The convoluted matter of the ancestry of Anthony Edward Stark, the hero formerly known as Iron Man and currently operating under the codename Mark One, could fill an entire season of paternity episodes of The Maury Povich Show. The details of Tony’s increasingly entangled lineage have been revealed to be a succession of half-truths and outright lies, and now it seems that the devil is not only in the details, but he’s also slithering along a branch of Tony’s family tree.
The oversized 31st issue of Jason Aaron’s current Avengers series presents a story titled “The Last Temptation of Anthony Stark,” a name appropriately inspired by Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ, in which another piece of the Golden Avenger’s twisted backstory is revealed. Tony describes the night he saw “the face of the Devil” as a nine-year-old child during a demonic ritual involving his parents.
He delivers this explanation from a cave a million years in the past that “an unknown energy source Back to the Future’d” him to following the discovery of a million-year-old fossilized version of his own helmet in that cave during the War of the Realms. After months stranded in an icy prehistoric era, Stark is visited first by a speaking, scarlet snake and then by the likeness of Howard Stark that eventually reveals itself to be a Time Stone-wielding Mephisto.
The king of Hell then asserts simply: “I’m your father.” The two battle, and Stark ultimately manipulates the Time Stone in order to return himself to his own time, where he travels to Las Vegas to confront a dethroned, imprisoned Mephisto and, after a million years, personally reject his temptation. In true Aaron-esque fashion, however, this all turns out to be just the opening of a sprawling plot yet to unfold which will seemingly involve the Iron Men of every world.
Once believed to be the son of industrialist Howard Anthony Stark and socialite Maria Carbonell, Tony Stark was revealed to be adopted in Kieron Gillen’s 2013 The Secret Origin of Tony Stark storyline that spanned issues #9-17 of the fifth volume of Iron Man. His real parents, revealed in Brian Michael Bendis’ 2016 seven-part International Iron Man series to be Amanda Armstrong and Hydra mole Jude, gave him as an infant to Nick Fury, who placed him in a Bulgarian orphanage, after which Howard and Maria Stark adopted him as a replacement for their own child, Arno Stark, who the Starks had allowed to be bioengineered in the womb by the extraterrestrial Rigellian Recorder 451.
Whether Mephisto’s claim is meant to be literal or metaphorical, or just the latest in a long line of serpentine falsehoods that make up the identity of Tony Stark, remains to be seen. But Avengers #31 is available at your local comic shop now and we highly suggest picking it up.