Iron Man: Hands of the Demon is a fan version of Iron Man 4. It is largely inspired by the story lines Haunted (From the Director of SHIELD series by Daniel and Charles Knauf) as well as the seminal story Demon in a Bottle (by David Michelinie and Bob Layton) and Matt Fraction's run on the character. However it's storyline is subject to be changed. This first page could be seen more as just an over-arching pitch for the story. It is meant to bring together several plot threads from the films featuring Tony Stark and tying them together into one story.
Feel free to comment on what you think of this storyline/pitch.
- Anthony "Tony" Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.): After the scenario with Ultron, Tony feels guilty for the part he took in his creation and is unsure of how to make up for the situation. This among other weighty emotional factors pressing down onto him and pushing him deeper into his already notable alcoholism. (Like in Iron Man 2 when he was dying and couldn't find a way to fix the situation, in the depths of despair and unable to think of an answer he goes to the "demon in a bottle") The world is fully coming to grips with the rising number of powerful and potentially dangerous superheroes and supervillains. As well as growing paranoia among the side of good itself after the revelations of just how many people they thought were on their side were actually dangerous and double dealing. In response to these growing fears Tony decides to create a spy satellite system that would allow somebody to monitor everywhere on the planet 24/7, listen on anybody they wanted, and also had the ability to hack into computer systems. Essentially made to pick up on any potential threats within or without the United States and attempt to prevent them. As the debate rages between the government, SHIELD, and Stark Industries about whether or not to use it Tony continues his work on it. Things go even worse when a man claiming to be "The Mandarin" leaks the satellite system's true purpose to the public, brining a lot of heat and derision onto Tony Stark from the general populace.
- James "Jim" Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle): When Tony Stark loses control of his company Rhodes at first tries to comply with the new ownership by Hammer Industries. But once he fully learns the truth about what happened concerning the Ten Rings, the Manndarin's manipulation, and Ezkiel Stane's role as a mole he decides to take action on his own after Stark has already completely fallen into despair and his drinking. However, his continuing to take action including the theft of the War Machine armor that like the other suits were appropriated as now Hammer Industries property makes him an outlaw, as well brings down the wrath of the Ten Rings upon him. Jim deep down also sees this as his chance to prove himself outside the shadow of Iron Man. His resentment towards the "easy life" Tony lived (and thus we hear more about James' past throughout the film), as well as his success handed to him on a silver platter by his family, and the popularity he has with the masses along with receiving praise and accolades for his heroics while Rhodes never gets such recognition (along with a new anger towards Tony he tried keeping hidden because of Tony's project and how it makes him look like he feels entitled to breaching the rights of others like that as if they beneath him since he was making such a big decision without their consent) is later played on when The Mandarin gets his hands on him and brainwashes Jim into serving him with his Mento-Intensifier ring and later pits him in battle against Stark. During the battle Tony stark is hesitant because of the fear of hurting his friend (as The Mandarin had planned) but Rhodes through Tony's words and his own sheer strength of will manages to break out of The Mandarin's control and proceeds to help Tony during the rest of the climax.
- Virginia "Pepper" Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): She still cares about and is supportive of Tony, but is infuriated at him for his current project. Feeling it didn't just break laws, but that breaching personal privacy on that level on any level is wrong. Eventually being fully pushed away by both that and Tony's plummet into alcoholism.
- Harold "Happy" Hogan (Jon Faverau): Tony's chauffer, bodyguard, and close friend. When Pepper leaves Tony because of everything he's doing and going through, she and Pepper start bonding more when trying to figure out how to handle the situation. It being revealed that Pepper for a long time has had romantic feelings for her. Though she considers it, she ultimately has to refuse his advances because of her feelings for Tony. Towards the end however the Mandarin's men go after them to try and use them as leverage. Happy is killed while protecting Pepper and giving her a chance to escape by attempting to hold them off. His death ups the ante and personal stakes for Tony when facing the Ten Rings.
