By Sebastian Sheath
(WARNING: This post contains potential spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. Also, this is all simply speculation and should not be taken too seriously or as fact)
You may have read my theory on Iron Man’s death on MoviePilot and with the recent advertisements for the upcoming Black Panther, a new and improved version of this theory has been taking form. I think that Letitia Wright’s Shuri (above) may take the mantle of Iron Man following his death, acting as a similar character to Riri Williams from the recent Iron Heart story arc. In this post, I will outline my previous theory and explain the potential of Shuri’s further MCU performance.
As the MCU expands, more and more characters are introduced. Reaching upwards of 64 characters with the potential to star in Infinity War (many below), Marvel needs to drop some before introducing more and moving into the next phase of the MCU. Infinity War is the perfect opportunity to do this and we know that Marvel plans to continue introducing more characters as more movies come out (Captain Marvel or Ant-Man and the Wasp, for example). The only way they can justify introducing more characters is by killing or otherwise retiring old ones.
It does, however, look like Iron Man is most likely and here’s why: Not only has Iron Man already had his MCU trilogy, but he is the leader of the Avengers, one of the oldest characters in the MCU, a fan favourite, and the most important character to every storyline so far.
Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk are easily the oldest four in the franchise. Therefore, these are the most logical to get rid of. Black Widow will likely not be killed off as her solo movie has recently been announced, Hawkeye will probably retire for real once things get too serious, and the rest of the Avengers (Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Ant-Man) are still fairly new to the MCU.
Thor is practically invincible and will probably simply return to Asgard, living out the rest of his days and not meddling in the affairs of Midgard (maybe accompanied by Jane Foster). Hulk cannot be killed and still has the potential for new story-lines, especially with the new spin on the character that Taika Waititi provided us with in Thor: Ragnarok. Captain America and Iron Man, however, cannot simply disappear without a trace or move to a different planet because they are too well known and have too many attachments. Tony has Pepper and Peter and Steve has Sharon Carter (Agent 13), for example.
This means that, unless there will be movies in which these two pass the mantle to other heroes (more on that later), the only way out would be death. Robert Downey Jr. is very expensive for Marvel to keep on their payroll and the Iron Man movies haven’t exactly been great recently. Also, Chris Evans has been very vocal about stepping away from the role as Steve Rogers recently meaning both Captain America and Iron Man are likely to die in Infinity War.
How Will Iron Man Die?
Though this is not vital to the theory, I think that the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War may have given us clues to the death of RDJ’s Tony Stark. In the first few scenes of the trailer, we see the bottom two frames in which Tony looks as if he is suitless in the battlefield, either during or after the battle. Roughly half-way, we see the top two frames in which Spider-man (Peter Parker) is being beaten viciously by Thanos (Josh Brolin).
The theory, though not based on much, is that Stark, seeing Peter on the edge of death after the top frames, sacrifices himself by giving his suit to take Peter to safety so he can be nursed back to health. I think this would not only be a heroic send-off to a morally questionable character but also act as the emotional and redeeming death of a long-time fan favourite.
Who Is Shuri?
Shuri (above) is the half-sister of T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), the current Black Panther. She has been eager to become the Black Panther from a young age, never being able to achieve this as T’challa was undefeated. She was, however, trained by her half-brother so that, in the case that he was no longer able to act as the Panther or lead the country, she could take his place.
I think this could be incorporated into the MCU very smoothly and she could go on to take the mantle of Iron Man, acting as a sort of Iron Heart character and maybe even inheriting control of the Avengers (but more on that later). She not only has the intelligence and technical ability but is also young and has the ability to rule a country (and could easily handle the Avengers).
Who Is Iron Heart?
For those who do not know, Riri Williams is Iron Man’s new protégé in the comics. Her basic backstory is that after the death of her father, Riri Williams Sr., Riri received a full scholarship to MIT at only 15 years of age. She began to build an Iron Man suit as a fun project, simply to challenge herself. However, when a security guard notices some suspicious behaviour, she is forced to don the suit. She proceeds to stop two criminals from escaping prison and catches the attention of Tony Stark and the world (and is labelled by the media as “Iron Heart”). Stark then proceeds to take Williams under his wing and introduce her the world of heroes.
