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Summary

  • The Ultimate Universe reimagined the Infinity Stones as “scabs” that manifest in times of calamity to save the universe.
  • Tony Stark discovered he grew an Infinity Gem inside his head, which was dissected brutally by the villainous Maker.
  • The Ultimate Universe concluded with Ultimate Tony Stark using the Infinity Gems to resurrect, but ending up facing new threats.
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Iron Man is easily one of the smartest people in any Marvel Universe, but his Ultimate Universe version truly used his mind like never before – by growing an Infinity Stone inside his brain. The Ultimate versions of the Stones (or “Gems”) have a completely different origin and purpose than they do in the mainstream comics, or the MCU – and as it turned out, were found in radically different places.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #27 featured one of the most intense scenes from the original Ultimate Marvel run, in which the villainous version of Reed Richards known as the Maker proved he would stop at nothing to collect the Stones and impose his will on reality, by cutting open Tony Stark’s head. The scene is gruesome – but it is also an example of Marvel Comics’ penchant for daringly reinventing its long-time lore, as it had one of its earliest iconic heroes full-on dissect another to get at the Gem inside his skull.

Ultimate Tony Stark Possessed An Infinity Gem, He Just Never Knew

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #27 – Written By Joshua Hale Fialkov; Art By Carmine Di Giandomenico; Ink By Lorenzo Ruggiero; Color By Jim Charalampidis; Lettering By Clayton Cowles

Cover for Ultimates #27, Infinity Gem in Tony Stark's head casting bright light

As
Ultimates
#27 revealed, Stark had been growing one of these “scabs” [an Infinity Gem] in his head since the
Ultimate
Universe was first introduced.

In the original comics, the Infinity Gems originated from Nemesis, a supreme being that existed in the original universe. In the MCU, the Infinity Stones are “singularities” that came about at the beginning of the universe. In the Ultimate Universe, however, the Infinity Gems are more like white blood cells – objects of great power that manifest in times of great calamity to help save the universe from destruction. Tony Stark himself likened them to “the universe’s scabs,” although they were still incredibly powerful items that could manipulate the very laws of physics.

As Ultimates #27 revealed, Stark had been growing one of these “scabs” in his head since the Ultimate Universe was first introduced. Originally, the Ultimate version of Iron Man was established as a genius weapons designer who had an inoperable brain tumor – the equivalent of the MCU and mainstream Tony’s heart condition. Determined to make the most of whatever time he had left, Stark used his genius to develop a biotech treatment that could extend his life. He also developed his Iron Man suits and joined the Ultimates, his universe’s version of the Avengers, hoping to do some good.

Iron Man Attacked by Quicksilver in Ultimate Comics

As it turned out, the tumor evolved into something very strange. First, it developed a consciousness of its own. Next, it began speaking to Tony through hallucinations, manifesting in the form of a young boy. Tony ended up calling his tumor “Anthony” and treated him as a partner. As Ultimates progressed, Anthony the Tumor was depicted as basically an organic parallel processor, one who could connect with and control technology, making it the perfect – if highly bizarre – sidekick for Iron Man.

Extracting The Gem Killed Tony Stark – And Even That Didn’t Stop Him

The Maker Was Merciless

In Ultimate Comics Ultimates #27, Anthony the Tumor went through another major change when the Maker, the Ultimate Universe’s evil Reed Richards, revealed that what Tony had thought was a tumor was, in fact, an Infinity Gem. Reed – who’d basically gone insane at this point – conducted a grotesque form of brain surgery on Tony, essentially ripping the stone from his head, as brutally as Thanos tore the Mind Stone from Vision’s forehead in Avengers: Infinity War. The process basically killed “Anthony,” depriving Ultimate Iron Man of what was his version of JARVIS, making the Vision connection even stronger.

This was one of the defining moments of the first
Ultimates
Universe, as many of the alternate continuity’s most radical divergences from the familiar came together in a truly disturbing scene…This also was one of the first indicators that the
Ultimate
project had reached its terminal conclusion.

The process also essentially killed Stark – but Tony wasn’t out of the game yet. Having been exposed to his personal Infinity Gem for years, Tony’s brain was basically – as he put it – “plug and play.” As his body failed, he simply uploaded his mind into a suit of Iron Man armor, and continued that way, at one point even downloading his consciousness into multiple machines to help the other Ultimates fight the Maker. At each stage, this arc was continually shocking, and brought the the Ultimate Universe one step closer to its breaking point.

That isn’t to say that it wasn’t as true to the design of Ultimate Marvel as any plotline that had preceded it. In fact, the opposite may be the case. In a way, this was one of the defining moments of the first Ultimates Universe, as many of the alternate continuity’s most radical divergences from the familiar came together in a truly disturbing scene. However, this also was one of the first indicators that the Ultimate project had reached its terminal conclusion – something Marvel recognized soon after, as it erased the entire timeline during 2015’s Secret Wars event.

The Infinity Gem In Iron Man’s Skull Is The Ultimate Gross-Out Moment

Nothing Pretty About This Stone

Nearly a decade after celebrated Marvel author Jonathan Hickman ended the original
Ultimate
Marvel run with 2015’s
Secret Wars
, he was responsible for bringing it back with 2023’s
Ultimate
Invasion
, as the Maker recreated his home universe, to his own twisted specifications.

The Ultimate Universe has subsequently been rebooted – thanks to the same villainous Maker, though featuring a rebooted version of Tony Stark, one who appears to be on a very different heroic trajectory than his previous version. Given that the Ultimate timeline is once more a place of wide-open possibilities, it is worth looking back at how the previous incarnation was shaped, and at what its standout moments amounted to. Without a doubt, Ultimates #27 and the reveal that Iron Man grew an Infinity Gem inside his head ranks among the hardest to forget Ultimate storylines.

In the end, Ultimate Tony Stark even got to execute a move similar to his MCU counterparts, when he collected all the Infinity Gems and used them to resurrect his own body. Unlike MCU Tony’s “snap,” however, Ultimate Iron Man found his efforts couldn’t just immediately defeat Reed Richards as the gems just shattered, leaving the Ultimate Universe open to the threat of its Galactus. It was a weird ending to a reimagined Infinity Gauntlet story, but one that shows the Infinity Stones can be birthed in the weirdest places. Including Iron Man’s brain.



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