- James "Jimmy" Woo (John Cho): A Chinese American agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who (along with his team) is tasked with hunting Col. Rhodes after he goes awol. Woo isn't completely for it, but because of the growing influence of Hammer Industries (given in part due to their newfound control over Stark Industries) S.H.I.E.L.D. is coerced into aiding the hunt for Rhodes. During the hunt however Woo eventually learns about the corrupt dealings Hammer Industries is involved in (including their alliance with the Ten Rings) and comes to join Rhodes in his fight. After Rhodes is captured by Justine Hammer's men and Happy Hogan is killed by the Ten Rings he is the one who goes to Tony to tell him about what happened and tries to push him back into the fight in part to save his best friend. Before the events of the film he was operating in China, following leads on the legendary Mandarin, who served as a mythic figure to most of the criminal underworld. Though those around Woo would say that he was nothing more than a "boogeyman" he did for a while relentlessly hunt for him. His immigrant father who was born and lived in China for several years told him the legends and stories of The Mandarin, and even claimed to have seen him at one point. His grandfather was an ex-military man, and Woo manages to get the help of an old friend of his father's that still serves as a military officer in China. When trying to put together a force to attack The Mandarin's stronghold Jimmy calls upon his father's old friend. Who while bitter about his father "abandoning" them, comes to their aid with the men under his command.
- Nicholas "Nick" Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Fury again has a role, being seen debating about Stark's new project, as well as the subsequent takeover of the company by Hammer Industries. When James Rhodes steals the War Machine armor and starts attacking Hammer Industries after discovering the truth about them, Hammer Industries strong arms S.H.I.E.L.D. into helping them hunt him down. Though Nick is uncomfortable with it, and feels like he doesn't know enough about the situation to make proper judgment, eventually tasks S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo with the task of hunting Rhodes down. However, ordering him to take Rhodes in alive for questioning. (Something Hammer Industries doesn't want.) He however does make a decision on faith in turning against the orders of his "superiors" and takes several S.H.I.E.L.D. members into the final battle against the forces of the Ten Rings in order to help Stark and Rhodes defeat The Mandarin.
- The Mandarin / Tem Borjigin (Ken Watanabe): A mysterious Underworld figure who is a genius scientist (one of the greatest minds on the planet), potentially the world’s most skilled warrior, member of the preserved line of direct descendants of Genghis Khan. Keeping themselves going in secret, hoping one day to finish their ancestor's work in conquering the world. Each further descendant adopting the moniker of The Mandarin and leading the secret society known as The Ten Rings, through which they seek dominion over the world. (The title of the Mandarin being acquired when the line maintained its wealth and prestige by moving into China and becoming high ranking officials in the Empire. The term mandarin originating as a title/term for said officials.) The current Mandarin for a while sought to be his own man, and eventually ran off to travel the world after his spirited girlfriend Mei Ling was killed while protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989. (She being the thing that started to truly pull him away from becoming a criminal During his travels he became further jaded in what he saw and eventually returned, soon after which he finally adopted the Mandarin title. He however came to the conclusion that just taking over the world was not enough, and that the world needed to be re-shaped in order to be improved. (In major part because of events like the arrival of Thor and the Destroyer and the attack on New York by the Chitauri. He believes that in the weak state humanity is in they are vulnerable to complete extinction by such other beings out there that are stronger than them. Mandarin believing that sacrificing many in order to help preserve the Earth's posterity as a whole is justified.) Thus leading to his plans in this story. Since the events of the first film Tony has systematically been trying to eliminate the sects of the Ten Rings, leading The Mandarin to trying to figure out a way to defeat and get their revenge upon him.
- Justine Hammer (Carrie Anne Moss): The sister of Justin Hammer who assumes control of Hammer Industries after the arrest of her brother at the end of Iron Man 2. They still seek to completely overshadow Stark Industries, and through the Mandarin's guidance and suggestions leads to a hostile take over of Stark Industries. In order to solidify his control over her, The Mandarin seduced her into becoming his lover. (Like his father before him, who only married his English mother for monetary gain rather than for love, Mandarin at first only sees Justine as a means to an end. His turmoil further compounded by his lingering feelings for Mei Ling.) She however, is not in on his ultimate endgame of releasing his aerosol Extremis on the world. When she learns the truth from a captive Rhodes she takes some of her guards and confronts The Mandarin about it. She gets him riled up and we winds up killing her in a fit of rage along with her men.
