Out of all the heartbreaking moments that the fans witnessed during ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Iron Man’s death was the one that hit the most. Even though Tony knew that shaping Thanos and his army away meant certain death, he put on the Nano-Gauntlet and utilized all Stones to restore peace and hope to Earth, at least temporarily. Even though it’s quite obvious that Iron Man died as a consequence of using Infinity Stones, many fans are wondering why. After all, Thanos and Hulk both wielded a full set of stones without long-lasting consequences, and many much weaker individuals utilized individual Stones. So what happened? What exactly killed Iron Man in ‘Endgame’?
It’s a testament to Iron Man’s will and strength that he didn’t burn instantly after using the Stones
You all remember the scene when Iron Man and Thanos come face to face, and Iron Man snaps his fingers, and the world is put to the right place once again. He watches as Thanos and his army crumble away to dust, just like 50 % of all life in the Universe did in ‘Infinity War.’ However, something is wrong with Iron Man. When he is found by War Machine, the right side of his body is charred completely, the side of the body corresponding with the arm that he used to snap away Thanos.
He is seriously ill, and when Pepper Pots finds him leaning against the wreckage, she assesses his vital signs with F.R.I.D.A.Y., only for the AI to confirm what she was already aware of. Iron Man is dying and has only a few seconds of life at best. As his arc reactor goes dark, everyone is aware that Iron Man is no more.
In his final moments, Iron Man didn’t cry, plead with destiny, or try to save himself. He accepted his fate, saving his last moment to take a good look at Pepper. He looked terrible. Yes, his armor was all messed up, and half of his face burned, including his extremities, but people are known to survive much worse, so what exactly killed Iron Man?
Iron Man was killed by excessive gamma radiation
After Avengers were done collecting the Infinity Stones in the past and Star was done with the nano-gauntlet, one thing became clear: somebody would likely have to sacrifice himself to use the Stones and restore the Universe to the right condition.
The answer as to why became apparent when Tony Stark himself commented that the Stones have enough energy to power an entire Continent, which even seems like an understatement considering that they effectively give the wielder command of reality, and especially the Power Stone is capable of nuking away entire Galaxies.
So, Thor wanted to take one for the team, believing that he would be fine after using the Stones, but he was promptly rejected even though he was the most powerful Avenger. Hulk volunteered, and he was ultimately the one to use the Stones for the third time because they also discovered that the Stones emitted gamma radiation. Since Hulk was a creature of gamma radiation, and this is how he got his powers, he was able to wield the gauntlet without dying.
Iron Man had no such luck; he is, at the end of the day, only human in a fancy suit, and even though his suit had safety mechanisms and life support systems in place to keep him alive as long as possible, even provide medical assistance, you can’t do anything against gamma radiation while being human.
Energy is never just energy. When it comes to gamma radiation and gamma rays in general, that type of energy is the most destructive out of all types due to their shortest wavelengths. Only the most destructive events and objects in the Universe emit gamma rays, such as neutron stars, pulsars, and supernova explosions.
So after using the Gauntlet, Iron Man was boiled from the inside by the gamma radiation. That’s all there is to it. He got killed by the Infinity Stones because he was only human.
How did Hulk and Thanos survive?
Thanos survived using Infinity Stones with only an arm injury because of his Titan durability. As Titan, Thanos was one of the most durable characters in the MCU, and hardly anything could damage him; even though stones affected him severely, which is once again a testament to their powers, he was able to walk away without any serious long-term consequences.
We’ve already described why Hulk survived. He is immune to gamma radiation, and he also has incredible superhuman durability. He survived some of the blows that would kill a regular human twice over. Still, after using the Stones, even Hulk’s arm was charred, and he required a cast, the sheer power of Infinity Stones seemingly affecting him to an extent where even his healing factor couldn’t do much to repair the damage quickly.
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