Is everything we’ve come to know about Tony Stark completely wrong? The truth will shock you.

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Meddling with the backstory of a 50-year-old comics character is fraught with complications. How far do you go? Are you going far enough? Are you risking damaging everything that has made this character a success for the past half century?

Thankfully, writer Kieron Gillen not only offers a new depth to the history of Iron Man’s alias Tony Stark, but he also propels the character in a fresh direction for the next 50 years, and all of this without wrecking everything that makes Tony great.

Admittedly, it isn’t until the concluding issues of this epic story arc that the reader realises that Gillen knows exactly what he’s doing, and hasn’t dropped an almighty spanner into Stark’s past, present and future, but that’s tantamount to his strengths as a story-teller and we certainly won’t be spoiling these momentous developments here.

At the conclusion of the previous volume, Stark was a captive of the manipulative extraterrestial robot 451, which had revealed the circumstances leading up to his birth, and how genetic manipulation was the only way to save his life.

Of course, this undermines everything that Tony knew about himself, that his natural intellect and flair for invention is at the heart of everything he has achieved. Now he finds out that his talents are the result of alien intervention, and everything he believed is a lie. It’s a massive curveball to take with a character so intrinsically linked to his own personal achievements as Stark, but thankfully Gillen knows exactly what he’s doing.

It seems 451 had a motive of his own for his apparently altruistic deeds, he wants Tony to pilot the 25,000ft tall “Godkiller” armour, the last legacy of an extinct race which took on the life-seeding Celestials in an ancient intergalactic war. With Stark at the helm of the armour, Earth’s defence from alien attack is assured, but the only snag is that taking control will erase Tony’s personality in the process. Stark must sacrifice himself in order to save the Earth, but will that be enough?

Comics readers were spitting feathers in the wake of the various revelations uncovered in this arc, but it’s worth reading right to the end before coming to any permanent conclusions, as Gillen keeps his audience guessing until the very last page.

Yes, redefining a 50-year-old comics character is a risk, but it pays off here in spades, and sets in motion events which will have repercussions for a long time to come.

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