The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been unpredictable, despite drawing most of its inspiration from the Marvel comics. With the direction that the MCU has been headed in, it seems like Marvel Studios is not afraid to bring back their retired actors. With how the Universe is teetering towards Avengers: Secret Wars and Armor Wars, it’s starting to look more and more like one of the franchise’s biggest actors might be returning in some capacity in the future. Could Marvel Studios be preparing to reintroduce or see Robert Downey Jr. and his iconic Iron Man return to the MCU?
One of the most iconic records of character returns in recent years was the return of multiple Spider-Mans for Spider-Man: No Way Home, shocking fans with the return of Tobey Maguire as well as Andrew Garfield working together with the MCU’s current Spider-Man to try and save the universe once again, as the multiverses seemed to collide.
With the collision of the multiverses once again, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness saw the return of one of our favourite Professor X’s, Patrick Stewart, if only for a brief second. He isn’t the only retired X-Men member returning to his role as his dear friend Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, has been revealed to be returning for Deadpool 3. Clearly, Marvel knows how to drag their actors back in front of the camera.
Likelihood of Robert Downey Jr.’s Return Increasing
With all these other retired MCU actors returning to the fold, it begs the question of who will be next? After Iron Man’s tragic sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, many fans speculated, or maybe hoped, that they would see the return of Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic character at some point, however, most thought that we would have to wait a decade to catch a glimpse of him again.
With the Multiverse Saga coming to a climax, less than 4 years after the cataclysmic end of the Infinity Saga, it seems like the continued developments within the MCU are leaning more and more toward the eventual return of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man.
In superhero movies, death does not always mean the end for a character. While it’s doubtful that they would resurrect Iron Man completely, resurrection is a possibility. So if they aren’t planning to bring Tony Stark back in this way, it begs the question, ‘How and when will we see Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man return?’
Fans have speculated three major possibilities for where he might return in the near future and that is Avengers: Secret Wars, Armor Wars and Ironheart.
Avengers: Secret Wars
Avengers: Secret Wars is about to be the culmination of the entire Multiverse Saga, and due to what we have seen of the multiverse theory so far, we can 100% expect to see heroes from across all different universes coming together to fight Kang the Conqueror. Kang the Conqueror is one of the most formidable enemies that the Avengers have ever faced in the Marvel Comics. Luckily, the multiverse theory also provides Marvel Studios with the perfect way of bringing Stark back without having to revive him, especially because he would eventually have to return to his own reality. Coincidentally, Tony Stark is one of the only Avengers that Kang moderately fears because of his extensive knowledge about time travel (Kang’s Domain), making him instrumental in the fight against this foe.
Armor Wars was originally slated to be a Disney+ show that followed War Machine, aka James Rhodes (or Rhodey, as he was affectionately named by Stark) as he tries to clean up the aftermath of what happens when Stark Technologies fall into the wrong hands. However, the decision was suddenly made to produce the title as a feature film instead. Why? This hasn’t yet been answered but many fans think it’s because Marvel were trying to make the title more alluring for Robert Downey Jr. to return to his role of Iron Man, which would make sense as it is his suits they are trying to recover.
After his tragic death in Avengers: Endgame, Marvel has made it clear that they do not wish to fully resurrect Tony, but instead could bring him back in the form of flashbacks to share past information with Rhodey about the missing armour and technology, helping him in his journey to recover it. It’s a long shot, but fans are hopeful.
The last place we are likely to see the return of Tony Stark is in the Ironheart Disney+ series. With her MCU debut creeping up on us with the release of Black Panther Wakanda Forever slowly getting closer and closer, Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, may be the reason we get to see our favourite suit-wearing billionaire again.
In the comic books, Stark becomes a mentor to Riri after she manages to successfully reverse engineer her own suit from one of his and uses it to do some good, but he mentors her as an AI, because the real Tony Stark is in a coma. With her debut coming up we might see him come along for her debut, or we might see him returning for episodes here and there as part of Ironheart on Disney+. Either way, we would be happy to see him.
As always, please take all of this with a pinch of salt. There hasn’t been a single iota of evidence to suggest that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) might actually be returning to the MCU, so this is not a guaranteed fact by any means. It is, however a hope, and a theory, based on the current trajectory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Is it likely? Probably not. Will that stop us from hoping? Definitely not. Let us know if you agree with any of the theories, and if you think that Tony Stark might eventually make his way back into the MCU, and if it’s going to be a little sooner than we think.