First of all, a warning: I will be discussing comic book storylines, not Iron Man 3's storyline which largely remain a secret. If there is any overlap between the stories discussed here and what appears in Iron Man 3, that is just a coincidence. Or a fairly obvious outcome. Spoilerphobe discretion is advised.
Latino Review has confirmed (and I would trust them on their scoops) that Sir Ben Kingsley will be playing The Mandarin and that while he will be a major presence in the film, he will not be the primary antagonist in the film, more a "silent partner" to Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian.
Killian, it appears, will be the Big Bad of Iron Man 3. In the comics he was the man behind Extremis, a nano-virus that helps create super-soldiers. Using the virus Killian can create an army of superhumans, who likely cause Tony Stark a lot of grief.
Earlier this week, one of these soldiers was confirmed to be Jack Taggert, the villain known as Firepower, to be played by Ashley Hamilton.
Taggart was a test-pilot for an experimental government-funded Iron Man suit (much like the ones we saw fail miserably in Iron Man 2), he became Firepower and subsequently Tony Stark got his metallic arse handed to him, forcing him to construct a newer, more powerful suit to fight back.
It's worth noting that this is similar to the Extremis comic arc, where Tony injected himself with Extremis to level the playing field, we could be seeing a merging of similar storylines.
Meanwhile, James Badge Dale was also confirmed to be joining the cast as Eric Savin, also known as Coldblood-7, a soldier who was transformed into a cyborg following an accident. As refreshing as the idea of a non powersuit wearing villain in an Iron Man movie may be, it appears that is not the case. Savin's evil alter ego in Iron Man 3 appears to be that of Iron Patriot.
Iron Patriot is a product of one of the sillier modern Marvel crossovers. Following a one-two punch of the Marvel Civil War (where every superhuman in the country split into two factions, over a Superhuman Registration Act), which lead to the assassination of Captain America, and the Secret Invasion (where the Skrulls infiltrated Earth), most of The Avengers became fugitives and S.H.I.E.L.D was disbanded.
The group was replaced by H.A.M.M.E.R (see what they did there?) which was led by Norman Osborn. Former Green Goblin, mass murderer and all around headcase was placed in charge of national defence. Even for superhero books that is a stupid storyline. That said, DC Comics did once elect Lex Luthor as President of the United States.
Regardless, Osborn's first act as head of H.A.M.M.E.R was to establish a new Avengers initiative, fronted by a team of supervillains dressed as facsimiles of other Avengers. Osborn lead this team in a redesigned Iron Man suit, painted up to resemble Captain America's costume, and went by the name Iron Patriot. Still stupid.
Fortunately, all of the silly back story has been jettisoned for Iron Man 3 because Norman Osborn still belongs to Sony.
Superherohype confirmed the presence of Iron Patriot, while The Superficial came through with set photos that revealed James Badge Dale was donning the suit. I assume this means no cyborg Eric Savin (boo!) but he will likely be getting a dose of Extremis and forced into a more establishment-friendly Iron Man suit.
With the abundance of armour-based characters appearing in this film, it seems the nature of the Extremis virus will be to create super soldiers capable of effectively piloting experimental new armour. I just wish they could find a valid threat for Iron Man that did not involve rehashing the "villain in power armour" shtick used in the first two movies.
At least it can't be any worse than Iron Man 2, right?