As the “Demon” storyline continues this week in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #513, Tony Stark finds himself assaulted on multiple fronts. The Mandarin and Ezekiel Stane have upgraded his old foes, he faces betrayals from friends and colleagues, a negative publicity campaign has been launched against him, and the ramifications of decisions made during his lowest moments in Fear Itself linger.
By the time all’s said and done, how will even Iron Man cope with the mounting pressure?
“As we’ll see at the end of ‘Demon,’ General Babbage, [Tony’s] primary antagonist at the Pentagon, and Justine Hammer of HAMMER Industries, present Tony with an ultimatum,” preview INVINCIBLE IRON MAN writer Matt Fraction. “Accepting it is the only way he can remain in control of the Iron Man without losing everything. And Tony very quickly finds that arrangement to be unacceptable. The ramifications of that are what ‘Long Way Down’ is all about.
“So basically…Tony quits.”
And so begins “Long Way Down,” kicking off in May’s INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #516, the story Fraction refers to in regards to his and artist Salvador Larroca’s run on the character as “The third act. The grand finale. The beginning of the end.
“The finale pages of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #513 [are] a double page spread that harkens back to our very first issue—a showcase of the full scope and scale of the rogues we’ll see Iron Man going up against in the next year. Mandarin’s five-year plan is finally bearing fruit.”
However, all might not be so well within the Mandarin’s camp, as one of Iron Man’s newest and most implacable foes looks to rock the boat with likely volatile consequences.
“[Ezekiel Stane], as Mandarin’s number one, starts to discover maybe Mandarin isn’t the greatest boss in the world,” Fraction notes. “Yet Mandarin has absolute control over him. So while their alliance makes perfect sense on paper, the reality of it sees the only thing they hate more than Tony Stark is each other. Zeke will have Tony’s head one way or the other, even if that means going through Mandarin to get it somehow.”
While turmoil hits the villainous side of the equation, the mole within Stark Resilient will at last be revealed, with Fraction forecasting dire repercussions:
“People start dying. Bethany Cabe starts earning her paycheck.”
This shows just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to “Long Way Down,” which will also see, among other things, a new Iron Man. Fraction vows that every domino he has set up since he and Larroca launched INVINCIBLE IRON MAN nearly four years ago will be knocked down by the end of this pivotal story.
“All the pots from the very beginning of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN are coming to a boil,” he vows. “Mandarin and Stane’s alliance, the revamped and upgraded rogues gallery, the Hammer girls, Spymaster’s infiltration—‘Long Way Down’ deals with all of it.”