Tom Holland’s Spider-Man Ruined 1 Iron Man Character’s MCU Future
The introduction of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe ruined Iron Man 3‘s Harley Keener’s future. The MCU got an unexpected surprise in 2015 when Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures agreed to a deal to share Spider-Man. Tom Holland was cast and thrust into the MCU for Captain America: Civil War. It marked the first of six appearances that Holland would make in as many years, which helped establish Spider-Man as one of the MCU’s biggest and most important characters. One of the keys to his development and place in the larger Infinity Saga narrative was his relationship with Tony Stark.
The MCU infused Spider-Man and Iron Man’s stories together throughout Phase 3, establishing a mentee/mentor and even a son/father relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark. This narrative decision is why Spider-Man and Iron Man were featured together in four consecutive appearances and the key emotional moments of each. Whether it was Tony giving Peter a new Spider-Man suit, Iron Man mourning the loss of Spider-Man after Thanos’ snap, or an emotional Peter being part of Tony’s Avengers: Endgame death, the dynamic was repeatedly put in the spotlight. The relationship propped up Spidey even more, but it came at the cost of an established MCU character.
It would appear that Peter Parker replaced Harley Keener in the MCU. Iron Man 3 introduced Harley Keener as a young poor kid without a father figure but with a love of science and Iron Man. The movie made a point of establishing a bond between Harley and Tony, and Iron Man’s decision to give him a new lab teased how their relationship could continue. The setup prompted theories that Harley Kenner could become the MCU’s Iron Lad, but it also created expectations that he would remain a key part of Tony’s future. Instead, Marvel Studios gave Harley Keener’s future to Spider-Man.
Since the MCU’s Spider-Man has a close relationship with Iron Man, he in many ways ruined Harley Kenner’s chance to be part of Tony’s life. Instead of Harley potentially becoming Iron Lad, Peter’s relationship with Tony Stark effectively made him Iron Man Jr. He even got the Iron Spider suit to position him as Tony’s MCU replacement. This should have been a role that Harley Keener stepped into to pay off his inclusion in Iron Man 3. The reality is that he only returned for a quick cameo in Avengers: Endgame at Tony’s funeral, confirming they did stay in touch – but the MCU failed to show this.
After Spider-Man ruined Harley Keener’s MCU future by taking his spot in Tony Stark’s life, it does not appear that he is part of Marvel’s plans. The Multiverse Saga in theory could bring back Harley Keener in several ways, but there is no indication that Marvel Studios is even considering him. Spider-Man will continue to fill some of Iron Man’s void, while Ironheart is better positioned after Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to be a young hero powered by Stark tech than Harley is. As a result, audiences may have already seen the last of Harley Keener in the MCU.
More: Riri Williams Is Like MCU Spider-Man – But Avoids His Iron Man Problem