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Iron Man 2020 #4: Review

Jun 2020
Dan Slott, Pete Woods

Story Name:

(no title given)

Review & Comments

4 stars

Iron Man 2020 #4 Review by (June 26, 2020)
Christos Gage co-wrote with Dan Slott again.
The credits say Celeste Woods did the colouring, with only an assist from Pete Woods.

See, I *told* you Dr Shapiro was the mole.
It looks like Dr Shapiro's intelligence is in the cat, not in the hi-tech collar which Sunset removed. Possibly the collar just allowed him to speak.

Another of my predictions isn't going to work out, so it's a good job I never went public with it except for telling a guy in the comic shop. I figured that the recent Tony Stark *was* going to turn out to be an AI copy, and the real Tony was going to still be in his coma since Civil War II. But he'd come out of it to save the day at the end.
In 'reality' it seems Tony will get a new body next issue. And in #6 the menace Arno's been expecting will arrive.

It looks like the Rescue mini-series is an important tie-in which explains why it is being printed rather than digital-only. The Machine Man mini did at least directly link in to the main comic, and that was printed too. The Iron Age 1-shot may only have been printed because it was before the Covid shutdown, as in truth was the MM mini. But it seems the iWolverine mini *will* see print in coming weeks, so maybe that will be important too.
On the other hand Force Works and Ironheart were completely or partially digital-only, and they *were* definitely only peripheral to the event.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Iron Man 2020 #4 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Last issue Mark 1 (Tony Stark) and his Robot Rebellion stopped Arno Stark from broadcasting his Obedience OS from Bain Tower that would remove the free will of every AI. But Iron Man 2020 (Arno) killed Mark 1.

Now there's all-out war between the 2 sides. Arno has deployed his Iron Legion, mechs controlled by humans. HERBIE, who used to belong to the Fantastic Four, and Awesome Andy, with Machinesmith appearing on a tablet screen hung round his neck, are considering retreating and leaving Tony's body behind. But a message from the Ghost In The Machine, who is a link to the Rebellion's mole in Baintronics, tells them they must take the body with them. As IM2020 approaches them Andy is able to mimic his armour and repel him. And when Arno returns he finds only a deep hole in the ground.

Somewhere else Mark 1 is seeing his whole life flash before him. But he still denies that he really *is* Tony, it's not *his* life. (He believes his body was created by Arno and his mind is an AI copied from or based on Tony's.) A female voice behind him reminds him of a glow that surrounded his body as he fell from the top of Bain Tower (I've just checked back and it's there at the end of last issue), and informs him that it happened just as he passed the 13th Floor as she transported his consciousness here to the Rebellion's secret hideout. And the voice belongs to the AI Friday (presumed dead since Tony Stark: Iron Man #8).

In Bain Tower Sunset Bain is hosting a meeting of the Defence Chiefs many nations. She wants them to buy Iron Legion mechs to put down the Robot Rebellions in their own countries. But they want to know why Iron Man isn't handling it, and what happened to the Obedience OS that was *supposed* to solve the problem.

Andy Bhang, who was fired from Baintronics (last issue) for being the Rebellion's mole, finds Machine Man sitting in his kitchen chugging his beer. Aaron Stack has the head of Jocasta in a bag, and wants Andy to remove Arno's Obedience Code. (He rescued her from Arno's clutches in the 2020 Machine Man mini-series.) Jo of course says she doesn't want this to happen. Andy says Bain had him working on the Obedience Code and he created a back door which he can now use. But he warns Aaron that it won't work unless Jocasta really wants to be free. But of course it does work and everyone's happy.

Then the GITM contacts them and asks for details of the operation which she can distribute to all AI's to 'vaccinate' them against the Obedience OS. Andy acts like he's never heard of the Ghost, which confuses MM because he thought Andy was her mole. Andy admits that he just told Sunset that so she'd stop looking for the real mole.

Iron Man 2020 is searching for 2 people who he swoops down and carries off in broad daylight. It's his parents Howard and Maria Stark who he warned not to leave the Tower, and now they are dying. It turns out that when he created these bodies for them he used his own DNA, which means they have the disease that kept him in an iron lung for years. Their apartment in Bain Tower kept them alive. And now they do die. But Arno swears to fix them.

