Last week, we discussed the news that Tony Stark, alias Iron Man, would be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy in their latest comic book series. As noted, a cameo would probably be the most we could hope for from Iron Man's on-screen counterpart Robert Downey Jr. in the forthcoming "Guardians" film, but we thought it might still be instructive to delve a little deeper into Iron Man's connections to the outer space community of which the Guardians are an integral part.
With that in mind, this week we're going to take a look back at Iron Man's exploits in space, and how this man of Earth has adapted to the harsh environs of the stars above.
One of Iron Man's earliest experiences with space travel came when the Avengers became entangled in a conflict between two alien races, the militant Kree and the shape-changing Skrulls, as told in 1971's "Kree-Skrull War" storyline, running through "Avengers" #89-97. The warring sides tried to use the Avengers and their ally Captain Marvel as pawns in the conflict, but the Avengers were successful in bringing the fight to an end.
The presence of such hostile alien forces unnerved Tony, however, and as revealed in 2006's "New Avengers: Illuminati," he resolved to form a secret group of some of the most powerful and influential beings on Earth, which included Black Bolt of the Inhumans, the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards, the mutant Professor X, the Atlantean prince Namor, and Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, in order to deal with these threats behind the scenes. Their first act as a group was to confront the leaders of the Kree and Skrull empires, warning them to stay away from Earth. However, their visit to the Skrull homeworld went awry, and they were captured and experimented on by the Skrulls before escaping. The information the Skrulls learned in this encounter would form the basis for their attack on Earth in 2008's "Secret Invasion" storyline.
Stark's interest in space eventually led him to create a specialized suit of "space armor," which he used to investigate the mysterious destruction of an entire town by a beam of radiation fired from space. High above Earth, Iron Man discovers that a satellite belonging to the sinister Roxxon corporation is responsible, and must contend with Sunturion, a Roxxon employee converted into living microwave energy, as told in 1981's "Iron Man" #142-144. The space armor enables him to go toe-to-toe with Sunturion outside of Earth's atmosphere, although Sunturion eventually proves to have a conscience when he sacrifices himself to aid Iron Man in preventing the satellite from crash-landing on Earth.
Iron Man utilized a new version of his space armor in 1992's "Operation Galactic Storm" crossover, which had Iron Man and the Avengers travel to the Kree and Shi'ar galaxies to avert another war with potentially fatal consequences for Earth. Tony was under enormous stress during this period, having suffered nervous system damage that required his armor to keep him alive. The conflict between the Kree and Shi'ar ended with a horrifying weapon known as the Nega-Bomb being detonated, destroying much of the Kree galaxy, and causing a near total holocaust for the Kree race. When the Avengers discovered that the Kree Supreme Intelligence was behind the genocide of his own people, it created a rift in the team, with one faction believing he should be executed on the spot, while the other insisting he be put on trial. Iron Man led the faction in favor of execution, and personally assisted in carrying it out, leading to a deep schism between himself and Captain America.
Most recently, in 2012's "Avengers vs. X-Men" event, Iron Man and the Avengers faced down the threat of the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix returning to Earth. While the Avengers and the X-Men duked it out on the "Blue Area" of Earth's moon over the fate of the Phoenix's would-be host, Hope Summers, Tony opted for a more direct approach, donning a massive suit of battle armor, dubbed the "Phoenix-Buster," and fired a disruptor beam at the Phoenix, hoping to destroy it. Instead, much to his chagrin, the Phoenix Force was split into five pieces, imbuing Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik, and Namor with a fraction of its power, teaching Tony that some problems can't be solved simply by building a better weapon.
Having gotten yet another taste of outer space adventure by facing down the threat of Thanos alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy in the pages of "Avengers Assemble," it's clear Tony is still itching for more, which explains his decision to accompany the Guardians on their off-Earth missions in their upcoming series. And with incoming "Iron Man" writer Kieron Gillen reportedly also planning to explore the far reaches of the Marvel Universe with Tony, the future of everyone's favorite Armored Avenger is looking very cosmic indeed.
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