- Ezekiel "Zeke" Stane (Garrett Hedlund): The illegitimate son of Obadiah Stane who his father considered a skeleton in the closet and tried to keep a secret in order to help his public image, given that Ezekiel was the product of an affair with a woman named Joan O'neil when he was already married. Giving payments to the mother to help support his son in exchange for his connections to the boy a secret from the public. In his younger years Zeke strived to become something that would help garner his father’s respect and true acceptance. Studying hard and building himself into an adept scientist. However after his father disappeared and his mother died Ezekiel was without a life path, and turned to engaging in criminal activities. Being jaded because of his life experiences. After eventually being caught and arrested, he was met by The Mandarin who revealed the truth about what happened to his father (and wanting to feel a sense of family honor feels compelled to avenge him after learning this) and offered him the chance to join him and help make a difference in the world. Also saying that he would manage to achieve a great position of power. By the time the events of this story take place he is in his 20's. However, Tony sees a kindred spirit in Ezekiel when he comes to Stark Industries looking for a job and tries to bring him under his wing to lead him down the right path. When Stark's company is taken over by Hammer Industries under the supervision of The Mandarin he is made the runner of Stark Industries. While studying Extremis that he gets access through his relationship with The Mandarin to, he becomes fascinated by the possibilities of upgrading the human body with technology.
- Alex Su / Crimson Dynamo (Rick Yune): A Ten Rings member who is a Chinese soldier who acts as The Mandarin’s right-hand-man and top enforcer. When Col. Rhodes goes awol with the War Machine armor in order to take on The Ten Rings and Hammer Industries after they take control of Stark Industries The Mandarin tasks Su with hunting and taking him down when he starts causing them problems. Su adopts an armor for himself (designed and engineered by Ezekiel Stane and created with Stark Industry's resources) in able to be able to fight Rhodes head on. The two being rivals even before Rhodes' defection after discovering the truth of the Stark Industries take over. Though it's notable that both at least started out as military men. He in general is a close friend to the Mandarin. (Them having a somewhat similar relationship to the one between Tony Stark and Jim Rhodes) When he gets his armor, a squadron of his men gets them as well. And given their red coloring (and strong connection to China the new team is called the Crimson Dynamo.
- Raza (Faran Tahir): The leader of the Ten Rings cell from the original film, and a devout follower of The Mandarin. A little bit more is touched on his backstory. He enacts his master's will throughout the story, and is the one who winds up murdering Happy Hogan. During the final battle he engages in a one-on-one fight with Jimmy Woo.
After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron Tony Stark is wrecked with guilt over his part in his creation. Part of the reason in which he starts to steep further into his alcoholism, and he starts working on a satellite project that will allow him, SHIELD, and the US government to have full on surveillance of any part of the world. With internal debate between those parties over whether or not to allow the project to move forward and also downplaying to the public the scope of what that device would achieve. However, many are deeming it necessary given the growing tense climate the world, such as the United States facing many traitors from within their own borders (such as Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer), the latest of which (Aldrich Killian) almost killed the president, almost took complete control over the war on terror, and in essence almost took over the United States. All of that compounded with the rising number of superheroes and supervillains makes the governmental powers paranoid and thus are thinking of allowing the project to move forward for what they feel is the greater good of the people. Tony working on this project has also started straining his relationship with Pepper, who eventually goes on to leave him feeling he is violating people's right to personal privacy if he helps in this. And to an extent she goes on to find some solace with Harold "Happy" Hogan, who the audience learns has long harbored feelings for her, all of which doesn't help Tony's state of mind.
