A couple of weeks back, Charles and I did an episode of Murphy’s Law where we pitched our ideas for Iron Man 4, inspired by my bestie’s dedication to producing dumb fanfiction with his Nova series. My idea, as I presented it verbally, was nothing short of confusing and lackluster. But after weeks of sitting down with the idea and fine-tuning it in my head, I think I’ve come up with something that’s worth sharing in written form.
One glaring omission in the first 10 years of the MCU is the 2 years where the Sokovia Accords were in full-effect. It’s a worldbuilding device that would have radically changed the direction of the MCU if they had chosen to explore it. This year’s Black Widow is bound to give a glimpse just what superheroes on the run actually look like but that’s just one side of the coin. The other side is what the Accords are like for people on the side of the law. How do things look like from the vantage points of Tony Stark, and Thunderbolt Ross? This story is set in the time period between Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War.
With the Avengers gone, the UN organizes a think-tank to figure out what the world’s emergency response force should look like. The resulting decision is the Ultimates Treaty, a coalition sanctioned by the UN and its supporting states to develop and train enhanced individuals from all over the world. Leading the program is one Henry Peter Gyrich, a U.S. liaison handpicked by General Ross. And at the top of the group’s agenda is the enforcement of the Sokovia Accords.
News of this program has worsened unrest in parts of the world. A guerilla movement led by superpowered Carlos Creel and his son, Matias, has surfaced in South America, inciting political and civil unrest against the idea of South American governments developing state-sanctioned heroes for their own agendas. However, several skirmishes of Creel’s movement group are thwarted by Arthur Parks, a disabled soldier wielding alien technology.
With the emerging threat in South America and the urgent need to track down all unregistered enhanced individuals, Gyrich decides to bring in Tony Stark, who in classic form, has locked himself up in his laboratory developing tech that would go on to be his Infinity War nano suit. Being destroyed by Cap was a wake-up call for him; the effectivity of his suits is now obsolete.
Tony agrees to track down Arthur Parks, convinced he can bring Parks in without inciting any trouble. Rhodey is tasked to help quell the South American unrest but is unsuccessful as Creel’s guerilla forces overwhelm his own.
Tony successfully convinces Parks to sign the Accords. He also takes a liking to him, seeing some of Steve Rogers in the former soldier. Tony is convinced this friendship can make good on his failed friendship with Rogers. He takes Parks under his wing and upgrades Park’s weapon with a nano-tech prototype.
Mounting political pressure from the UN and South American governments force Gyrich into a corner. Gyrich haphazardly masterminds a desperate operation to stop Creel’s forces in Bolivia. The operation goes haywire when the showdown between Creel and Parks creates a blinding explosion, resulting in the deaths of several civilians and rebels, including Creel’s son, Matias. Both Creel and Parks are reported as MIA.
Despite the damage and casualties, Gyrich insists that the mission is a step in the right direction as several of Creel’s people are among the casualties, crippling Creel’s rebellion. Tony nearly comes to blows with Gyrich over this.
In a hidden location in South America, Parks wakes up from a week-long coma, only to discover that his body is no longer in the same form it was. Fatally wounded after the explosion due to the nanites and alien laser tech, Creel saves Parks’ life by imbuing him with his absorbing abilities. The two later have a discussion on their ideals and past experiences with institutions.
Tony reconciles with Pepper since their split. Pepper convinces Tony to bring Parks and Creel in safely and to fight for the reformation of the Sokova Accords and the Ultimates Treaty. Tony and Vision fly to Bolivia to investigate the remnants of the last skirmish. Vision tracks down traces of Parks’ signal to a small settlement in a southeastern province in Peru.
Tony and Vision sit down with Creel, who concedes his rebellion’s defeat due to a lack of manpower. Creel is asked to register by Tony. Insulted by the proposal in the wake of his son’s death, Creel attacks both Tony and Vision and is assisted by Parks, now disillusioned with the Ultimates program. Vision manages to subdue Creel while Tony and Parks reluctantly face-off in the big third act fight. Parks manages to escape capture.
With enough lobbying, Tony successfully dismantles the Ultimates Treaty but not without resistance. Thunderbolt Ross files an injunction prohibiting the Avengers from operating without his permission. Vision quietly goes AWOL. Gyrich is fired. Creel is placed in The Raft. Pepper shares with Tony an idea to rename Stark Industries into Stark Resilient.
One of the main reasons of setting the story post-Civil War and pre-Infinity War is to help bridge Tony’s arc between the two films. When we meet Tony in Infinity War, he seems mostly resigned to the fact that his dreams of keeping the peace have not worked. Vision is AWOL and he’s making excuses for it when asked by Banner. Of course, this changes once Thanos’ invasion begins but I’ve always been curious about what the road was like for him.
In this story, Tony is reeling in from his defeat and guilt over what transpired in the Siberian Bunker with Steve. The whole ordeal with the Accords has made him rethink his ideals, relationships with people, and his legacy. Part of him is still convinced that oversight is the way to go but part of him wonders if the only hands worth trusting are his own. This, of course, becomes a big thing in the story when he personally witnesses this abuse of oversight. His legacy is put into question; will he be remembered as the man who created Ultron, disbanded the Avengers over a piece of legislation, and had nothing to show for it at the end of the day? By the end of this film, Tony overcomes those hard-hitting questions and regains the trust he used to have for himself.
