The Assassination of Howard and Maria Stark was an assassination mission organized by HYDRA operative and Russian Armed Forces Colonel Vasily Karpov and carried out by the Winter Soldier at Long Island, New York.
The mission was aimed to steal a briefcase carrying a recreated variant of the Super Soldier Serum that HYDRA sought out for the Winter Soldier Program, and ensuring the deaths of any potential witnesses. This included S.H.I.E.L.D. founder and Stark Industries CEO Howard Stark, who had redesigned the serum and was in possession of it while en route to the Pentagon. Having been brainwashed to conduct kill missions for years, the Winter Soldier was deployed to intercept them in the middle of the night, where he successfully retrieved the serum and killed Howard, as well as his wife Maria Stark, who was the passenger in Howard's car.
The death of the Starks was framed as a fatal car accident, after which their son Tony Stark was promoted to interim CEO of Stark Industries. He would later learn of the true nature of the assassination years later when presented video footage of their deaths at the HYDRA Siberian Facility.
Following World War II, the United States recruited over 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians in the classified Operation Paperclip. Among those recruited was former HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola, who started working for S.H.I.E.L.D. in an attempt to rebuild HYDRA from inside the newly-founded peacekeeping organization.
In 1991, HYDRA learned that S.H.I.E.L.D. co-founder Howard Stark had recreated the Super Soldier Serum and tasked Vasily Karpov, a sleeper agent embedded in the Russian Armed Forces, with reviving the Winter Soldier. Karpov did as he was told, ordering the master assassin to retrieve the serum and leave no witnesses behind.
On the night of December 16th, Howard and Maria Stark were en route to the Pentagon with the newly-completed serum when the Winter Soldier raced up behind them on a motorcycle and slashed the front tire of their vehicle with his cybernetic arm, causing it to swerve off the road and crash into a tree.
As the Winter Soldier approached the fallen vehicle, Howard Stark crawled from the car and asked him to help Maria. He recognized the assassin as Bucky Barnes, who repeatedly punched him in the face, crushing his skull with his cybernetic arm. After placing Stark's corpse back inside the car and strangling Maria to death, the Soldier proceeded to shoot at a nearby security camera before departing with the serum.
The newspapers the following day reported on the Starks' passing, but their deaths were attributed to a simple car accident. Obadiah Stane assumed the position of interim CEO of Stark Industries as a result.
A Wakandan War Dog stationed in New York investigated the crash site, determining that foul play was involved and even realizing that something had been stolen from Stark. The War Dog informed King T'Chaka of these findings, and offered to look further into the incident.
HYDRA used the Super Soldier Serum to give five individuals the same capabilities as the Winter Soldier, but they proved too dangerous to be sent into the field and remained in suspended animation at a facility in Siberia.
In chronological order:
- Captain America: Civil War (flashback)
- Iron Man (mentioned)
- Iron Man 2 (mentioned)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (newspaper)
- Captain America: Civil War (footage)
- Avengers: Infinity War Prelude (footage)
- Captain America: Civil War
- Translates from Russian to: "I have a mission for you. Sanction and extract. No witnesses."
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Iron Man 2: Public Identity
- Iron Man
- The Wakanda Files: A Technological Exploration of the Avengers and Beyond