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Iron Man's Future Was Just Permanently Changed By A New Villain

Contains spoilers for "Invincible Iron Man" #5

Iron Man's newest villain, Feilong, just made a shocking power play that furthered his efforts to try to destroy Iron Man. However, his latest move didn't just hurt Tony Stark's bottom line, but it will also change his future — by preventing him from continuing the legacy of his father, Howard Stark.

In "Invincible Iron Man" #5 by Gerry Duggan, Juan Frigeri, Bryan Valenza, and VC's Joe Caramagna, Feilong visits a Stark Unlimited hangar he acquired by purchasing Stark Industries after Tony used all of his money to prevent dangerous weapons from landing on the black market. Inside, he looks for Tony's secret inheritance. After discovering a painting that seems out of place, the villain cuts through it and discovers several reels of film inside addressed from Howard to Tony. And when Feilong watches the film, he learns it contains a message from Iron Man's father, who tells his son about his time working with Stark Industries and a game-changing scientific discovery of a new metal that no one else knows about.

Unfortunately for Iron Man, he never gets the chance to see the message his father left him. Instead, immediately after watching the reels, Feilong burns them and steals the secret information meant for Tony to instead use for his own deadly creations.

Iron Man has a complicated history with his father

While Tony Stark strives to be as great of a scientific mind as his father, Howard, their relationship has always been somewhat complicated.

In the comics, various Tony origins over the years have shown many different sides of Howard. To be fair, he's been shown to be a supportive father who pushed his son to carry on his legacy. However, Howard was also extremely hard on Tony throughout his life. Famously, in "Iron Man" #287 from Marvel Comics, it was revealed Howard saw his son as a disappointment as early as seven years old. He expressed frustration about Tony being more into books and the library than playing with other kids his age. Howard's blunt, old-school parenting approach meant he didn't mince words with his son, telling him his wealth and coddled life made him weak. Howard forced him to drink bourbon as a child to try to toughen him up, with the incident sending Tony into a life-long battle with alcoholism — something his father also battled.

Howard most likely isn't even Tony's biological father, as he adopted him under bizarre circumstances following the death of Arno Stark. It's likely Howard carried resentment towards Tony due to his true nature and Arno's death. But even as a father figure who was very hard on Tony, Howard taught him many valuable lessons, skills, and ideas that would be key to the hero someday becoming Iron Man. Tony would grow up to be a reflection of his father, with similar strengths, weaknesses, and struggles. Sadly, Howard and his wife died in a car crash, forcing Tony to step up and run Stark Industries.

Howard Stark left Iron Man an important message

In "Invincible Iron Man" #5, Feilong decides to watch reels hidden by Howard Stark meant for Tony Stark as he got older. Hiding them in a painting in one of his oldest facilities, the villain finds Tony's "real inheritance."

In the recordings, Howard admits Tony's adoption was for the best, but apologizes for the long time he spent away from him during his childhood. He shares he was working with Nathaniel Richards and using his vast intellect to help keep the world safe. Further recordings reveal Howard was working with Adam Brashear (the Blue Marvel) and made some of the most important discoveries of his life. Howard says he discovered a metal outside the periodic table that shouldn't exist outside their universe. Describing it as a "Miracle Metal," Howard tells Tony that this finding is his real inheritance. He ends the message by telling him he hopes to see his son grow up one day and be the man who understands why he needed to further his scientific studies for the betterment of humankind.

While the new mystery metal Howard discovered — in a scene that has clear echoes to Tony's story in the MCU timeline, when he uncovers a new element in "Iron Man 2" — isn't revealed, the fact that Feilong learns about its existence before Tony is a significant boon for the villain, as he's building his own army to take down the X-Men and Iron Man.

Stark Sentinels are coming to the Marvel Universe

Iron Man arrives at Stark Industries and makes a horrifying discovery as he sees Feilong's Stark Sentinels being made. Essentially Sentinels with Iron Man's look and Tony's tech, the powerful robots are one of Feilong's first acts of revenge against Marvel's mutants as he's created a new version of one of their most powerful threats. Feilong interrupts Tony's discovery, telling him he knows about his true inheritance, sharing with him he could remake the world with what he learned. He tells the longtime Avenger he will eventually learn Howard's discovery but first makes him watch as he burns the film reels containing his messages to his son. Then, Feilong, one of Iron Man's greatest threats yet, unleashes a powerful blast of energy at Iron Man and reveals to him he destroyed the messages — since he has a photographic memory and doesn't need physical copies of them anymore. Stark watches in horror as the villain unleashes the Stark Sentinels. Additionally, Feilong tells the hero if he's still in a suit by dawn, he will go after not only Tony, but all of the important people in his life, too.

Following this, a Stark Sentinel shows off its incredible power against Iron Man. Its superior technology has Tony admitting he feels small against it as he is knocked to the ground by its attack. Helpless, Iron Man is forced to leave the battle, realizing he can't win, as he calls this new Sentinel a leap beyond what even he knows. He retreats, knowing that Feilong isn't messing around, and that he will need to act quickly to take down the villain before his new inventions become so advanced he can't stop them.

Feilong is proving to be major problem for Tony Stark

Feilong might have seemed like somewhat of a joke villain, at first, after his plans to colonize Mars before the X-Men — not to mention, his previously messy attempt to recruit Iron Man to his cause — both failed in spectacular fashion. Now, though, with his power upgrades, near-unlimited wealth, and Tony Stark's technology, he doesn't just have the upper-hand against Iron Man and the rest of the Marvel Universe — he's got more firepower than most villains could dream of. 

With the discovery of Howard Stark's secret inheritance for Tony in a new metal with unknown possibilities, Feilong is looking to take his arsenal to the next level, while ripping Tony's future from him, as he plans to use it for his own gain. The Stark Sentinels represent one of Iron Man's biggest challenges to date, as the hero must watch his own tech be turned into an army he can't control. Iron Man will undoubtedly need to call in reinforcements to stop Feilong — and even then, Tony might not even be able to do with a group of heroes fighting by his side. 

Feilong's rise continues in "Invincible Iron Man" #5 by Gerry Duggan, Juan Frigeri, Bryan Valenza, and VC's Joe Caramagna from Marvel Comics, which is in comic book stores and online retailers now. Feilong will also be featured in the upcoming "Free Comic Book Day 2023: Avengers/X-Men" #1 out in the first week of May.