However Tony sees a chance at a redemption of sorts when a young man named Ezekiel, claiming to be the son of his old mentor Obadiah Stane, goes to Stark Industries after being released from prison (for providing technical aid to street gangs) on probation. Tony sees much of himself in the young Stane who is currently a genius, but with no real direction in life. (or so he thinks) He fights against the board to get Zeke a job at Stark Industries (Zeke claiming that he wanted to get to know that major part of his father's life/legacy, as the official statement concerning Stane's fate was that he had disappeared on his plane.) against the board who is cautious about brining him in given the revelations about his father during the events of the original film. Tony eventually wins however, saying the son cannot be blamed for the sins of father, and takes him under his wing as his protegee. (Similar ironically enough, to what Obadiah did for him after Howard Stark died)
He suddenly finds himself under attack from a man claiming to be The Mandarin. This worries Tony, however he still believes him to be Aldrich Killian. Not knowing the truth that The Mandarin was an underworld legend before Killian put his plans into motion. The true Mandarin being the head of the Ten Rings terrorist organization. With the help of an inside man (revealed to be the treacherous Zeke Stane, who also tampers with the spy project) as well as financial backing from Stark Industries' main competitor Hammer Industries. While Tony goes abroad hunting for The Mandarin he eventually does have an encounter with him in a Ten Rings base he attacks. The Mandarin confronts him after trapping him with a powerful magnetic beam from he a machine he created to immobilize him and then proceeded to have him placed in an electrified chamber that he proceeded to enter and seal off. It is there that The Mandarin reveals his true nature to Iron Man, and proceeds to engage Iron Man in hand-to-hand combat as a means to prove his strength and skill. He had the distinct edge against Iron Man as their fight commenced, with Tony finally managing to get a good hit in by managing to block one of his strikes at the perfect angle and used The Mandarin's own strength against him. When The Mandarin collects himself again however he displayed the power of his rings by blasting Tony with his disintegration beam which made Iron Man's armor crumble and leave Tony defenseless. The Mandarin leaves him alive however, only wanting to put the hero in his place. Saying that he wanted to show Tony the true measures of his intellect and greatness (essentially wanting to prove to Tony who he sees as an intellectual rival that he is better than him) in a demonstration that is to come. As Tony leaves the Ten Rings men are all cleared and the lair set to self-destruct so that the knowledge of its location would be useless to Tony.
It is revealed that The Mandarin deliberately distracted Tony into hunting him so that he wouldn't be there to help and stop a hostile take over of Stark Industries by Hammer Industries that he coordinated. With Stark Industries under the control of The Mandarin's lover Justine Hammer, the sister of Justin Hammer who took control over their company after her brother was arrested at the end of the second film. Something that had lost Hammer Industries some contracts, and thus created a bitterness towards Stark. Through which the Iron Man suits (as technology created by stark industries) are appropriated from Stark and he is locked out of the company. (With him already having lost the suit he took with him during his fight with The Mandarin) Tony being left alive and feeling useless, and in a situation the cannot think of away to fix. Forcing Tony into steeping into the "Demon in a bottle" even further as he is brought to his lowest of lows.
Meanwhile the Mandarin continues his grand master plan. Starting with the need to nullify SHIELD (planning in part to use Tony's project to help him achieve this) so he can achieve his ultimate endgame in unleashing an aerosol form of Extremis he created and modified himself (with the help of alien technology he got his hands on) upon the world that would wipe out most of the population. However those that would remain would be a stronger, smarter, and "better" race of human in his mind. (This ultimate endgame however, is hidden from those he sees as pawns like Justine Hammer who would challenge him on it) He does this feeling that the way society is now has coddled the weak and thus things needed to an extent be “started again from scratch”. With his plan essentially helping to purge the world of weakness.
