Warning: SPOILERS for X-Men #17The least-respected X-Men member from the Fox film franchise is now the ultimate Iron Man killer, thanks to a new power that allows him to strike at Tony Stark’s biggest weakness. The films, released over a 20-year period, were often contentious in the eyes of X-Men fans, many of whom believed the franchise ignored what made certain characters work (and in some cases, changed their powers and origin stories entirely). But X-Men #17 reveals that the comics create what the films did not: a way for Darwin to finally become the powerful mutant he should have been from the beginning.
In 2011’s X-Men: First Class, Professor X and Magneto assemble a team of mutants with extraordinary powers, one of whom is the seemingly-powerless Darwin. Appearing as an ordinary human, Darwin has the power to “adapt to survive”, meaning his body acclimates to perilous situations when his life is in danger: he may grow gills when in water, or spontaneously develop bulletproof skin if shot. Unfortunately, Darwin was killed by Sebastian Shaw midway through the film; the fact that the X-Men with the specific ability to not die was the first to die did not win over fans, to put it mildly.
But in X-Men #17, written by Gerry Duggan with art by Joshua Cassara, fans of Darwin finally get to see their favorite mutant escape a deadly situation – and develop Iron Man-killing powers in the process. On a rescue mission deep inside the Vault (a prison containing a simulation in which time moves at a snail’s pace compared to the world outside), the inventing mutant Forge stumbles upon Darwin, thought dead at the end of the previous issue. The villainous Children of the Vault conducted horrific experiments on him, but Darwin’s power activated, saving him the only way his body knew how: by transforming him into sentient computer code.With his new powers (and with centuries of experience under his belt), Darwin is now a menace to Iron Man. If he truly wanted to, the mutant can exploit Iron Man’s weakness by infecting his software as a living computer virus, able to react faster than any artificial program. The durability of Tony Stark’s suits essentially mean nothing when Darwin can hack into any armor and control it from within; he can command the suit to eject Stark, move on its own, or simply seal itself and wait for the onboard oxygen supply to run out.
Darwin provides a possible counter to Iron Man, who can destroy the X-Men whenever he wants thanks to a newly-acquired Sentinel head. Stark could recreate the Sentinel’s body (and make more), meaning a very possible threat to Krakoa’s existence. If he does, Darwin will be ready to defend the rest of the X-Men by attacking Iron Man on a battlefield that he can’t even join.