The 15 Best Iron Man Comics You Need To Read

Because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man is experiencing a level of mainstream love and recognition he's never had outside of devoted comic book circles. While it may seem hard to believe today, Kevin Feige's decision to kick off an expansive film franchise with Iron Man in 2008 was considered a pretty risky move, as the character was never really seen as an A-lister like Hulk or Wolverine. Thanks to the pitch-perfect performance of Robert Downey Jr., the gamble paid off, and the MCU is now one of the most lucrative film franchises of all time. And it all started with a little movie about a guy who builds a red and gold suit in his garage.

Robert Downey Jr. may have said goodbye to the legendary role in 2019's "Avengers: Endgame," but luckily for fans of the high-tech hero, there are still decades of "Iron Man" comics to enjoy, many of which have served as direct inspiration for the cinematic version of the character. Because of the decades of "Iron Man" comics that have been published, it can be a daunting task for the casual reader to simply pick up an issue and understand the many years of backstory. That's why we've created this handy guide of the 15 best "Iron Man" comics for you to read so you can instantly see what's made the character so enduring for more than half a century.


"Iron Man: Hypervelocity" #1 — 6

This 2007 miniseries sees Tony Stark build a wicked new suit that not only improves his physical speed but his intellectual speed as well. You see, Stark figures that if his body is injured or incapacitated in some form, it shouldn't stop Iron Man from saving the day. So Stark builds a digital version of his intellect, personality, and brain waves and uploads it into his latest armor. However, the suit's technology allows its artificial intelligence to grow at a rapid rate and gain sentience, which attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new hero-hunting paramilitary team.

"Hypervelocity" is an incredibly fun story that does a great job exploring the idea of an Iron Man without Tony Stark. There's a lot more technical jargon than the typical "Iron Man" comic, which may be a bit cumbersome for those looking for a breezy read, but it really does add to the verisimilitude of the plot. However, the story also has plenty of character development, as it dives deep into his addictions, namely alcohol, women, and tech-tinkering. As this story doesn't have a lot of connection to mainstream "Iron Man" canon, it's a great jumping-on point for casual readers.

Iron Monger Saga

"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #190 — 200

While Obadiah Stane didn't suit up as the Iron Monger until the climax of this saga in issue #200, he'd spent much of his time in the comics gradually wrecking Tony Stark's life. During this time, Stane pushed a sober Stark back into alcoholism and took over Stark International. With Stark essentially living in the gutter, his close friend James Rhodes takes over as Iron Man. Meanwhile, Stane uses his powerful position to engage in unethical business dealings and hires a group of scientists to look at Stark's Iron Man suit designs to build a set of armor that's even more advanced and dangerous.

This years-long storyline is a terrific example of a classic heroic plot: Take away everything that made the hero great until they're reduced to almost nothing and watch as they rise stronger and wiser than ever before. The "Iron Monger Saga" was one of the biggest shake-ups in Tony Stark's life, giving him his most difficult challenge yet with ramifications that are still felt today. Jeff Bridges brought Obadiah Stane to life in 2008's "Iron Man," which included some elements from this storyline.

Iron Man is Born!

"Tales of Suspense" #39

Every great superhero has an equally great origin story, and Iron Man is no exception. Tony Stark is a wealthy inventor and industrialist who's been building some advanced weaponry for the military. He arrives in Vietnam to demonstrate some of his newest weapons but accidentally sets off a tripwire while in the jungle. The resulting explosion leaves Tony wounded, with shrapnel that's dangerously close to his heart. He is then abducted by the ruthless dictator Wong-Chu and forced to build weapons for him on the condition that he gives Tony the help he needs to take care of his injury. Tony agrees but secretly forges a metal suit that he uses to bust out of his prison, take down Wong-Chu, and begin his career as a superhero.

While the main villain and setting of this story may not be familiar to fans of the MCU, the overall plot probably does, as 2008's "Iron Man" lifts quite a bit from this 1963 story. Elements of it are pretty dated, but quite a bit of it still holds up and perfectly introduces many aspects of the character that live on today.


"Iron Man" Vol. 4 #1 — 6

Iron Man's classic origin story is old hat in some ways, but that's totally fine, as writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov took it upon themselves to update it while also fitting it in the context of a killer story: "Extremis." The plot deals with Tony Stark wrestling with his failed mission to improve the world through technology, as Extremis, an experimental military serum designed to replicate the serum that gave Captain America his abilities, is being used by a terrorist group. To confront an enemy who can breathe fire and heal from almost any wound, Tony Stark must upgrade himself like never before.

"Extremis" gives Iron Man a much-needed reboot, as the character was mired in years of complicated continuity and questionable changes to his status. Not only did Ellis and Granov bring the character into the 21st century with stunning results, but they also paved the way for Robert Downey Jr.'s iconic take of ol' Shellhead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 3" borrow liberally from this storyline (with Guy Pearce playing Aldrich Killian) and for good reason.

