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Iron Man is returning to the MCU – but it's not what you think

Iron Man 3
(Image credit: Disney/Marvel Studios)

Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man is returning to the MCU – but not in the way that you might be thinking, according to a new leak.

Lego_Fulcrum, a leaker of unannounced Lego sets, recently revealed that Iron Man (and Downey Jr. by extension) would be part of Marvel's What If...? series on Disney Plus.

Taking to their Instagram page (per ComicBook.com) with their latest leak, Lego_Fulcrum posted an image of an as-yet-announced Lego set, which reveals Tony Stark in a Sakaarian Iron Man suit.

What can we deduce from this leak? In an upcoming What If...? episode, it appears that Iron Man – not Thor – is transported to the planet Sakaar.

For those who need reminding, Sakaar is the planet seen in Thor: Ragnarok, which Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster rules over. Here, Thor is captured by the Grandmaster and ends up fighting Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to entertain Sakaar's population.

The Lego set image also appears to show the Watcher, the narrator of Marvel's What If...?, and Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, who was in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame.

Take a look at Lego_Fulcrum's image below:

Analysis: Robert Downey Jr. will reprise his Iron Man role in Marvel's What If...?

Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

What does this all mean for Downey Jr's return as Iron Man? If comments made by Jeff Goldblum, in a 2019 Buzzfeed interview, are anything to go on, Downey Jr. will be back to lend his voice to Tony Stark's animated form.

"I went to the Disney studios and I recorded the Grandmaster's voice for an episode of a show that's gonna be on Disney Plus that's called What If...?," Goldblum said at the time. "It's an animated version of all the characters we know and love from Marvel and this episode included the Grandmaster and Iron Man, so Robert Downey [Jr.] will do a voice for that."

Unless Marvel has had a massive change of heart, Downey Jr. will be back as Iron Man/Tony Stark for one last time.

Why one last time? As Marvel fans will remember, Tony Stark died at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Having wrestled the Infinity Stones from Thanos during the movie's climactic battle, Iron Man uses them to wipe out Thanos and his invading army – but the sheer power of the Infinity Stones are too much for him to handle, and he dies soon after.

Marvel's What If...? will star Jeffrey Wright (The Batman, James Bond) as the Watcher, a cosmic being who watches over the Marvel Multiverse but who very rarely, if ever, interfere with events. The Watcher will narrate the series, which will explore what would have happened in major events in the MCU had played out differently. 

So far, we know of an episode where Peggy Carter takes the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, one where T'Challa is kidnapped by the Ravagers rather than Star-Lord, and an instalment where Bucky Barnes fights off a Marvel superhero zombie outbreak.

Marvel's What If...? will see multiple actors return to voice their MCU characters again, including Chris Evans, the late Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Hayley Atwell, Karen Gillan and Sebastian Stan.

The Disney Plus series will begin airing exclusively on Disney's streaming platform sometime in August.