Warning: Spoilers for The Invincible Iron Man #10!A staple of Spider-Man‘s rogues’ gallery, Sandman completes his MCU redemption arc by helping out Iron Man and officially becoming a hero. When introduced on-screen in Spider-Man 3, Flint Marko aka Sandman is portrayed as more of an anti-hero, having turned to a life of crime strictly to fund his sickly daughter’s necessary treatments. The hapless thug appears to have redeemed himself at the end until he returns to his villainous ways for Spider-Man: No Way Home, albeit to get back to his family.

The comics bring Sandman’s heroic ambitions full circle in The Invincible Iron Man #10 by Gerry Duggan, Juan Frigeri, Bryan Valenza, and VC’s Joe Caramagna. During this series, Tony Stark’s best friend Rhodey has gotten himself thrown in prison for trying to help Iron Man destroy Stark Unlimited, now owned by Orchis leader, Feilong. Feilong tries to get Rhodey killed by fellow prisoners, but Stark’s new friend, the Hellfire Club’s White King Wilson Fisk, makes some arrangements.

Moments before Rhodey is almost shanked, those arrangements arrive in the form of Living Laser and the Sandman, both of whom have been hired personally by Fisk to protect Rhodey. What’s most impressive in Sandman’s case is that, unlike Living Laser, Rhodey, or any of the other prisoners, he’s not wearing a prison jumpsuit. In fact, after Living Laser mentions he punched a cop just to ensure he’d be in the same prison to protect Rhodey, Sandman doesn’t mention being arrested at all before reducing to sand and seemingly leaving the premises. This seems to suggest that Sandman, as someone who isn’t a prisoner, doesn’t even need to be there. Paid or not, it’s almost noble of him to just show up.

Although the MCU depiction is the one audiences may be the most familiar with, this isn’t the first time that the comics have placed Sandman in a heroic position. Most impressively, in Avengers #329, the Sandman receives a pardon out of prison from the President of the United States and a spot on the Avengers as a reserve member, with Captain America personally vouching for how much Marko had changed his ways. Of course, Sandman continues to teeter the line between hero and villain to this day, but the fact that his efforts to change were recognized and rewarded by the Avengers showcases his true hero potential.

Despite being paid to do his job in this issue, Sandman still puts himself in the role of a savior when he doesn’t have to, especially at a prison where he is not a prisoner. It’s an appropriately murky gray area for the anti-hero, but it is one that certainly speaks to his future potential. Assuming this hero status sticks, Flint Marko could be on course to permanently fulfilling his redemption arc again in the comics, hopefully sticking to it this time. Sandman is one of the more complicated villains in Marvel lore, but in hopes of seeing his character continue to grow and evolve beyond being a Spider-Man villain, a hero’s journey could help truly freshen up his character and open the door for new stories.

The Invincible Iron Man #10 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.

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