If you’re not like me and you don’t keep up with Tony’s ever increasing array of suits, then this will probably be of benefit to you. How many times have you seen Stark in something new and thought, “Hold on, has he worn that before?” I’m not talking about his Queen Amidala-like ability to change costumes every few minutes as he sets the new fashion trends for the more astute among you – I’m talking about the Iron Man armour. Some changes have been more obvious for even the most die-hard Captain America supporters out there, and other changes have been more subtle. Let’s explore Tony’s achievements by looking at them one by one.
MK I. This suit only received its name in hindsight, post-capture by the Ten Rings. It’s the bulky suit made from scraps that bought him freedom in the first place, proving that Stark indeed is a genius amongst men. It was incredibly clunky with exposed fans and even leather gloves underneath the iron outer. Although it certainly packed a punch when it came to fire power, the suit fell apart after its initial flight. Luckily for Tony, however, this suit got him to safety, even if Yinsen had to buy him some time in the first place (what a noble hero!).
MK II. When Stark returned home with the new responsible mindset, he started working on an updated model. He knew that what he had made was functional, but he was probably itching to see what he could do with all the resources available to him in his own workshop. With the goal of creating a suit that could fly without falling to pieces, he set to work on a new model, giving us the Iron Man image that has become so iconic.
MK III. Rather than spray-painting the new suit, what better way to spend your resources than to make a newone but in a different colour? The MK III is a result of fine-tuning the errors and little grievances that Tony discovered in the MK II. Most specifically, it solves the “icing problem” that he encountered because this one is made from gold titanium alloy. This is the suit we see for the remainder of Iron Man; it’s the one that he flies to Afghanistan in to destroy the Ten Rings and it’s the one that he uses to fight his mentor, Obidiah Stane. Unlike the MK II, this one packs some firepower that isn’t just a repulsor blast.
MK IV. This is the suit we see at the start of Iron Man 2 – the one that he lands at the Expo in.
It differs only minimally from the MK III in that there are mostly just aesthetic changes to the body and legs. This is also the first suit to feature the palladium core, the cause of Tony’s turmoil within this film, seeing as it’s poisoning him.
MK V. This is the suit that Jon Favreau wanted included in the film, due it being so iconic within the comics: “That’s one I’m very proud of.” Tony always had his suit on him in case of emergencies, and this comic cover shows us exactly why. Tony could never be sure when he might need to suit up and he obviously couldn’t run home to get changed in the meantime. This is the emergency suit, the one that features when Ivan Vanko turns up as Whiplash in Monaco. Secured with Happy Hogan, it safely transports the armour as a suitcase until needed. Of course, the armour is less durable and the weaponry is only very basic to reduce on weight and increase mobility.
MK VI. Featured in both Iron Man 2 and Avengers Assemble, this is the suit that stemmed from the invention of the vibranium arc reactor. It features a triangular chest piece and subsequently has more energy at its disposal due to the new power from Tony’s chest. It also features high-powered lasers that he uses to cut down the “Hammeroids” and clear the debris from the turbine on the original hellicarrier. It seems to have a one-time-use, working on a cartridge system, which he ejects from the back of his hand after use. We’ve also seen this suit as incredibly durable, surviving a lightning blast from Thor and a mash-up in the rebooted hellicarrier turbine.
MK VII. We see this suit deployed in Avengers Assemble, as an updated version of the MK V – it’s easily transported because of its flight capabilities, and it hones in on Tony’s bracelets, attaching itself to Stark for a quick and effective deployment. This suit is the first to feature thrusters on the shoulders, as well as missiles deployed from the thighs. The laser system that we’ve seen in the MK VI seems to have been updated to a three-pointed laser which utilises the arc reactor technology – “Sir, we will lose power before you cut through that shell.”
That is as far as Tony manages to get inside Phase One of the MCU. Seven suits down, and he’s come a long way from scrounging together scraps inside a cave. His engineering genius certainly knows no bounds when it comes to ingenuity and design, having shaped and reshaped his image based on various performance issues. The next article will look at Iron Man’s transformation throughout Phase Two.