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Endgame Easter egg reveals truth about Iron Man we knew all along

Aside from marking the epic culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 3, Avengers: Endgame was perhaps the juiciest entree of fan-service cooked up by Disney yet, and fans are still sifting through the leftovers for what meaty scraps remain.

More than a year after the Avengers brought the war with Thanos (Josh Brolin) to a satisfying conclusion in Endgame, Disney and Marvel Studios are still out there revealing the film's many Easter eggs. One subtle reference serves as a fitting valediction for Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, who made his final MCU bow in Avengers: Endgame.

After the heartbreaking conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark hung up his Iron Man suit and retired with longtime love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and their daughter, Morgan. Stark ultimately rejoined the Avengers to participate in the Time Heist to reverse Thanos' Infinity Stone snap. The plot of Endgame principally concerns this mission, and though the heroes are ultimately successful in undoing Thanos' mass slaughter, Stark had to sacrifice himself to thwart the homicidal Titan and his evil minions. From the comfort of his Iron Man suit, Tony Stark turned the tables on Thanos, using the power of the Infinity Stones to snap the bad guys into oblivion, destroying himself in the process.

It's a fitting hero's send-off for an actor and character who have been at the core of the MCU's meticulous plotting since the beginning – 2008's Iron Man was the very first film in the MCU. Captain America (Chris Evans) may be the oldest Avenger, but Iron Man is really the first. Downey Jr. deserved to retire from the MCU with dignity, and Marvel Studios gave that to him with an Easter egg that confirms what we always knew about the man behind the mask.

The hidden homage to Tony Stark

The MCU will soldier on without its founding member, but one Easter egg that went largely unnoticed in Avengers: Endgame confirms the impact Stark had on the crime-fighting team. Marvel Studios shared via the company's official Twitter account two photos confirming that Stark was and will always be the beating heart of the Avengers. The top half of the pair of images shows the team assembling to enter the Quantum Realm in Endgame. The arrangement of their fists (all red in color thanks to the matching suits they're wearing) bears a striking resemblance to Iron Man's arc reactor — Pepper's gift to her beaux proving that the irascible Tony Stark indeed had a heart.

It's amazing just how many subtle details Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo were able to fit into their three-hour film. It's no easy task crafting a movie that successfully concludes a story 23 films in the making. Little moments like this one serve as both a treat for careful viewers and confirmation that the creative team in charge of the MCU really has their massive plot under control. Aside from concluding the overarching Infinity Saga story, Avengers: Endgame found time for more than a few individual moments providing closure for key character arcs that have been developing in both heroes and villains alike. Stark's finale is perhaps the most obvious and consequential for the franchise, but it's far from the only devoted character beat in the film.

Despite some disruptions in production and release scheduling, the MCU continues on into Phase 4. We're eager to find out who picks up the baton from the fallen Tony Stark, taking his place as the new heart of the Avengers.