Armor Wars

"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #225 — #232

"Armor Wars" kicks off with Tony Stark discovering that his technology has been floating around on the black market for some time — well before he built his current armor. With the help of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, he learns that industrial espionage expert and supervillain Spymaster got ahold of his tech and sold it to Tony's industrialist rival Justin Hammer. Tony suits up and goes on a quest to take down every villain who's been using his designs before they can do real harm. However, his risky methods attract the attention of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America, and the West Coast Avengers, who all believe he's being reckless.

"Armor Wars" sees Iron Man go on the offense for a change. At this point in his life, Tony Stark is contemplating the potential for damage and devastation his technology has and is focusing on ensuring that his work helps mankind. In his pursuit to bring about peace and safety, Tony sometimes goes over the edge to the point of alienating his allies, making this one of the more morally complex stories in the "Iron Man" canon. This arc will also be adapted into a live-action miniseries on Disney+.

Demon in a Bottle

"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #120 — 128

After a team-up with Namor the Submariner against soldiers from the corrupt Roxxon Oil Corporation, Iron Man flies home only to experience a weird glitch with his suit. The suit glitches again, this time in public, which results in the accidental death of a foreign ambassador. While Iron Man is ultimately cleared of all charges, Tony is stuck with the mystery of who's sabotaging his armor and trying to ruin his life and reputation. He turns to alcohol to deal with the stress of his life, but this only compounds his problems and strains his relationships with those closest to him.

We're used to superheroes dealing with supervillains who can be punched into submission. However, it's not often we see superheroes dealing with the one who can cause the most damage — themselves. "Demon in a Bottle" came out in the 1970s, an era that saw superhero comics begin to address darker real-world topics. This story of addiction and its effects on those around us is often uncomfortable, yet its poignancy holds up today. Some plot elements from "Demon in a Bottle" were featured in "Iron Man 2" (although Marvel Studios refused to include any of its darker moments).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Star Hunter!

"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #237

"Armor Wars" may have seen Iron Man successfully retrieve his stolen tech, but his reckless actions have left him in some legal trouble. However, the U.S. government is willing to drop the many lawsuits against Iron Man if he agrees to investigate the mysterious murders of scientists stationed in a NASA space lab. After upgrading his suit to allow him to survive in space, Iron Man heads to the heavens and arrives at the orbital lab where he discovers that the murderer is a genetically engineered creature designed by A.I.M. in an old Stark space station they hijacked. While Iron Man is able to defeat the creature, he discovers a darker and more tragic secret behind its creation.

This story may only take place in a single issue, but it does give the reader quite a bit. It serves as a nice follow-up to "Armor Wars" by wrapping up some of its loose ends. It also sees the Armored Avenger venture into space in a way we'd never seen before and delivers action and pathos in equal measure. The cat-and-mouse game between Iron Man and the creature is superb (and even somewhat reminiscent of the sci-fi horror classic "Alien") and gives us a suitably grim yet thought-provoking conclusion.

The Iron Age

"The Iron Age" #1 — 3, "Iron Age Alpha & Omega"

"The Iron Age" (not to be confused with another Iron Man comic with the same name) finds the Earth devastated by Dark Phoenix, forcing Iron Man to go on a journey into the past to save the future. He must recruit the help of the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. However, the era that Tony Stark travels to is the one when he's battling the bottle, so the heroes of the past dismiss his wild story as the delusions of a man who's dealing with addiction. Time is not on Tony's side, and he's forced to resort to drastic measures and make unlikely alliances to prevent a dark future.

Numerous writers and artists contributed to this wild "Iron Man" that sees Tony revisiting classic moments from throughout the history of the Marvel Universe. Seeing Iron Man jumping across time to bring together one of the most unpredictable team-ups of all time is a total blast and is a treat for longtime Marvel fans. "The Iron Age" is a great jumping-on point for casual Iron Man fans and even serves as a great introduction to the wider Marvel Universe.


"Iron Man" #149 — #150

Who doesn't love a good unlikely team-up story? In "Doomquest," Tony Stark discovers that one of his employees is trying to sell some of his tech to Fantastic Four's archvillain Doctor Doom and quickly fires him. However, Doom still manages to get a hold of the tech, prompting Tony to suit up and meet with Doom in person in Latveria to take back what's his. When the two duke it out in Doom's castle, they're hurled centuries back in time to the era of chivalry. They must put aside their differences and utilize their genius intellects to construct a way back to the present.

"Doomquest" is a classic "Iron Man" story that does a spectacular job of establishing the rivalry between the Armored Avenger and Doctor Doom that continues today. It's a rollicking tale that sees two technological titans struggle to adapt to an era that's devoid of computers and robotics. Plus, there's plenty of fun in seeing the pair interact with beloved literary characters like King Arthur and Morgan le Fay (who was also adapted into Marvel supervillain).

Iron Man Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Iron Man: Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D." 15 — 32, Annual 1

In the fallout of the massive "Civil War" crossover event, Iron Man's solo series was renamed "Iron Man: Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D." to reflect his role in the Marvel Universe's new status quo. Once the Superhuman Registration Act was passed, Iron Man was promoted to the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. for his efforts in keeping superheroes in check. However, his new role sees him dealing with all-new types of challenges, as not only must he endure the pressures of directing a global peacekeeping organization but also the threats of villains in a world where superheroes no longer have the same freedoms they once had.

