Iron Man Dictated The Initiative
It's not as simple as saying, "No Iron Man, no Avengers," no. Over the course of three films, the franchise pushed the stories of the other parts of the overall canon. The actions from each project helped to dictate the pacing of Marvel's fellow standalone pictures that culminated with the super smash-up-blockbuster-bonanza known as The Avengers.
In Iron Man 3, director Shane Black pushes the envelope to the MAX with reckless abandon. Without giving too much away (the photo above does enough), the events in this picture will reverberate over the second phase of the Marvel initiative that will keep comic book fiends chomping at the bit for more. Heck, the Iron Man 3 ending is soooo good that Joss Whedon is reworking his Avengers 2 finale.