Marvel has revealed a major new Iron Man villain, who has some very deep ties to Mephisto, the devil himself. The new villain in question is none other than "The Iron Inquisitor," who makes his debut in the pages of Marvel's milestone new Avengers #50 comic book (Legacy number #750!) by Jason Aaron and Christopher Ruocchio. True to his name, The Iron Inquisitor is a villain in a suit of Iron Man-style armor – however, it is the nature of that armored suit – and the man inside of it – that is truly a game-changing twist on the entire Iron Man mythos!
(Warning: Avengers #50 SPOILERS Follow!)
Avengers #50 takes us on an epic adventure across the Avengers universe, split into many chapters and mini-arcs. Chapter 6 of that arc introduces the Iron Inquisitor when he attacks time-hopping Avenger Kazar in the middle of a time stream journey. It doesn't take long for the mystery of the man inside this armor that mixes technology and mysticism: It's none other than Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark!
Aaron has been teasing the return of Howard Stark for some time, as this evil version of Tony's father has been revealed as an errand boy for Mephisto during this larger story arc building to Mephisto's ultimate plan of conquest. We knew Howard traded his soul to Mephisto for eternal life in his prime, but in the Avengers #50 story "The Devil and Howard Stark" we finally get the full backstory of how this version of Howard Stark came to be.
As it turns out, the Howard Stark of Earth-4111 had become obsessed with envisioning a future he would never live in, and Mephisto seized upon that desire to make a deal. Like all deals with Mephisto, Howard had to make ultimate sacrifices for his prize, and we see him gun down a young Tony Stark just when the boy had invented his first jet boots. And, like all deals with the devil, the details of how Howard Stark got to see his glorious future were his undoing...
Mephisto owned Howard Stark's soul and put him to work as Hell's official armorer. He was forced to take on the Iron Inquisitor persona to serve as the chief guard for Mephisto's Council of Red (a cabal of Mephistos from across the multiverse), as well as an agent to strike on their behalf, shaping histories and universes without directly implicating Mephisto himself.
The moment Howard Stark was re-introduced into the Marvel Universe he's been on a collision course with the Avengers – but especially with his son, Tony. Knowing that Howard has an armored suit of cosmic-level power now makes his confrontation with Tony one that can extend from the personal into a full-on Iron Man vs. Iron Inquisitor epic battle. It's also a nice side-step that Aaron reveals this to be a Howard Stark from an alternate timeline, as some Marvel fans were not happy with Iron Man's dad being retconned into a devil-worshipping psycho.
Avengers #50 is now on sale from Marvel Comics.