Friday and Tony are still in the 13th Floor virtual environment which we now learn is a version of Tony's eScape VE (from the TS:IM series). The AI tells Tony how grateful she is for him turning her from his armour's AI into an android (TS:IM again), and that she willingly became became the AI of eScape when he desperately needed her (TS:IM#7), which led to the Motherboard/Maria Stark AI deleting her (which Tony has regretted ever since). [Actually Friday returned to being his armour's AI, not that of eScape, but it is vital to the  plot here that it was eScape.]

However Friday now says that inexperienced AI Maria just caused her code to be scattered throughout eScape, which Tony later turned into the 13th Floor VE. And Friday gradually coalesced and evolved until she *was* the 13th Floor, which she considers superior to being an AI or an android. (She asks if he noticed how the structure of the place resembled the structure of the human brain. I'd have to answer no.)

She then continues the argument Tony's been having with everyone who'd listen, that he himself is not the real Tony Stark but an AI. She agrees that his body is partly artificial but claims that Arno only replaced *some* of his biological matter, so he's at most a cyborg. (She skips over his worries that his mind isn't really Tony's either.) She says that she and Bethany Cabe have a plan to reverse what Arno did, and they're going to send Rescue (Pepper Potts) to get DNA from his biological parents (because of course Tony is adopted), which will happen in the 2020 Rescue 2-parter.

HERBIE and Awesome Andy have taken Mark 1's body to Machinesmith's ramshackle lair in New Jersey. HERBIE complains about the place but doesn't think the FF would welcome them after the bad terms on which he and they parted (Incoming 1-shot). They've discovered that the body is still alive but the brain has flatlined. Machinesmith tries to download his own consciousness into it so they can continue to use 'Mark 1' as a symbolic leader, but discovers he's been an AI too long (since Marvel Two-In-One #47 in 1979) and is no longer compatible. But then Machine Man and Andy Bhang contact them with Jocasta with a new humanoid robot body (HERBIE greets her with "Nice cans, babe", and this is the robot that used to babysit Franklin Richards!) and the good news of the code to protect AI's from Arno's takeover plan.

But at Baintronics Sunset Bain, still carrying the cat that used to be Dr Shapiro, discovers that Arno's lost interest in fighting the 'robot menace'. Instead he's creating safe *robot* bodies for his parents, in the forms of their Arsenal and Motherboard avatars from eScape. He's also abandoned the idea of broadcasting the Obedience OS. Instead he's going to install a combination of Mandarin's hypno-rays and the Controller's brainwashing tech into the Stark orbiting space station. His goal is still to unite humans and AIs to fight the great menace he 'knows' is approaching from space. But now instead of trying to convert the robots he'll convert the people.

Sunset is aghast. As she says, *she*s people. But Arno drops a bombshell - she's actually now an AI. Back in TS:IM#17 she sustained a tiny injury to her face and asked Arno to fix it. And now he reveals that he 'fixed' it by transferring her consciousness to a new android body. And we see the 'real' her in 1 of those containment tubes. And he adds that all the time she thought he was working for her, she's really been working for him.

Shocked Bain drops the cat, who scampers off and causes a distraction so he can sneak into the comms room. Where he starts typing at a keyboard ...

... and Friday gets a text message informing her of Arno Stark's new plan. So Tony realises that Friday is the Ghost In The Machine, and *we* can safely guess that Dr Shapiro is the mole (even without the end of the message wondering how it will affect cats).

Tony starts seeing images of himself at various stages of his life, all of them trying to bolster his self-confidence. But he still insists that he's not Tony, just 1 of Tony's creations. Friday points out that *she*'s 1 of his creations too. And so is this virtual environment, and so are the images he's been talking to. He's been arguing with himself. The other Tony's all touch him, and possibly merge. And then Tony Stark is back and ready for business.

Pete Woods
Pete Woods
Celeste Woods
Pete Woods (Cover Penciler)
Pete Woods (Cover Inker)
Pete Woods (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Joe Caramagna.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: C. B. Cebulski.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Plus: Andy Bhang, Awesome Andy, Dr Shapiro, Friday (Friday Stark), HERBIE, Howard Stark, Iron Man 2020, Jocasta (Jocasta Pym), Machinesmith, Maria Stark, Mark 1 (Tony Stark), Sunset Bain (Madame Menace).

> Iron Man 2020: Book info and issue index

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