Though the backstories and character of the two don’t exactly line up, they could create a situation in which Shuri had been experimenting with Stark technology (knowing she would be unlikely to ever gain the mantle of Black Panther) and, after Cap and Bucky find out, she seeks out the help of Iron Man himself, effectively transferring Riri’s story to another character (not merging the characters). It would be fitting for Shuri to take this role in the MCU as it would provide the MCU with an easier continuation of the Iron Man legend and would potentially create an inventive and interesting plot for Iron Man 4 (but, again, more on that later).
We may have even already seen this tech. The black panther suits in the trailer would seem to have a similar tech to the bleeding edge armour (an iron man suit that comes out of Stark’s body, seemingly appearing from nowhere). This could be a bit of tech that causes the two worlds to collide and the characters to meet.
Also, to clarify, I am not basing this exclusively on intelligence. It also explains why Marvel would introduce Williams in the comics. Otherwise, she seems like an unnecessary addition to a universe that is already being overly-rejuvenated. Personally, however, I hope that they give her a proper relationship with Stark before the potential Iron Man 4 or before donning her own Iron-suit. I think they could have an interesting and amusing on-screen dynamic and I think it would be most appropriate if he convinces her to take the suit (the Good Will Hunting speech on another level) rather than him simply encouraging her and her just going for it.
Could We Get A ‘Real’ Riri
Late last year, the cover artist (and general Iron Man artist) for Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 #7 (the comic to first introduce Riri Williams as a new character), Mike Deodato Jr. tweeted that the character was based on Skai Jackson (bottom left). This seems like nothing at first, but Skai Jackson then posted a picture on Instagram of her with Tom Holland with the caption: Who’s ready for #SpidermanHomecoming?
These two posts could be a coincidence, but as #RDJ’s Tony Stark does seem to be acting as a father-figure to Peter Parker, he could take on that role with another character, possibly setting them up to be future Avengers. Williams as Iron Heart would be an interesting story to follow, and it would be fun to see someone completely different don the Iron Man suit. I am, however, leaning more towards the Shuri theory as Marvel probably wants to minimise the number of new characters right now.
A New Leader
If Iron Man were to die, Captain America would likely take over as leader of the Avengers/ If they both die, however, there will be no one to take over. Captain Marvel would be the obvious answer but she will likely be introduced in Infinity War (or, if not, in her solo movie, scheduled to come out next year), she might come late to the party and be too new to take the role.
Spider-Man could take over (as he does in the comics), but he is really too young, Vision will be dead (or something similar, because they have to take the soul gem — the very thing that keeps him alive — out of his head), while Thor and Hulk will probably be gone. Hawkeye will probably retire again, Bucky (the Winter Soldier) will be busy taking over the role of Captain America and Black Widow is too morally conflicted.
I think Captain Marvel will take lead in the future but the only logical choices seem to be Falcon or War Machine. I suspect that War Machine will probably retire for the most part after being paralyzed from the waist down, meaning Falcon is all that we have left. Unless Tony officially says to either Peter or T’Challa (who would likely transfer the position to Shuri) that they should become a leader, Falcon will be forced to take lead.
If you are wondering why I have left Dr Strange and the Guardians out of this equation, the Guardians tend to deal with problems on another scale to the Avengers, who only really just defend Earth and Dr Strange, though fitting for the role, says that he works with “other-worldly” and “spiritual” situations, while the Avengers deal with much more physical threats.
The ‘Iron Man 4’ Problem
The one glaring problem with this theory is that Iron Man 4 seems to be in the works. It does keep fluttering in and out of certainty (maybe while Marvel decides whether to go through with the Iron Heart plan) and the whole idea for the film began when Robert Downey Jr. saying that he would enjoy doing another Iron Man movie (he has said that the film “probably won’t happen”).
It seems like the movie is on unsteady grounds, to say the least. Marvel also seems to have kept the release date far away (early 2019) because they are unsure whether they will follow through with the film or not. The film could potentially come out before Avengers: Infinity War Part II (which will be released in May of 2019) and tell the story of Stark taking Shuri under his wing and guiding her along the way to becoming an Avenger. This would fit well in with the theory and would be a big change to bring the MCU into a new era (though it might be nice to leave the Iron Man legend untouched).
I think the only other viable option could be Peter Quill returning to Ear h and staying for good, taking over from Tony as the leader of the Avengers. I turned no this is unlikely, however, as he would be so new to the group.
Let me know what you think in the comments and be sure to check out my movie/book review blog at Readers of the Lost Arc or our article on Cloverfield: Overlord. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you think of anyone else who could replace Iron Man.