Warning: major Endgame Spoilers to follow!
One of Avengers: Endgame‘s most unlikely heroes is a character who has been around since the beginning: Pepper Potts, who’s last proper run-in with the front lines of a superhero showdown came in Iron Man 3. Things are a lot different this time around, thankfully, and Pepper is no longer infected with a lethal virus burning her up from the inside out–now she’s just got her very own armor, and it’s straight from the comics.
So, just how and why is Pepper armored up now? Let’s really dig into it. And in the meantime, check out our Avengers: Endgame review, Easter Eggs and references list, and our look at Captain America’s major moment and Tony Stark’s story arc.
Where did the armor come from?
Somewhere in the five-year time skip, Tony built Pepper her very own armor as an “anniversary present”–something she apparently rarely uses, according to Tony, but she has it nonetheless. This all happens off screen so we’re left to fill in the gaps for ourselves about why a set of armor would be a great gift–did Pepper request it? Did Tony just build it because that’s what he does? Honestly, who knows. The point is, Pepper has a suit and somewhere in the last five years she apparently learned how to fly it really, really well.
The armor itself is never given a name in the movie, which is a little unusual given how much Tony likes to name things, but it’s a sleek purple get-up that seems to have all the capabilities and features of Tony’s more recent suits, including detachable wing-like guns, blasters, and more repulsor weapons than you could shake a stick at. It doesn’t appear to be nano-tech, however, but we don’t see it long enough or closely enough to really say for certain.
Where does the armor actually come from?
Pepper suiting up is a two-fold pay off. The first part is strictly for fans of the MCU who remember her brush with armoring up back in Iron Man 3 when she was infected with the deadly Extremis treatment which had been designed to help regenerate damaged tissue by the dubiously ethical Advanced Idea Mechanics, or AIM. She never actually–or willingly–suits up in that movie, but much like Steve’s tease with Mjolnir back in Age of Ultron, the wink to a possible future was laid out.
The idea is not unique to the MCU incarnation at all, however. Over in the comics, Pepper actually had a relatively long run as an armored hero named Rescue. Rescue’s story comes from an era in the comics where Tony Stark was declared a fugitive by Norman Osborn and HAMMER, when he refused to give Osborn the list of superhero identities and code names from the Superhero Registration Act. Osborn hunted Tony down by systematically attacking Stark Industries locations, leaving Pepper frantically trying to escape. Luckily, she found the “Mark 1616” armor Tony had made for her in secret and was able to escape Norman’s relentless attack unschathed.
To make sure the Registration Act data never fell into Norman’s hands, Tony began erasing his own mind, leaving Pepper to pick up Iron Man duties in his place–but with a twist. Norman had declared all of Tony’s various tech illegal weapons of mass destruction, making the traditional Iron Man approach completely untenable. To circumvent this problem, Tony built the Mark 1616 without any weapons–a purely defensive suit–that would effectively loophole all of Norman’s legal maneuvering and allow Pepper to operate in public: hence the name “Rescue.”
Pepper eventually gave up the Rescue identity when Tony was back on his feet, but it remains one of her most defining eras in comics, not to mention one of her coolest.
So is that really Rescue in Endgame?
Not really. Endgame’s version of Pepper’s armor is definitely inspired by Rescue in the design silhouette, and the purple color palette was used in the Iron Man: Armored Adventures cartoon, but that’s about where the similarities end. It does carry with it plenty of implications about the future of Pepper’s character, though–and it’s always nice to see a vague idea realized completely, even if it took six years.