Thus Tony Stark must overcome his greatest personal flaw, even after almost losing everything, and defeat the man who would become his greatest enemy. Not helped when his pessimism if furthered by the evil that can done by everyday people he sees when living in the streets. Eventually Tony manages to start kicking his addiction and gets hope in humanity again however. Since he is without a suit, he using his intellect orchestrates a plan to break into the now Hammer controlled Stark Industries. With the help of Pepper and Woo he manages to break into Stark Industries and get to the room holding the Iron Mans suits where he is confronted by Ezekiel who has adopted an armor of his own created from his own designs. Ezekiel managing to sense that somewhat was wrong during Tony's process of breaking in. (Believing it was Tony, he figured that that's where he would be heading and thus decided to set up a trap for him.) He attacks Tony who struggles to get into one of his suits as Ezekiel attacks. At one point Ezekiel finally manages to have Tony within his grasp but hesitates to kill him during which time Tony with his wits manages to find a way to disable Ezekiel long enough for him to get into one of his armors to continue the fight. Not however without first trying to convince Ezekiel of what the right thing to do is. After a long battle Tony manages to defeat him, and with Agent Woo take him as their prisoner.
After killing Justine Hammer, and hearing that his men failed to capture Pepper Potts (who got a way due to Happy Hogan's sacrifice), The Mandarin sends his men to retrieve Jim Rhodes from the Hammer men. During the process of being taken to Mandarin's headquarters he figures out what happened to Justine Hammer, however he is then taken to The Mandarin who plans to use him in a trap against Stark. Using his Mento-Intensifier ring for an extended period of time The Mandarin manages to warp Rhodes' mind and turn him into his slave.
The story in particular juxstaposes Tony against his classic arch-foe The Mandarin. It explores the idea of who has power, who deserves power, what should power be used for, what are the responsibilities of the elite, and what are the boundaries of the elite.
Tony Stark is mirrored in different ways through The Mandarin and Ezekiel Stane. The Mandarin like him is a genius intellectual who is from a family line of great status and wealth. (including his being a direct descendant of Genghis Khan) While Tony since the events of the original film (ironically because of what The Mandarin's gang The Ten Rings did to him) has devoted his life to using his status, intellect, and wealth to helping those "beneath" him. While The Mandarin believes he has the birthright and power (in part due to his intellect) to rule over others and shape the world as he sees fit. In the story however both Tony and The Mandarin reach a point where they are over-stepping their boundaries in their attempts to (at least in their minds) help the world. Tony with his satellite project that while providing them with the ability to monitor the world for potential danger would breach privacy rights, and Mandarin similarly through his plans to use Extremis in order to "improve" the human race. Tony by the end however manages to see the error in his thinking, while The Mandarin never relents from this path. Both also have a key character flaw that they must keep in check lest they have it consume them. And thus the story is in part about how one must overcome their personal flaws in order to persevere and accomplish what they need (or want) to. In Tony Stark's case it is his alcoholism when he feels too overwhelmed by a situation and enters the depths of despair. In Mandarin's case, it is a deep barbaric rage that he has to keep in check that was created from the berating and abuse he faced from his embittered father and the keen and violent warrior instinct he instilled into his son. (He tries to maintain complete control of his emotions and generally puts up a calm/cool demeanor) Tony manages to overcome his character flaw, and takes up the mantle again to try and save the world. The Mandarin ultimately gives into his flaw when Tony plays on it during their final battle. After Justine had discovered his true plans she confronted him about it, leading Mandarin to killing her. Something that started putting him on edge given his conflicted feelings towards her. (Though he had originally just intended to use her as a pawn and play on her emotions, he did come to start to legitimately care about her) Tony plays on these things to cloud his mind with a berserk rage during their rain-soaked final battle at Mandarin's main complex and through that Tony manages to devise a strategy to allow himself to win the battle. Ending with him slicing off The Mandarin's hands and disabling him. Allowing S.H.I.E.L.D. to take him into custody in the aftermath.
