War Machine – Who is the Artillery Avenger?

Armored Artillery

James Rhodes: “The future of air combat… Is it manned, or unmanned? I’ll tell you in my experience, no unmanned aerial vehicle will ever trump a pilot’s instinct.”

Iron Man (2008)

A soldier reviews his intel as he flies towards a terrorist camp. The cell has stolen canisters of nerve gas and are threatening to unleash it on a nearby city. A ping from the radar tells him that he is nearing the camp. The soldier’s eyes harden as he arms his weapons.

His assault begins with a salvo of missiles aimed at the tents. Dazed terrorists rush out to meet their attacker, but are cut down as his machine guns roar. He lands on firm ground to stabilize his aim. The dying screams soon fall silent. The soldier’s sensors show that all targets have been neutralized. War Machine nods grimly before returning to base.

War Machine is one of the most dangerous Avengers. He wears an Iron Man armor equipped with enough weapons to make The Punisher blush. So who is he? How did he get his armor? Is he man, machine, or both? Let’s find out.

Danger Close: War Machine’s Backstory

War Machine: “Yeah, well, that’s two problems down. The world is saved, again, and I’ve made up with Tony Stark. Now I got to solve my own problems.”

War Machine #11

War Machine debuted in Iron Man #118 in 1979. He was created by David Michiline and John Byrne. Originally meant to be a supporting character, War Machine’s popularity grew until he got his own series.

Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes was piloting a helicopter that was shot down during the Vietnam War. Trapped behind enemy lines, Rhodey continued his mission to locate and destroy a Viet Cong base. Upon reaching the base, he was confronted by a man seemingly made of metal. 

After a scuffle, Rhodes and Iron Man realized that they were both on the same mission. Working together, they quickly destroyed the camp. Iron Man gave Rhodes a lift back to the base where Tony Stark thanked Rhodes for his help and offered him a job if he ever left the military.

Rhodes accepted the offer and became a security consultant for Stark Enterprises. During a supervillain attack, he found Stark drunkenly attempting to use the Iron Man armor. Realizing that his boss was unable to fight, Rhodey put on the suit and defeated the villain. This incident convinced Stark to trust Rhodes with his secret identity and his armor.

Rhodes served as Iron Man while Stark dealt with his alcoholism. As thanks, Stark created an Iron Man armor specifically designed for Rhodes called the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit. He accepted the gift, giving the armor a new name: the War Machine.

Broken Arrow: War Machine’s History

Iron Man: [holding War Machine’s helmet] “The force to break this armor would have to be… How did the impact sensors not counterbalance…? It must have been a force… How did this happen?

Civil War II

Despite their friendship, War Machine and Iron Man have often fought each other. Iron Man is sometimes portrayed as annoyed by War Machine using his tech to assist the U.S. military. War Machine often has to rein in Iron Man when Stark’s rebellious nature causes him to go too far.

War Machine is a team player. He co founded the West Coast Avengers, was a member of Force Works, and has even served as the Secretary of Defense. He also fought for the Stark-led Pro-Registration side during the Superhero Civil War.

When he wasn’t on the front lines of the war, he was teaching new heroes as part of the Fifty States Initiative that created a superhero team in every state.

War Machine was killed during the Civil War II event. Captain Marvel gathered a team to ambush Thanos after she learned from a precognitive Inhuman that he was about to invade the Earth. War Machine volunteered and was killed when Thanos punched a hole through his chest. His death was the spark for a war between Iron Man and Captain Marvel that devolved into Minority Report With Superheroes. He has since been resurrected.

Lock and Load: War Machine’s Powers and Personality

War Machine:If I were still… human… I’d have lost count of how many I’ve killed. But I can’t forget anything, now… And I can’t stop seeing everything. Every woman they’ve raped… Every child they’ve shot… I hate them. God help me, I hate them. Maybe someday someone’ll hate me just as much. But I don’t care. All I know is that today… The world needs a War Machine”

War Machine #1

The armor is a powerful weapon, but its pilot is the real War Machine. James Rhodes is a skilled pilot who has undergone Marine training. He is a martial artist who is skilled with firearms. Rhodes has become a cyborg after receiving several cybernetic implants that make him even more dangerous.

The War Machine armor has all of the standard Iron Man tricks, including super strength, speed, flight, Repulsor Rays, and the Unibeam. Rhodey’s armor also includes several Gatling guns, missile launchers, flamethrowers, melee weapons, and an EMP device as standard armaments. Later versions include more esoteric weapons, with one version even using The Ghost’s Ghost-Tech to turn War Machine intangible.

War Machine may be Rhodey’s signature armor, but it isn’t the only one he’s used. During a time when the armor was destroyed, Rhodey used an alien battle armor called the Eidolon Warwear. This symbiotic suit bonded with Rhodes, giving him multiple weapons that could be instantly deployed. He has also used an armor based on the Mutant-hunting Sentinels and a gigantic armor disguised as a satellite.

War Machine is confident, reliable, and cocky. He has anger issues and has been written as suffering from PTSD in recent years. He even developed claustrophobia and a fear of his armor following his resurrection. The combined issues recently led him to ditch the armor for a flying tank called The Manticore.

The Actors Who Play War Machine

War Machine debuted in Iron Man, where he was voiced by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Uncle James Avery. He was replaced by Dorian Harewood in season two. Daniel Bacon voiced him in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, and Roots’ LeVar Burton voiced the role in The Super Hero Squad Show. Finally, War Machine appeared in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, where he was voiced by Bumper Robinson.

War Machine appeared in direct-to-home movies The Invincible Iron Man, where he was voiced by Rodney Saulsberry. James C. Mathis voiced the role in Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore and its spinoff Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher.

Two actors portray him in the MCU’s big budget films. Empire’s Terrence Howard played James Rhodes in the first Iron Man movie. At one point he even passes the War Machine armor during a crisis, swearing “next time, baby.” Unfortunately for him, next time had Hotel Rwanda’s Don Cheadle take the role of War Machine, which he retains to this day.

Didya Get All That?

A heavily armed and armored Avenger.

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