As Iron Man struggles to be trapped on a distant planet, he battles his most insidious, personal enemy without his usual support system.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Iron Man # 11, on sale now from Marvel.
As one of the Marvel Universe’s leading futurists, Tony Stark has prepared for virtually all unforeseen situations and threats and is constantly renewing himself in anticipation of new dangers looming on the horizon. And while Tony may always have an eye for what’s coming in the future, Armored Avenger’s greatest enemy has always been an intern, like a man in recovery and persistent struggle against his inner demons from overtaking him again. And when Iron Man was banished to a distant planet without his usual support system and without noticeable means of returning home, he once again slips back into his battle with addiction and drug abuse.
While pursuing the cosmic supervillain Korvac, Iron Man was captured and taken to a distant planet, leaving his makeshift team to continue without him. Injured by his previous encounter with Korvac and his men, Iron Man struggled to get a grip on it when he learned that this strange planet was populated by glubende Ultimos who switched to a local village. And while Tony Stark relied on his Iron Man armor to deliver morphine to fight the pain of his injuries as he acclimatized to his new normal, his use of the potent painkiller eventually becomes more than clinical, as noted by his girlfriend Hellcat when she communicates with him long distance as revealed in Iron Man # 11 by Christopher Cantwell, Angel Unzueta, Frank D’Armata and VC’s Joe Caramagna.
Shortly after arriving in this distant world, Tony began to show signs of falling for the cult-like society led by the low-level supervillain Silent man, who shaped himself as a tribal leader on this backwater planet. Instead, Patsy Walker notes that Tony has not been indoctrinated by a cult, but has quietly disabled the regulator that controls how much morphine flows into his system. Confronted with this, Tony admits to Patsy that he is particularly intoxicated by the effects of the powerful opiate as he falls into shame.
Tony’s struggles with substance abuse have been a prominent part of his character since David Michelinie, Bob Layton, John Romita, Jr. and Carmine Infantino’s 1979 classic Iron Man story “Demon in a Bottle” ran through Iron Man # 120-128. When Tony faced pressure, both in his superhero career and while on his way to Stark International, he quickly fell into alcoholism and strained pretty much every personal relationship in his life at the time. Tony would almost come back because of the stress of fighting his friends in the 2006 crossover event Civil war while he would temporarily sacrifice his sobriety to get Odin’s attention during the 2011 crossover event Fear yourself before he quietly resumed his recovery and has been sober ever since.
Tony Stark’s problems with substance abuse have exemplified the scale of his battle with his inner demons, a man who apparently has everything but still faces the insidious temptation to addiction. And even though Tony seems to have stopped abusing the morphine hidden in his armor, the threat of relapse remains as constant as ever, showing how much Tony’s fight against Korvac and improvised exile wounds off Earth have begun to take a toll on his psyche. While Tony has allies in this new world, no longer has the support system he needs made his demons so much stronger. And while Patsy Walker was able to bring Tony back to his senses, the incident is a reminder that Tony’s sobriety requires constant vigilance to maintain.
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