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Back in 2008, before Tony Stark and the rest of the Iron Man team came into our lives, nobody knew if anyone would care about them. Unlike Spider-Man or the X-Men, shellhead was on the B-list of characters created by Stan Lee in the Marvel universe. Sure, there were comic fans out there who loved the character, but a huge chunk of the population had never even heard of him.
Now, much like Stark in his own world, Iron Man is a phenomenon, and the new sequel is already an overseas hit even before it opens stateside this Friday. But unlike the first film, which was just Tony Stark's story, Iron Man 2 has a bigger mission: start getting things ready for The Avengers. An incredible team-up of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and hopefully The Hulk, The Avengers movie, scheduled for 2012, is unprecedented in the movie world, but once again must struggle to make sure anyone other than comic book fans know what the hell is going on. That's why you have people like me.
Iron Man 2 does commit itself to Marvel's Avenger plans with major subplots and character inclusions but some may find themselves confused by some of the lingo getting thrown around. So for those of you out there that have no idea what the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division is or are completely befuddled by the film's Easter Egg after the credits, prepare for an education.
WARNING: This article mixes both information from the comic book world and the film world that may end up being changed as more movies come out. This article also contains extremely minor spoilers for Iron Man 2, but unless you're avoid avoiding information about the post-credits Easter Egg, you should be fine.
How Does It Fit? Tony Stark is classified as one of those “super powered individuals,” so S.H.I.E.L.D has had its eye on Iron Man for longer than he probably knows. Hell, they probably knew every little thing about him the second the Mark I suit allowed him to escape his captors in Afghanistan. They are the organization in charge of watching our most gifted heroes and using them to put down the forces of evil.
How Does He Fit? Fans first met Fury in the Easter Egg after the credits of the first Iron Man, where he outright stated his mission: he is gathering the most powerful superheroes in the world to organize the Avenger Initiative. While he would later send Tony to get the Hulk (the events in The Incredible Hulk occur further down the timeline), Fury is always there, at the very least in spirit, to recruit his team. In Iron Man 2, Fury has taken it upon himself to evaluate Stark to see if he really is the man that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants for its elite team
The Avenger Initiative
How Does It Fit? One of the biggest concerns of the initiative is personality, which is an important subplot in Iron Man 2 as Fury evaluates how fit Tony Stark is for service. Between Stark's ego, Bruce Banner's inability to control his Jeckyl-ish other half, Thor's struggle with understanding humanity and Captain America's presence in a world he doesn't really understand, the Avengers is not made up of characters that play well with others. When they are faced with an enemy that threatens the world, however, it is not lost on these heroes what they must do.
How Does She Fit? As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and potentially a future Avenger, she will likely get more attention in the Avengers film, where they will hopefully bring the character back to her roots. Natasha, who isn't nicknamed The Black Widow for nothing, may very well end up being as duplicitous as she is in the comics, but it is more than likely that director Jon Favreau was concerned about juggling too many villains Spider-Man 3-style. It's still fairly hard to get a read on her, but she is a spy, after all.
How Does He Fit? His character comes across as just another cog in the S.H.I.E.L.D. wheel in the first film, but he does become more important in the sequel. He is very much tied into Fury's plans to build the Avengers and has, thus far, had connections to three of the heroes, more than anyone else. Expect to see more of him as this film series develops.
Captain America's Shield
How Does It Fit? Eagle-eyed fans are already well-aware that Stark is in possession of Captain America's shield (see it here on the far left) and it appears once again in Iron Man 2, only this time it's not so hidden. Handed to Tony by Agent Coulson and used in a “book under the piano leg” manner, many will wonder why Tony has this bit of superhero legend just sitting half-completed in his workshop.
After an incident that left him frozen and in suspended animation, Captain America is revived in our time. S.H.I.E.L.D being well-aware of who he is, he is immediately enlisted for the Avengers initiative. In the comics, Stark is given the task of upgrading the shield with modern technologies, but, considering that he has yet to join The Avengers and Captain America has yet to be revived, it is curious that he already has the shield in his possession. This is certainly still one of the mysteries of the series, and likely won't be resolved until Joe Johnston's The First Avenger: Captain America premieres next summer.
The character's origin begins when Thor's father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), feels that his son needs to learn humility and is put in the body of a disabled medical student named Donald Blake. In the comics, Blake discovers Mjolnir while vacationing in Norway, but the hammer showing up in New Mexico and being covered up by S.H.I.E.L.D. suggests that this will not be the case and that Kenneth Branagh's Thor will take a different path.
How Does It Fit? Mjöllnir appears in the after-the-credits Easter Egg, when Agent Coulson arrives in New Mexico. After getting out of his car, he sees a giant crater in the middle of the desert, at the center of which is the legendary hammer. The question remains how Thor will be reunited with Mjöllnir. It's speculation, but perhaps Blake's lab, which could very well be located in New Mexico (they have been shooting there for quite some time now), is given a government contract to analyze the otherworldly object. Blake would then come in contact with the hammer and suddenly find himself transported to Asgard, where he learns the truth about who he is. With the first photo of Thor having been released already and Comic Con coming in July, it shouldn't be much longer until the mystery starts revealing itself.