In Avengers Assemble, you will see a new Iron Man suit so awesome that it may well make you squeal with joy. In honour of that we thought it high time to go through the previous incarnations of Mr. Stark’s marvellous outerwear, from the rough-and-ready Mark I to the rather remarkable Mark VII. A little warning, however: if you’re colour blind to hot rod red, this may not make a whole lot of sense to you…
IThough it might look like The Man In The Iron Mask after he's had a few too many Irn-Brus, the Mark I still packs one hell of a punch. Happiest knocking over Ten Rings troops like terrorist-shaped skittles and spraying flame like an angry volcano, it can also withstand over the fire of a dozen assault rifles, the blast of a ginormous Gatling gun and even a Stark munitions stockpile blowing up in its face. Sure, the back and knees are vulnerable, and if you use its flying function, be prepared to land… abruptly, but it's not a bad effort for a couple of beardy folk holed up in a cave. As for its construction in the real world, a top half-only, 41kg version exists, but at one point on set the stuntman inside fell over and 'crashed' it. Let that be a lesson to any would-be Starks out there: cardboard boxes a lot safer than cast iron.
IIWith the continent-sized bruises on his backside reminding him of the Mark I's faulty flight system, the people's playboy swiftly set about fixing just that problem for the Mark II. And with the help of his trusty AI sidekick JARVIS – as well as his less trusty fire safety officer, Dummy – he manages it, taking the supersuit's second incarnation high above the clouds… and straight home into the bonnet of his 1967 Shelby Cobra. Along the way, he discovers that it ices up when it hits too high an altitude – a fact that'll prove very useful just a little later. Still, with JARVIS offering remote assistance and a holographic heads-up display, Tony and his repulsors are leagues ahead of the shonky battle bot that was the Mark I. Also, note the nifty airplane-style aerodynamic flaps on the back of the suit as Tony blasts past the funfair – a nice nod from Favreau, who wanted it to "feel more like an airplane prototype" or "something out of The Aviator" rather than, you know, a War Machine or something...
IIITo fix the freezing problem, Tony advises his darling JARVIS to, "Connect to the sys. co., have it reconfigure the shell metals, use the gold titanium alloy from the seraphim tactical satellite. That should ensure fuselage integrity while maintaining power-to-weight ratio." Simple, really. Throw a little hot rod red in there and hey presto, the Adi Granov-style Iron Man that Marvel fans know and love suddenly arrives on cinema screens. But as well as the paint job and anti-freeze jiggerypokery, the third version also benefits from wrist-mounted anti-tank missiles, hip-mounted flare launchers and shoulder-mounted machine guns – as well as armour that can deal with F-22 Raptors and explosive shells with nary a scratch. The question is: can it still work once the new and improved arc reactor is replaced with the just-about-functional memento-version? The answer: barely. Still, there's no doubt it looks good. A little ostentatious, sure, but then again, have you seen the Iron Monger? Well, quite.
IVWith limited screen time, there's not much to learn about the Mark IV in Iron Man 2 – though one thing's for sure: it looks damn good diving headlong to the ground, expertly dodging exploding fireworks and rocking out to AC/DC. Then there are the Iron Man dancing girls who welcome the suit and its wearer (their boss, after all) to the Stark Expo 2010 as it is removed – a lovely group who really bring out the suit's, um, differently-coloured HUD. The Mark IV also benefits from a manually removable helmet, allowing for doughnut eating on the fly and teasing kissing quips from your girlfriend that don't end up in the final cut. Such a shame that bit from the trailer didn't make it, really; we'd have loved to see Tony struggling to don helmet in mid-air. Fingers crossed for Iron Man 3, eh?
VIf you were looking for problems with Marks I through IV, the glaring issue is that you need Tony's special suit construction/removal apparatus to get in and out of the damn things – though in Mark I's case, God knows how he ever planned of getting out of it without a crash-landing. The suitcase-shaped Mark V was designed to solve this portability problem, requiring nothing more than a kick to the side to get it going. From there, it climbs up Tony's body automatically and assembles itself to produce a slimline red and silver suit that can still (just about) handle Ivan Vanko's electric lashes. As for whether it can fly, the suit never gets the chance thanks to Whiplash's attacks – but considering it comes out of a suitcase, at least it should fit in as cabin luggage if not.
With the archived Mark II languishing in Tony's workshop, it was only a matter of time before somebody nicked it – especially with the in-built arc reactor and all. James Rhodes was the man responsible, and after some iron fisticuffs with his best bud Tony, he takes it as a prize for the United States government. Then, after some seriously aggressive tinkering from Justin Hammer and co., Rhodey suddenly has a minigun poking out of his right shoulder, a grenade launcher tucked away on the left and the ability to look like a total badass as and when he feels like it. On top of those seriously bad bad boys, he's still got the repulsors in the chest and hands to play with. And you've got to love the menacing red eyes. They're not as menacing as the massive minigun just next to them, perhaps, but they're pretty scary.
VIBest known for the changed chestplate shape, the Mark VI sees Tony's arc reactor glow out of a trianglular hole rather than the traditional circucular one. Alongside this easily indentifable cosmetic alteration, there are treats in the armament department too, with a sticky grenade launcher on one arm and a drone-slicing super laser on the other. More eagle-eyed Iron Man fans will note that the legs and forearms are given a splash of silver on top of the regular red and gold, as well as the general shape looking slightly sturdier. The reason for the minor chunkification – our term – was because of the amount of fisticuffs expected from the metal fellow in the final fight scenes of Iron Man 2.
VIIThe posters, TV spots and magazine covers featuring The Avengers mostly show that Tony isn't shown wearing Mark VI anymore. You can tell because the triangle has gone and the circle is back. Talking to Empire about the shape change, Avengers director Joss Whedon explained the thinking. "Marvel said, 'We like to see the suits evolve,' and I said, 'Great! Then you're going back to the circle because the triangle is ass'. I'm a classicist. The circle has meaning, the triangle does not." You'll have to see how everyone's favourite genius billionaire playboy philanthropist employs his upgraded armour on screen, but just to tease you, know this: it's awesome. Also, if you've watched the special 'Headcount' snippet from the film, then the fact that Tony puts on some strange bracelets as he's pouring himself a whiskey might be of interest. We'll say no more.