Stark Week: Extremis

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Like any tech-minded individual Tony Stark constantly looks for ways to update his inventions to stay on the bleeding edge of technology. Along similar lines, comic creators tend to seek out ways to keep characters who debuted during the previous century fresh by updating their origins.

Both of those ideas came together in the “Extremis” story by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov that ran in the first six issues of the 2005-launching IRON MAN series. Ellis shifts Tony’s timeline to feature interactions with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan instead of Vietnam. He still nearly dies thanks to one of his own weapons and creates the first Iron Man suit to save himself.

Back in the present, a take on the Super-Soldier Serum called Extremis finds itself out in the world. Stark’s old friend Maya Hansen asks to see him after her partner kills himself, taking the blame for Extremis getting out. She explains that it completely rewrites the body, using what’s there to build better, more powerful organs.Stark Week: Extremis

Meanwhile, a guy named Mallen becomes the first Extremis test subject to roam free and begins wreaking havoc. Tony tests his suit against Mallen’s modifications and finds himself severely lacking to the point of near death.

Back with Hansen, Tony demands that she administers a customized version of Extremis that not only recreates his body but also makes it so the under sheath hides inside his body which he can now fully control with his mind along with the armor itself. Rebuilt to be stronger, faster and far more powerful, Iron Man faces Mallen in a knock-down, drag-out battle that results in one of them losing their head.

The “Extremis” storyline not only updated Iron Man’s backstory and gave him a huge power upgrade, but also influenced the Iron Man feature film that debuted a few years later. Both feature similar looking armors, high tech concepts and a slightly cheekier version of Stark that Robert Downey, Jr. perfectly captures on the big screen.

Hacking the System

Like all wildly efficient Super-Soldier Serums, Extremis continues to pop up to cause trouble from time to time. Versions wound up on the black market after Maya Hansen’s murder, Tony’s long-forgotten foster brother Arno Stark created his own variant and even Bruce Banner used a modified form to control his transformation into the Hulk. Tony Stark even released an app-based version during AXIS when his motives remained far from pure thanks to the inversion. And, of course, “Iron Man 3” revolves around Extremis exploding onto the scene of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Next, Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca force Stark to face “The Five Nightmares” in the first seven issues of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN.