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What’s going on with Iron Man’s armor in Avengers: Infinity War?

Model-Prime armor is heading to the MCU

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The Super Bowl ad for Avengers: Infinity War was jam-packed, stuffing more than 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes and villains into a 30-second spot. The latest look at Marvel Studios’ third Avengers movie also offered a tantalizing peek at Tony Stark’s newest Iron Man suit, which looks like it will introduce some fantastical Stark technology to the Marvel films.

Readers of the Iron Man comics, however, are likely already pretty familiar with the tech powering Tony’s new armor.

First, let’s take a look at what the latest Avengers: Infinity War trailer teased in just two-thirds of a second.

Marvel Studios

Unlike previous models of the Iron Man armor, Tony’s new suit appears to be constructing itself from a fluid metallic material, rather than in discrete panels of metal, machinery and circuitry. Exterior sections of the armor, those hot-rod red portions, build out in a hexagonal pattern. This indicates that the new Iron Man armor is likely based on one of two suits composed of nanomachines introduced in the comics this past decade.

In 2010, in the pages of Invincible Iron Man, Stark debuted a new suit that appeared to encase Tony Stark in a fluid metal frame that acted both as secondary muscular system and as a layer of protective armor. This armor, known as Bleeding Edge (or Mark 37), was composed of nanomachines that, somewhat amusingly, were “stored in the hollows of [Tony Stark’s] bones” when not in use. The Bleeding Edge suit, which first appeared in Invincible Iron Man #25, gave Iron Man’s power armor “streamlined shapes, a more aerodynamic profile, [and] fewer overlapping armor plates.”

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1 #25
Invincible Iron Man Vol 2. #2

A few years later, Stark started using slightly different technology — still nanomachine-based — for a suit known as the Model-Prime armor (aka Mark 51). The Model-Prime armor used the hexagonal armor scales similar to what we see in Infinity War and instead of being contained within Tony’s bones, the new suit collapsed down into the size a bracelet. The Model-Prime tech offered an extra level of flexibility, in that it could radically change shape; Stark could be wearing a normal-looking Iron Man suit one moment, and then a massive Hulkbuster suit of armor in the blink of an eye. The scales of the Model-Prime armor could also form new weapons on the fly, including blades or a massive repulsor cannon. Some allegedly leaked concept art from Avengers: Infinity War appears to confirm that Iron Man will use that Model-Prime technology, forming wings and an arm cannon as part of his suit.

We’ve seen Tony Stark use a compact, wrist-mounted device before in Captain America: Civil War, when he deployed an Iron Man glove in a fight with The Winter Soldier.

Marvel Studios

Obviously, that was on a much smaller, less powerful scale. But Tony Stark is nothing if not a prolific inventor; he’s made massive technological leaps over the course of 10 years of Marvel movies. Considering that Tony’s progressed from kit-bashed hunk of armor equipped with a pair of flame throwers in Iron Man to building a fleet of Iron Man suits that operate without a pilot in Iron Man 3, not to mention all the tech he packed into Spider-Man’s skintight suits, nanomachine-based armor seems like something we can easily suspend disbelief for in Infinity War.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll give Robert Downey, Jr. an opportunity to explain to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker how his new Iron Man suit works, if nothing else.

Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on May 4.