Tony Stark's always been a man of many talents for whom surprise is a rare thing.
But the avenging philanthropic billionaire — better known for the high-tech armor he wears as Iron Man — is about to find himself felled by not one, but two, family secrets that has him questioning his place in the world and why the reality of his origin was kept from him.
The big reveal comes in the pages of "Iron Man" No. 17, out Wednesday in comic shops, written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Carlo Pagulayan and Scott Hanna, lettered by Joe Caramagna and edited by Mark Paniccia.
In it Gillen brings the long-simmering story to its conclusion with Stark finding out that not only is he — again, spoilers — adopted, but that his parents, Howard and Maria, had a son — imbued with alien technology proffered by the rogue android 451 — who has been hidden away from the world, laden with unknown abilities and, perhaps, powers.
Gillen calls it a new challenge for Stark, one that is closer to home and more down to earth than his normal conflicts, which have included villainous masterminds, god-like alien intelligences and mechanical behemoths, among others.
"What could I do to challenge the characters' core conception of their self," Gillen said in an interview of the revelations which find Tony both accepting of them yet still experiencing a swirl of emotion as the facts of his life come out in full view and meeting his brother, Arno, who has been in a hospital his entire life, wanting for nothing, but an enigma regardless.
"When you discover something about yourself, you reprocess. How does it churn in the gut? How do you re-examine your life?" said Gillen. "It's a completely different prism in how you study yourself."
The notion of Tony's being adopted changes nothing about him as a Stark, said Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso.
"When Kieron pitched the story, the bottom line question for us was 'Does this open up the doorway to stories that are worth telling?'" he said. "And it does. Who are Tony's parents? Will he want to know them? How will he feel about Howard? How will this affect the dynamic between father and son?"
That, said Alonso, will enrich Tony and, by extension, Iron Man, whose first appearance was 50 years ago in "Tales of Suspense" No. 39.
"When you introduce a twist this big to an iconic character's life, you have to do due diligence and think through all the angles," he said. "We will definitely have something to say about adoptions and what it means."
Moore reported from Philadelphia. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/mattmooreap