Like Tony and The Mandarin, Ezekiel is a technical genius and like them has a family legacy that has come to help shape people’s perceptions of him as well as his own life path. His father being Obadiah Stane who those beyond the general public know was a criminal. He starts out as a small time criminal with no real sense of direction who eventually winds up being arrested. While in prison he is contacted by The Mandarin who offers him a path of “greatness” and “importance”. The Mandarin taking him under his wing as a protégée. However, when he is tasked to be a mole in Stark Industries Tony Stark tries to mentor him down the right path. Putting Zeke at a crossroads between two paths of two mentors (and even two father figures who appear far more supportive of him than Obadiah ever was). Tony wanting to bring him down the path of “light” (and had also supported him at a time when most others would refuse to completely trust him) while The Mandarin’s path would lead him down a road of “darkness”. His decisions in terms of loyalty going on to help influence which side will win in this conflict. Like Tony (particularly the past version of him) he his cocky and self-absorbed as well as being a womanizer who doesn’t quite care who he steps on. Though hasn’t had as much time to mature to the degree that Tony has somewhat achieved, and Tony seeks to save him. While Tony’s father never had the malicious intent of Obadiah Stane, he did push to Tony and according to his words about him in “Iron Man 2” did treat him rather coldly. The two having their cold/detached relationships with their fathers as another connection. (Something that also in a sense also connects them to this story’s characterization of The Mandarin who also had a tenuous relationship with his father.)
Connections to the Previous Films
Listed here are the plot elements that bind all the previous films featuring Tony Stark to this story. This very much brining in plot threads started in all the others to provide something of a climax and resolutions for them.
- The Ten Rings organization makes its first full appearance in the series since the original film. With their full scope and leadership finally being revealed/fleshed out. (Though an agent of the Ten Rings did make an appearance in Iron Man 2, and they were referenced in Iron Man 3 in that Killian used the group as a scapegoat for his Extremis bombings.) The leader of that Ten Rings cell named Raza also makes a return.
- Ezekiel Stane is introduced and become a key character. He naturally being the son of Obadiah Stane, the main antagonist of the original film.
Iron Man 2
- Hammer Industries returns, once again in an antagonistic role. Their first appearance since the events of Iron Man 2. It in particular features Justine Hammer as one of the antagonists, who in this version is the sister of Justin Hammer.
- It was the first film to start exploring the idea of Tony's alcohol problem, this story exploring that issue more in-depth and having him finally fully confront it.
- The Mandarin's men managed to recover some Chitauri technology in the aftermath of the Battle of New York. With that technology The Mandarin grafts himself a set of ten rings of power. Each with its own ability. Claiming that in a world that was becoming more filled with superheroes and supervillains he needed a way to keep up. Prolonged exposure to energy irradiated from the technology through his wearing of the rings has also augmented augment his physiology. (Something he keeps close track of and monitors) Allowing him to trade blows with even Iron Man. With that technology he also managed to create super-powerful high-tech weapons for his men to use, giving them an edge in battle.
Iron Man 3
- Extremis is once again a major part of the villain's plan. However The Mandarin has modified to suit it for his own purposes. While Killian planned on profiteering off of it by capitalizing on it as a product for the war on terror, The Mandarin plans to release it on the world in order to create a stronger breed of human. Both because he finds that modern society has coddled the weak, as well as the fact that he thinks they need it in order to physically/genetically keep up with the much more powerful races in the universe like the Asgardians and Chitauri. Doing so by creating a new and improved aerosol version of Extremis based on the original. However, not everybody's genetics will be compatible with the new form of Extremis, with only a portion of the population having the ability to merge with it and survive. However he needs Stark Technology in order to complete the machine that will allow him to quickly disperse it around the world. (And thus leading to his plans to have Hammer Industries take Stark Industries away from Tony)
- Aldrich Killian makes a cameo where he is murdered by The Mandarin in the prologue. It is also revealed why he used the name the Mandarin for his terrorist patsy in the first place. Addressing how The Mandarin was an mythic underworld figure even before Killian decided to create his "uber terrorist". Giving it the image of an "Osama Bin Laden" type because, "That's what the people expect."
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
- It is speculated that Tony Stark will be involved in the creation of Ultron. Something that could potentially to him feeling a great sense of guilt, and thus here is used as the catalyst for him to start becoming more emotionally strained and thus start delving deeper into his alcoholism.