What If... Iron Man Lost the Armor Wars?

Armor Wars is more or less when I started reading Iron Man back in the day, but has it become a "classic"? I guess it must be, since Marvel has lately published the all-ages Iron Man & the Armor Wars and Warren Ellis' Ultimate Comics: Armor Wars. All I know is that it gave me a grand tour of the armored heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, which looked very shiny when drawn by Bob Layton and inked by Mark D. Bright. What If? #8 comes out a year and half later, not with a "OMG EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT" story, but with an alternate take of how the storyline might have played out. Writer Danny Fingeroth simply looks at David Michelinie's original premise and goes off in a different direction. There is no doubt in my mind that Iron Man would have survived these particular changes and gone on from there.

What If vol.2 #8 (Mid December 1989)
Based on: Iron Man #225
The true history: Justin Hammer once stole designs from Tony Stark, designs sold to supervillains to incorporate in their armors. Stark sent Ant-Man Scott Lang to infiltrate Hammer's security and get the names of everyone using his stolen tech. Though Ant-Man had to zap a poison gas-spewing countermeasure with his helmet, he succeeded in sending Stark the info, and Iron Man proceeded to fry everyone's related tech.
Turning point: What if Ant-Man's helmet misfired when dealing with Hammer's countermeasures?
Story type: Civil War
Watcher's mood: Guillotine victim
Altered history: In this reality, something goes wrong and Ant-Man is incapacitated by the gas, though not before he's able to send the list of names to Tony Stark. But now captured by Justin Hammer, he's forced to give up his employer in order to save his daughter.
Harsh lessons in keeping a secret identity. Hammer now knows who and what he's up against, so he takes the offensive. He adapts the technology he used in Iron Man #124 to remotely take control of the Iron Man armor and forces Tony to unmask and put on a control collar. He then makes him spill the beans on all his wonderful tech, and keeps him in his underwear until needed for something bigger.
That something bigger is using the Iron Man armor to blow up both Avengers HQs and Stark's holdings (Rhodey winds up in a months-long coma), and then surrender to the authorities. A.I.M. gets wind of all this and figure you can do a lot more with a puppet Iron Man than Hammer's little revenge scheme. They take him out and attempt to take control of Stark themselves. However, the short transition time between masters is enough for Tony to rip the collar and armor off. He's free!
Tony goes into hiding, dies his hair blond and nooooooooo, shaves his mustache. Meanwhile, A.I.M. want to be the only ones with Stark tech so they start attacking armored heroes and villains and fighting their own "Armor Wars". Tony teams up with them seeing as they all have a vested interest in stopping A.I.M.
They all get jammers installed so that they can't be remotely taken over, and Tony hopes to fritz their armors after it's all over. For now though, they attack Hammer's mansion where A.I.M. is holed up, and even Stilt-Man gets to kick ass.
Stark manages to free Ant-Man and his daughter and also finds the Firepower armor (the ridiculous-looking nuke-powered big bad from the end of Armor Wars) and uses it to put an end to the "Wars". The baddies of course turn on him as soon as A.I.M. is routed, but the West Coast Avengers swoop in to save the day. Stark accepts responsibility for what he's done and agrees to have his day in court.
Books canceled as a result: None. Tony survives this, much as he has survived events much more damaging to his character (i,e. Civil War). At least this time he can plea "remote controlled".
These things happen: Iron Man would have to fight the Armor Wars once again in standard continuity, but being on the run from the authorities and shaving off his mustache would have to wait for the more recent Dark Reign storyline.

Next week: What if the New X-Men Died on Their First Mission?
My guess: That's what made them "All-Different".



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