Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is the superhero who was the catalyst for Marvel’s monstrous MCU success. The “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” Tony Stark helped create and lead the Avengers, and he got a fantastic arc over more than a decade of stories. Stark got to wear the Iron Man armor one final time in Avengers: Endgame, where he had to sacrifice his life to save everyone else. Endgame is a better superhero movie than most because the stakes seem more real, and everything is on the table. The protagonists do not get to ride into the sunset unharmed — and Stark pays the ultimate price.
RDJ’s contract reached its end with Endgame, and Marvel is looking at the next phase of Avengers adventures beyond what the original team members could offer. Chris Evans also retired his Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow died in Endgame before Stark. But Marvel has ways of bringing all of them back in the future without ruining Endgame’s legacy. And it looks like RDJ’s Iron Man is coming back to the MCU this summer. Only it’s not quite as exciting as you think. Beware, minor spoilers follow below.
We already expect a Stark cameo in Black Widow when it’s released in about a month in theaters and on Disney+. But that’s just expected to be old footage that Marvel did not use in previous movies. RDJ’s return to the MCU will happen during a different type of MCU Phase 4 show, the What If…? animated feature that will premiere on Disney+ in August.
A now-deleted listing on Amazon France (via Collider) gives us an amazing look at a brand new Lego set made for the What If…? show. The Lego set is titled Tony Stark’s Sakaarian Iron Man. What we’re looking at is brand new Hulkbuster armor that Tony Stark will develop on Sakaar. As a reminder, What If…? will imagine different scenarios for some of the stories we’ve grown to love in the MCU.
In this Tony Stark episode, Marvel will tell us what would have happened if Stark had ended up on Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok — though the film would have needed a different name if that were the case.
The Lego toy reveals what Stark would do if he was stranded someplace different. He would apparently build himself an Iron Man suit… again. And he’d need a particular type of armor on the planet, as he might have to face off against Hulk again.
More interestingly, this new Hulkbuster can transform into a car. Because, of course Stark would build himself a race car on that alien planet. Forget space ships — this man loves his automobiles.
The Lego set comes with three minifigs, including Tony Stark, Valkyrie, and The Watcher.
As always with MCU-based Lego sets, they won’t leak the whole story. But if the Tony Stark set is loosely based on What If…?, then it clearly confirms that RDJ will appear in Phase 4. The caveats are obvious, however. RDJ isn’t returning for a live-action film. He’s just lending his voice to an animated version of Tony Stark. Jeff Goldblum, who played the Grandmaster in Ragnarok, said a couple of years ago that RDJ was back for voiceover duty for the animated TV series.
Also, whatever happens in What If…? is not going to be part of the MCU’s main timeline. If anything, these What If…? episodes might work as stories from different timelines, but I’m just speculating at this point. After all, other rumors say that RDJ might play a different version of Tony Stark at some point down the road.