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Iron Man's Forgotten MCU Villains Were His Perfect Foil All Along

A.I.M. may be Iron Man’s forgotten MCU villains, but it turns out they were his perfect foil all along. The techno-terrorist organization made the leap to live action in 2013’s Iron Man 3, but their appearance left something to be desired, and they have not been seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since. Yet in 1991’s Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #23, A.I.M. was given a makeover that made them the absolute perfect villains for Iron Man.

Advanced Idea Mechanics, or A.I.M. for short, is a technology-based terrorist organization. First appearing in 1966’s Strange Tales #146, A.I.M. was created by the evil Baron Von Strucker, the head of HYDRA. Strucker created A.I.M. to be the scientific and research division of HYDRA. Eventually, A.I.M. broke free of HYDRA, becoming a formidable organization in its own right; some of A.I.M.’s most notable creations have been the Cosmic Cube and MODOK. The organization has been through multiple incarnations in the Marvel Universe, menacing its heroes–particularly SHIELD. A live action version of A.I.M. appeared in Iron Man 3, where they were reimagined as a government-sponsored think tank. A.I.M’s appearance in the film was underwhelming, and they failed to live up to their potential. Although A.I.M. was swept under the rug in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of their makeovers shows they would have been the perfect foil for Iron Man.

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In a storyline running through Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #20-23, HYDRA is in the process of rebuilding. By this point A.I.M. has spun off from the organization, and HYDRA decides to take back what had been theirs. Readers then learn that in this incarnation, A.I.M. has rebranded themselves as arms dealers, offering high-tech weapons to the highest bidder, regardless of ideology. A.I.M. takes their rebranding a step further, creating elaborate showrooms and even holding conferences, where potential buyers can inspect the merchandise; this incarnation of A.I.M. even handles press inquiries. However, A.I.M. ‘s new direction is not enough to save them from HYDRA, who attack one of the group’s conferences. The story was written by DG Chichester and illustrated by Jackson Guice.

Transforming A.I.M. into weapon dealers with a friendly veneer is a stroke of genius, and makes them Iron Man’s perfect villains. In the MCU, prior to becoming Iron Man, Tony Stark made his fortune designing and selling weapons to the United States military. In the first Iron Man film, he discovers that Stark weapons are being used not only by the military, but by international terrorists as well–a moment that leads him to seriously reevaluate his life and becoming Iron Man. When Iron Man gets around to fighting A.I.M., they have been de-fanged, transformed from a techno-terrorist collective into a measly think tank. Not portraying A.I.M. as the true threat they are in the comics was a missed opportunity. If A.I.M. had depicted as seemingly benevolent arms dealers, not only would it have made them a true threat, but it could have also serves as a commentary on the military industrial complex embodied by Iron Man.

In the Marvel Universe, A.I.M. is a true threat to the security of the world, but when the time came for their MCU appearance, it was a let-down. The movie A.I.M. was lackluster, failing to live up to their potential as villains, yet with a little tweaking these forgotten Iron Man foes could have been the perfect foils.

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