So this week, we travel back to the 1980s Armour Wars (or Stark Wars as they were originally called to tie in with some popular film franchise of the day.). Tony Stark discovers that his Iron Man technology has been stolen by billionaire industrialist and Sam Rockwell character Justin Hammer. Hammer has, in turn, sold the technology to villains all over the world. Terrifying villains like Stilt Man. And the Beetle. With the world in danger from being Beetled, Tony scours the globe, defeating guys good and bad alike to retrieve his armours.
In order to do this, Tony hires Scott Lang (AKA Ant Man AKA Paul Rudd AKA Me.) to hack into Hammer’s computer system and retrieve the list of armour buyers. Scott takes a rather unorthodox path to hacking by actually shrinking down into the computer and running around. He eventually finds the list (by using a tiny monitor, I assume.) and escapes. But not before Hammer’s security system catches him. Apparently when you live in the Marvel Universe, it is entirely possible that your computer may be raided by a tiny man which is why Hammer installed Tiny Man Spraying Knock-Out Gas. In the regular universe, Lang escapes and Stark wages his war on everybody in the Marvel U with a robot suit. But in this issue of What If….
Scott does indeed get knocked out and awakens in Hammer’s office in a lovely glass jar with holes poked in the top and a little grass for Scott to sleep in. Hammer begins the interrogation process (Waterboarding is easy when all you need is a thimble and the edge of a hanky.) but Scott refuses to crack until Hammer’s guards come in with Scott’s daughter Cassie held at gunpoint. Then Scott spills the beans like any decent shrinking father.
Now knowing that Ant-Man has been working for Stark, Hammer devises a way to take control of Iron Man’s armor much as he did during Demon in a Bottle (AKA Tony Stark is drunk and gross!). He foils Tony’s attempt to stop Stilt Man from robbing a high rise apartment (which is seriously the only thing Stilt Man ever thinks to do with his million dollar armor. “Oh, I’ll get really tall and then steal some TVs. I’m an incredible super villain. I hope the Punisher never shoots me in the fucking face.”) and forces Tony to fly to his office.
After some hilarious fun and games controlling Tony’s armor (“Jump! Dance! Touch your nose! Oh, never mind. This armor has no nose.”), he forces Iron Man to unmask and learns his secret identity because this was back when all superheroes had them, not just Spider-Man.
Hammer then forces Tony to put on some sort of slave collar thing so he can control Tony’s speech as well as his body. Then he forces Iron Man to destroy a number of important buildings like SHIELD headquarters and the home of the West Coast Avengers. (They’re the LA based Avengers led by Hawkeye, if you can believe that. Fucking Hawkeye. Dude can’t take care of a fish, never mind lead a team.) Finally, he forces Tony to go on national TV, reveal his identity, take full responsibility for all this destruction and murder and finally blow his own head off with a repulsor blast. Or at least he’s about to when AIM busts into Hammer’s home and kill or possibly knock him out.
Either way, Tony uses the confusion to rip the slave collar off and escape. He goes on the run, dyeing his hair and shaving his trademark moustache. He also destroys his armor in a trash can like so much depressed Spider-Man. Tony tries to reach out to the Avengers or the Fantastic Four but he discovers that some sort of post-hypnotic message from the slave collar has forced him to be unable to turn to his friends for help. Or possibly all of this is bullshit to force the story along. Whatever. Instead, Tony begins contacting all the criminals wearing his armor, telling them their lives are in danger.
The Armor Brigade meet up with Tony outside of LA in one of those old caves where they used to film Star Trek. He tells them that Justin Hammer and also apparently AIM will be looking to murder them all and they eventually agree to allow him to fit their armor with anti-getting controlled by AIM and killing a bunch of people discs.
That night, Tony and the Armor Brigade attack Hammer’s mansion and of course find it jam packed with AIM troops. Minus their customary beekeeper helmets, alas. The Armor Brigade does quick work on AIM, thanks to Stilt Man’s ability to kick people from across the room, probably.
Meanwhile, Tony sneaks off, first finding AIM’s new giant Firepower armor, which he steals and then Ant-Man and his daughter whom he frees. Scott and Cassie escape and call for help from Hammer’s nearby phone booth, I guess, while Tony and the Firepower armor join the Iron Brigade in mopping up the rest of AIM.
Unfortunately for Tony, the smug blonde asshole currently leading AIM has already leaked Tony’s armor technology across the world. It’s become public domain and now anyone can use it to make weapons. Tough luck, Tony!
With nothing else to do, Tony insists that his armored buddies ditch their armor (which can now possibly be controlled by anyone in the world) and turn themselves into the police. Oddly enough, this group of thieves and communist heroes have a problem with this plan, turning on Tony and beating the everloving crap out of him.
Luckily, the Avengers (responding to an emergency call from Ant-Man’s daughter, thank God!) arrive and quickly defeat the remaining Armor Guys. They arrest them all and also Tony who’s been acting weird and blowing places up. As they take him into custody, Tony laments the loss of his technology which will probably be used to make cheap VCRs or something.