He’s back to being an obsessive tinkerer; experiencing defeat at the hands of Cap has convinced Tony that his suits will soon be rendered obsolete by a larger threat. So begins his venture into nanotechnology that bridges the jump from his appearance in Captain America: Civil War to Avengers: Infinity War.
Like Tony, Rhodey is recovering from his last appearance. If Tony’s transformation in the film is emotional, Rhodey’s is physical. He’s sort of on-the-fence on whether or not he should be deployed in the field to help out. Tony helps Rhodey with this dilemma by integrating the War Machine suit with prehensile propulsion technology seen in his Mark 42 armor in Iron Man 3. Problem solved for Rhodey as he can now remotely pilot the suit without worrying about getting into another accident.
This eventually poses a problem for him as he finds out that remotely piloting the suit isn’t as efficient as manning it physically. When he encounters some of the baddies in this film, he finds out how disposable the suit without a person behind it. This forces Rhodey to overcome his physical and somewhat psychological hurdles. By the end of the story, Rhodey is back to being in tip-top shape.
For the first time in any Iron Man film, this story is going to give us a glimpse of what exactly the company has been up to. No longer the weapons manufacturer, the company has pivoted to more humanitarian and environmental efforts. However, public perception has damaged the company’s reputation thanks to the catastrophic incidents involving Iron Man. We learn that the damaging effect on the company and to Pepper’s name as a CEO contributed to their split as a couple. Pepper, being the fighter she is, is doing her best to keep the company afloat. Pepper is seen spearheading the Charles Spencer Foundation, a Stark-funded organization focused on continuing the humanitarian efforts of the late Charlie Spencer by rebuilding Sokovia from the ground up.
Pepper’s role in the story won’t be as prominent as her previous Iron Man appearances but her role in the movie is key as she serves as Tony’s moral compass during his times of doubt. She’s not afraid to call Tony out on his bullshit and keeps things blunt. Their relationship starts off strained when the story begins but their wounds are slowly mended as it progresses.
HENRY PETER GYRICH
If you thought General Ross was tough, wait till you meet Gyrich. True to his comic roots, Gyrich is a nasty thorn in Tony’s side. An authoritarian who wants to get things done, no matter the cost, just so as long as it serves the greater good. I’ve been contemplating what kind of backstory to give Gyrich to justify his ruthlessness. I thought about giving him a story similar to Ross who has experienced some form of loss due to a superhero-related incident but I feel like that’s a bit overplayed in the MCU nowadays.
ARTHUR PARKS/LIVING LASER
A former soldier who is discharged after getting into an accident that severs his hand. He’s a kind, well-intentioned kid who wants nothing else but to help. But because of his disability, he’s forced to find other means to fulfill his intentions of doing good so he undergoes a black-market procedure to install an alien prosthesis that allows him to do all sorts of things. He eventually finds his way to South America, helping locals fight the civil unrest.
His characterization is a spin on Steve Rogers. He’s more distrustful of institutions so it takes a lot of convincing from Tony to get on the Accords side. It’s later revealed that the military accident that severed his hand was the cause of poor oversight from his commanding officers. Parks later experiences a similar scenario when he is pushed by Gyrich into a botched mission which that ends up changing his physical form permanently. This compels him to side with the opposition at the very end.
CARLOS CREEL/ABSORBING MAN
A Peruvian guerilla leader responsible for the unrest in parts of South America, Creel is vehemently against the idea of state-sanctioned heroes funded by the widely untrustworthy governments of South America. With his son Matias, he begins an armed-movement opposing this dangerous law. The idea of setting a big part of the story in South America is to show what the rest of the world looks like in the MCU.
The Iron Man franchise has a track record of having their big bads be just straight-up assholes. For once, I wanted a defacto antagonist who had values and ideals more admirable than the people Tony worked for. So like a lot of the characters in this story, the notion of mistrusting institutions continues with Creel. He’s not a flat out villain here. He’s an anti-hero in his core.
He becomes a prime target by the UN when he reveals his abilities to the public. The source of his abilities is not explicitly revealed in this story but it will be alluded to through hearsay by the locals. In the comics, his powers are magic related so I like the idea of the locals forming a myth on how Creel gets his abilities. But unlike his comic version, this version of Creel has the added ability to morph the physical properties of those he touches, provided he himself is in that particular form. So if Creel turns himself into metal, he can turn some people into metal through contact. This change, I think, makes for a more interesting challenge for his opponents. Also, it ties in well with the creation of the Living Laser.
The damage done to the Leipzig Airport and towards Rhodey has prompted the UN to assess Vision as a weapon of mass destruction and therefore cannot be deployed to the field unless absolutely necessary. So Vision is benched in the first half of the story. When he is finally deployed by Gyrich, it’s during a Hail Mary operation to apprehend Creel. During the third act of the story, we’ll get to see Vision’s newfound ability to disguise himself in human form.
Continuing the themes of recovery, Vision’s arc in this story is accepting his flawed nature and getting in touch with his humanity which of course, is a huge part of his journey towards Infinity War. In Civil War, we see him act righteously as he spouts infallible rhetoric about the law and order. Here, he gets a better understanding of the human condition. That even within its most astute laws, the system can fail horribly. In the end, this realization compels Vision to make a big decision for himself: runaway with Wanda.