "would-be assassins." Her assailants are wearing wrist-mounted blades, similar to the trademark hidden blades from the video game franchise Assassin's Creed. They are all also wearing hoodies, imitating the hooded design of the members of the series' Assassin Brotherhood.
- The first montage exploring Tony's life in the eScape is a recreation of the opening to the 1966 Marvel Superheroes: The Invincible Iron Man TV show. The montage also features the lyrics from the song of the show's opening.
- When rescuing Amanda Armstrong, Machine Man recites, "Come with me if you want to live" and explains that "it's a robot thing." He's quoting a recurring phrase from the Terminator film franchise.
- Whereas all foul language in this and previous issues (including Machine Man in issue #3) is censored with the standard grawlix ("#$%&"), Machine Man's cussing is now censored with crossbone symbols ("🕱🕱🕱🕱"), a method used and popularized by Nextwave, a series which starred Machine Man.
- The song that Amanda sings to snap Tony Stark out of Motherboard's influence, "Sleepwalker," was previously listened to by Andy Bhang in the opening scene of Tony Stark: Iron Man #2.