Comic book fans know that eventually every dead character comes back to life, but still, this was one we weren’t expecting. In Avengers #31, from writer Jason Aaron and artist Gerardo Zaffino, we got a whole heap of major revelations that will change Iron Man‘s life forever. And one of them is that his father, Howard Stark, is actually alive. And, er, in league with the devil.
The issue focuses on Tony Stark getting pulled into the ancient past where he encounters Mephisto, who demands the Avenger’s soul, claiming that it belongs to him as Howard swapped Tony’s soul in exchange for a deal that made him the smartest man in the world. Mephisto argues that this makes him Tony’s real father. It seems there’s some truth to it all, too, as flashbacks reveal that Tony accidentally spied his father taking part in a satanic ritual when he was a kid.
The final bombshell is for the reader’s eyes only and not something that Tony himself finds out here. It seems that Howard is alive, as he appears in the present day speaking with his hellish master and promising that he knows his son and he’ll be able to break his spirit and deliver Tony’s soul to Mephisto. The full-page final panel depicts Howard as appearing about the same age he was when he was apparently assassinated, as if Mephisto plucked him from his death so he could serve him.
This is just the latest complication in Tony’s family history over the past few years, with previous arcs revealing he was adopted by the Starks, he has a villainous brother named Arno and that his biological parents were S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. It’s currently unclear how these new twists fits into the adoption storyline, but regardless, it’ll come as a huge blow when Iron Man discovers his father is not only still alive but also evil.