Back in December, on Disney’s Investor Day, President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige announced the upcoming Armor Wars Disney+ series. It is expected to follow James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) in his efforts to remedy the damage done after Tony Stark’s technology falls into the wrong hands.
There is a lot unknown about this series as it was just announced; there is no confirmed release date, synopsis, or cast beyond Don Cheadle’s return. However, that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating on what’s to come and more importantly, what they want to see in this return to the Iron Man-like world.
Armor Wars is expected to be based on a comic book series of the same name. The original seven-part series, premiering in the late-eighties and written by Bob Layton, was heavily focused on Tony Stark trying to track down his designs which were stolen by the supervillain Spymaster and sold to Justin Hammer. This starts a trek that puts him in confrontation with a variety of supervillains and alliances with a number of established superheroes like Captain America, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man. While it’s unlikely that Robert Downey Jr. will pop back into the Marvel world to headline the television series as Tony Stark, James Rhodes is expected to go on similar escapades.
It is being speculated that this new series will set up a return for Tony Stark’s rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who was last seen working with Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2. It will be fascinating to watch this play out. Hammer is a suck-up to the government and loves to falsify his public persona, it’s easy to imagine him pulling out the crocodile tears for the media while he steals Tony Stark’s work to pass off as his own. As Tony Stark’s biggest ally, if this happens, Rhodes isn’t going to go easy on him.
It was made clear through the Iron Man trilogy and the Avengers movies that Tony Stark and James Rhodes are best friends and they have been for a long time. “Rhodey” isn’t afraid to call Tony out on his rubbish, that was seen in Iron Man 2 when Tony’s self-destructive spiral went to extremes at a very-public party held at Stark Tower. Rhodes retaliated by stealing the War Machine armor and using it to battle Tony, who was behaving recklessly in the Iron Man suit. Just scenes beforehand, Rhodes had defended him and his private weaponry against the government who wanted to take it away. In the end, the two united to fight against Whiplash, a villain with bulletproof Iron Man-like armor and electric whips.
It is often assumed that the two met while studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as they both don identical commemorative class rings in the first Iron Man movie. However, this origin story is never confirmed or discussed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a mystery, much like the “Budapest” comments between the other infamous friendship pairing, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).
While it is exciting to see such an underrated character lead a spin-off series, it would fulfill the curiosities of many Iron Man fans who have always wanted more insight into how the two met and formed their tight-knit friendship. This could be easily done through flashbacks, and if they cast a new actor to play young James Rhodes, nobody would look twice at a “non-Robert Downey Jr.” Tony Stark.
The news about Armor Wars may be new and sparse, but Don Cheadle has been mentioning a War Machine solo-project for years. In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, he talked about a potential movie by Joe Robert Cole, one of the writers for Black Panther. He said this movie would be about Rhodes’ “job as a military man and his allegiances to the code that he swore an oath to uphold, versus the changing world.” Cheadle elaborated, “I think they probably would have run afoul of each other a little bit, but I don’t know if he would have been a straight fugitive, or if he would have become decommissioned.”
It is insinuated that by Avengers: Endgame, Rhodes was no longer an active-duty Air Force Officer (especially after teaming up with the AWOL Captain America in Avengers: Infinity War), although he could still be the liaison between the military and Stark Industries. Either way, both in his professional life and his life as an Avenger, he’s never held back on the sass. In Captain America: Civil War, after going head-to-head with Captain America, he was quick to tell him, “Congrats, Cap. You’re a criminal.”
Then, in Avengers: Endgame he was the only one to entertain the idea of using time travel to go back in time and kill baby Thanos (which he demonstrated through a mime of strangulation). He is not known for holding back and is equipped with a fast wit, he’d need to be in order to keep up with the all-over-the-place ranting of Tony Stark for so long. In a deleted Endgame scene, he’s even shown asking Captain America why he didn’t just jump out of the crashing plane that led him to be a “Cap-scicle” for 70 years. If written greatly, Armor Wars may become one of the funniest canonical Marvel works.
There are tons of fun happenings and possibilities that could come in Armor Wars, whenever it is released. What fans want to see the most is some nostalgic moments from Tony Stark and James Rhodes’ iconic friendship and a full-length project packed with some of Rhodes’ best attributes, however, what fans think they are most-likely definitely going to get is a return of Iron Man 2’s Justin Hammer which is met with a mixed reception. The dude’s a bit annoying and he tries too hard, but it’s funny to watch him lose. While there have been no substantial updates on the upcoming series besides the confirmation of Don Cheadle’s involvement, fans are excitedly waiting to see what Armor Wars is going to be all about.