Don Cheadle Could Become the New Iron Man in Marvel's Armor Wars

Marvel Cinematic Universe veteran Don Cheadle reprises his role as Jim "War Machine" Rhodes in the newly announced Marvel Studios series Armor Wars, where the armored Avenger could be the next hero to don the mantle of Iron Man. In the Marvel Comics, Rhodes first suits up as Iron Man (in Iron Man #170) when an alcoholic Tony Stark passes out drunk while his company is under attack from lava-spewing supervillain Magma. During his extended tenure as the new Iron Man, Rhodes is among the superheroes brought to Battleworld in the original Secret Wars and becomes a founding member of the West Coast Avengers.

When Rhodes is nearly burned alive on re-entry from space while piloting a short-circuiting Iron Man armor (in Iron Man issues #215-#216), he leaves the superheroics to Stark. Rhodes stays on to assist Stark after business rival Justin Hammer sells the inventor's stolen technology to supervillains, starting the first Armor Wars saga (in Iron Man #225).

After Stark deploys the heavily-weaponized Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, waging war against Hammer as War Machine in Iron Man #281-283, Stark enters into a cryogenic suspension and is publicly declared dead in Iron Man #284. Rhodes once again becomes Iron Man when he dons the War Machine armor for the first time, using it to defend the Stark Enterprises building from a group of attacking supervillains.

Rhodes would continue to operate as War Machine even after Stark's return, retiring for a time before having parts of his body replaced by cybernetic prosthetics after suffering severe injuries in a terrorist attack. Similarly, Cheadle's Rhodes would receive cybernetic leg braces to help him walk again after he crash lands in Captain America: Civil War.

Years later, best friend Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) dies when he wields the six Infinity Stones to destroy Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his alien army in Avengers: Endgame. We last saw Rhodes as an attendee at Stark's funeral closing out Endgame, also the end of Cheadle's original six-picture contract started with 2010's Iron Man 2.

During Disney Investor Day 2020, Marvel chief Kevin Feige announced Marvel Studios is "well underway" on Armor Wars, described as a story "about Tony Stark's worst fear coming true: it's what happens when his tech falls into the wrong hands." Feige confirmed Cheadle would reprise his role as War Machine in the Disney+ original series that could bring back old enemy Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).

When Fandango in 2019 asked Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely if another Iron Character might take up the Iron Man mantle after Stark's sacrifice, Markus answered, "Well, there certainly are a bunch of people with suits who are alive." Added McFeely: "But we don't know what they've got planned."

Asked about his Marvel future during a Television Critics Association panel earlier this year, and whether War Machine might return in a movie or streaming series, Cheadle said, "If there were to be one, I'd really want to dig into him and maybe even find something that felt closer to the first Iron Man for who he was. I think they can go anywhere with him now."

Cheadle took over the Rhodes character from Terrence Howard, who originated the role in 2008's Iron Man. When asked what a potential War Machine series might look like, Cheadle answered, "I really don't know. I haven't given it much thought as far as which would be or if either would even be. That was an 11-year journey."

Marvel will pass the mantle — and the shield — of Captain America (Chris Evans) to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in the Disney+ original series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Another Marvel series, Hawkeye, sees retired Avenger Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) take on teen Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) as his archer protégé to become the new Hawkeye.

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Marvel Studios did not announce a release date for Armor Wars. If you haven't signed up for Disney+ yet, you can try it out here.

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