Tony Stark’s health deteriorates, and he discovers the armor’s cybernetic interface is causing irreversible damage to his nervous system. His condition is aggravated by a failed attempt on his life by Kathy Dare, a mentally unbalanced former lover, which injures his spine, paralyzing him. Stark has a nerve chip implanted into his spine to regain his mobility. Stark’s nervous system continues its slide towards failure, and he constructs a “skin” made up of artificial nerve circuitry to assist it. Stark begins to pilot a remote-controlled Iron Man armor, but when faced with the Masters of Silence, the telepresence suit proves inadequate. Stark designs a more heavily armed version of the suit to wear, the “Variable Threat Response Battle Suit”, which becomes known as the War Machine armor. Ultimately, the damage to his nervous system becomes too extensive.
Iron Man left two lives behind when he vanished, but can he avoid his former mistakes in his new one? The armored Avenger takes on Hydra, Heralds and the Hulk – and the eyes of the Marvel Universe are upon him in the form of Loki, the Watcher and Onslaught himself! Featuring Doc Samson and… or rather as …the Abomination! Plus: Rebel O’Reilly, later of Thunderbolts fame!
Faking his death, Stark places himself in suspended animation to heal as Rhodes takes over both the running of Stark Enterprises and the mantle of Iron Man, although he uses the War Machine armor. Stark makes a full recovery by using a chip to reprogram himself and resumes the Iron Man identity. When Rhodes learns that Stark has manipulated his friends by faking his own death, he becomes enraged and the two friends part ways, Rhodes continuing as War Machine in a solo career.
The story arc “The Crossing” reveals Iron Man as a traitor among the Avengers’ ranks, due to years of manipulation by the time-traveling dictator Kang the Conqueror. Stark, as a sleeper agent in Kang’s thrall, kills Marilla, the nanny of Crystal and Quicksilver’s daughter Luna, as well as Rita DeMara, the female Yellowjacket, then Amanda Chaney, an ally of the Avengers. The “Avengers Forever” limited series retcons these events as the work of a disguised Immortus, not Kang, and that the mental control had gone back only a few months.
Needing help to defeat both Stark and Kang, the team travels back in time to recruit a teenaged Anthony Stark from an alternate timeline to assist them. The young Stark steals an Iron Man suit in order to aid the Avengers against his older self. The sight of his younger self shocks the older Stark enough for him to regain momentary control of his actions, and he sacrifices his life to stop Kang. The young Stark later builds his own suit to become the new Iron Man, and, remaining in the present day, gains legal control of “his” company.
Although he lost part of himself when he became the Silver Surfer, Norrin Radd can never forget the woman he loved from his days on Zenn-La. With Shalla-Bal’s death never far from his thoughts, the Surfer is more haunted than ever. But when Pip the Troll delivers a message from Adam Warlock, Surfer’s hope sparks anew. Warlock claims Shalla-Bal is alive! But if so, where is she?