This is a brilliant new take on Iron Man, as it sees him wrestle with the internal conflict of keeping the world safe while also taking down heroes he once called friends. "Iron Man: Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D." does a terrific job giving iconic "Iron Man" archvillain the Mandarin plenty of time in the spotlight, fleshing out the baddie like never before.

The Confession

"Civil War: The Confession" #1

"Civil War" was a massive crossover event that completely changed the entire Marvel Universe. Every hero and team was affected by the U.S. government's decision to force superheroes to work under their purview. The biggest and most emotionally resonant result of the Superhuman Registration Act is the dissolution of Iron Man and Captain America's friendship, which is made more tragic was the assassination of Cap (who would come back, of course). "Civil War: The Confession" sees a remorseful Iron Man confess his innermost conflict about the way things turned out — to the dead body of the man who was once his best friend.

Marvel Comics was always a pioneer of the idea that superheroes should be just as interesting on the inside as they are on the outside and that they should have personal turmoil to fight along with megalomaniacal villains trying to destroy the world. It's a brutally emotional story that touches on the regrets we often don't realize until it's too late.

World's Most Wanted

"Invincible Iron Man" #8 — 19

"Secret Invasion" was another massive crossover event. It deals with the discovery that the Skrulls had been infiltrating Earth for quite some time and sowed considerable distrust among its heroes. While the Skrulls were ultimately defeated, it results in old Spider-Man archenemy Norman Osborn replacing Tony Stark as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., putting the Marvel Universe in a dark place. As one of his first acts as S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Osborn calls for the arrest of Tony, turning him into a fugitive on the run from the henchman of a brilliant madman. As Iron Man, Tony must use every ounce of resourcefulness he has to evade his unlawful arrest and prevent Osborn from coming into possession of his tech.

There are very few, if any, interactions between Iron Man and Norman Osborn, which is surprising as they're both accomplished businessmen. However, they make wonderful opponents, as their fierce battle involves both brains and brawn. "World's Most Wanted" is a perfect turning point in the life of Tony Stark, as it rips his high-ranking position in the Marvel Universe away from him and turns him into a criminal.


"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #182

Iron Man largely confronted his alcoholism in the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, but his addiction remains. "Deliverance" sees Tony dealing with his struggle one cold night as he wanders the streets of New York City with a homeless, pregnant woman. Because Obediah Stane is destroying his life, Tony doesn't have money, his suit, or any other resources to guide this poor woman somewhere safe and warm. During this seemingly hopeless episode, he reflects on the monster inside of him and the events that led up to this point. The story has a tragic ending, but it makes Tony realize what he needs to do to take back control of his life.

"Deliverance" is one of the few Iron Man stories in which Tony Stark never once suits up. But that's okay because there's more than enough conflict and suspense to keep readers engaged in this story about the man inside the suit. It's a shattering tale of searching for hope, even when it feels like there's no hope left, and a deep lesson on how someone can be a hero without superpowers.

The Birth of War Machine

"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #280 — 291

Tony Stark's health has been deteriorating for some time now, and after a brutal fight with Justin Hammer's guards, some Mandroid-enhanced agents, and members of Hydra, he's in an even worse state. While he manages to take down Hammer and his forces, Tony must deal with his worsening health, which prompts him to fake his death and place himself in suspended animation. Meanwhile, Tony's best friend, James Rupert "Rhodey" Rhodes, takes over Stark Industries and dons the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, becoming the War Machine. While he's accompanied his old friend Iron Man on plenty of dangerous adventures, Rhodey will soon find out just how dangerous the superhero life is, as he soon takes on not just one but several villains — Spymaster, Beetle, Blizzard, and Blacklash — on his first mission.

Rhodey has always been one of Tony Stark's closest friends and was with him even during his darkest days. This arc finally gives him his due, proving just how much of a loyal friend he is by continuing his deceased (or so he believes) friend's role as both an industrialist and superhero. While Tony would eventually return, Rhodey proves to be just as great in the armor and has since gone on to become an important part of the Marvel Comics and Cinematic Universes.

Crash & Burn

"Iron Man" Vol. 1 #301 — 306

After getting over a neurological disorder and designing his most high-tech suit yet, the Modular Armor, things seemed to be looking better than ever for Tony Stark, but the superhero life is a complicated one, especially when that superhero is also the head of a massive company like Stark Enterprises. The press releases details that allege that Tony has been involved in all kinds of unethical and illegal activity, including bribery, the construction of weapons, and ties to organized crime. As Tony tries to put out PR fires, Iron Man must deal with the Hulk, the New Warriors, and Venom.

"Crash & Burn" is an entertaining mix of corporate intrigue and superpowered action, two completely different flavors that complement one another surprisingly well. We get an up-close look at how Tony Stark's superhero and business lives impact one another, resulting in a storyline that delivers plenty of twists and turns. There are quite a few guest appearances from other Marvel characters, but they're integrated into the plot without ever feeling contrived or gimmicky. Also, the Modular Armor featured heavily in this story is a classic Iron Man look of the 1990s and was even used in the 1994 animated series.