The Marvel Cinematic Universe said goodbye to the hero who started it all, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), in Avengers: Endgame, but with all the new concepts and more that Phase 4 has introduced so far, there are many theories on how Iron Man could return to the MCU in the near future. The MCU has become the most extensive connected universe in the world of superheroes, and it all started in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, which introduced the audience to Tony Stark and set the tone for subsequent movies. Iron Man ended up leading the Infinity Saga and the original Avengers team (alongside Captain America), and his final heroic act was saving the entire universe.
Over the course of a decade, viewers saw Tony Stark/Iron Man go from egocentric genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist to an actual hero that left his ego behind and sacrificed himself to save the universe in Avengers: Endgame, where he took the Infinity Stones away from Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet and used his nano gauntlet to vanish Thanos and his armies. The impact of Iron Man’s actions throughout the Infinity Saga continues to be felt, and with the MCU’s Phase 4 exploring the multiverse and its many possibilities and dangers, there have been a variety of theories on how Iron Man could return to this connected universe, and the announcements of Phase 5 and 6 have only fueled those theories.
During Marvel’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Kevin Feige revealed when Phase 4 ends, the full Phase 5 slate, and three movies from Phase 6, the most important ones being Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, the next big crossover event in the MCU. The multiverse and the upcoming Avengers movies have made way for even more theories and speculation about Iron Man’s possible return, and they go from variants to dangerous resurrections and more. Here’s every theory on how Iron Man could return to the MCU.
Iron Man Can Return In Avengers 5 Or 6 Thanks To Time Travel
Time travel was introduced in the MCU in Avengers: Endgame, where the surviving heroes of Thanos’ snap came up with the Time Heist, and as the rules of time travel in the MCU are not set in stone (nor are they actually clear), it’s possible it could be used to bring Iron Man back. Phase 4 has explored other ways in which the characters can travel through time, such as the agents of the Time Variance Authority, and with Kang (Jonathan Majors) now in charge of the TVA, it’s possible Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and/or Avengers: Secret Wars could once more see some time travel, through which Iron Man could be brought back to help his fellow Avengers in this new massive battle against an even bigger threat than Thanos.
Iron Man Could Be Brought Back From The Dead
A darker way in which Iron Man could return to the MCU is if he’s brought back from the dead, though that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the exact same Tony Stark viewers (and characters) know. The MCU already proved that the best way to bring Iron Man back is as a zombie, as briefly seen in Spider-Man: Far From Home during one of Mysterio’s illusions and a bit more in-depth in What If…?’s episode “What If… Zombies”. Although Zombie Iron Man wouldn’t have the consciousness of the character everyone knows and loves, it’s this change that would make his return all the more impactful and dramatic, as having him back as a zombie would have a heavy emotional impact on those closest to him, such as Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness already toyed with the idea of bringing characters back from the dead with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) resurrecting one of his variants through dreamwalking, which could also be used to bring Iron Man back in a less disastrous way than an infected zombie.
Iron Man Could Return As An A.I
Another possible way to bring Iron Man back to the MCU is through something that would fit his character and past actions: as an A.I. Throughout his time in the MCU, Tony Stark relied heavily on artificial intelligence, as seen with J.A.R.V.I.S. and later with F.R.I.D.A.Y., and he even left one ready to use for Peter (E.D.I.T.H., introduced in Spider-Man: Far From Home). Tony anticipated his death in Avengers: Endgame and left a holographic message for his daughter, Morgan Stark, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if he also left a sort of backup of himself in the shape of an A.I. Tony actually did this in the comics, specifically in the Ironheart storyline, where he created an A.I. of himself in case his body no longer worked. Tony was left in a comatose state after the second superhero Civil War, and his A.I. was shipped to Riri Williams (who is joining the MCU in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) so he could serve as a mentor to her.
Iron Man Can Appear From The Multiverse
Among the new concepts introduced during the MCU’s Phase 4 and its exploration of the multiverse is that of variants, which are versions of the MCU’s characters but from other universes, and they can either look exactly like those in the main timeline or change genders, backstories, etc. The multiverse will continue to be key in the MCU’s Phases 5 and 6, more so with Kang now in charge of the TVA, leaving the door wide open for the MCU to bring a variety of characters from other universes into the MCU, and among those could be an alternate version of Iron Man – though whether he would be played by Robert Downey Jr. again or not is unknown.