Our Black History Month continues as we look at one of the stars of an upcoming Disney+ show: Riri Williams, Ironheart!
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Brian Bendis
Art by: Stefano Caselli
Collects: Invincible Iron Man (2015) #1 – 5
In the past decade (the 2010s), Marvel pushed a variety of initiatives that began heavily diversifying their line.
Prior to Secret Wars, Sam Wilson had taken over as the black Captain America, and Jane Foster had taken up Mjolnir to become the female Thor. On top of all these, you of course already had the black Spider-Man Miles Morales, the Muslim Ms Marvel and the Hispanic Nova.
But after the event, more and more changes started to take place.
Post-Secret Wars, we saw other prominent examples such as the Korean-American wunderkind Amadeus Cho take on the powers of the Hulk, while Wolverine’s clone X-23 took up her ‘father’s’ mantle in the wake of his passing.
A new Blade comic was also meant to introduce Blade’s vampire-hunter daughter, but unfortunately, the series was cancelled before it even began.
Some of these choices (especially coming in such quick succession) were a tad controversial among some sects of the fanbase, but overall they led to some solid new characters and stories (Falcon-Cap and the new and old Nova’s teaming up being particular favourites of mine).
Today, we’re looking at the black, female teenage replacement to Iron Man and the star of her own upcoming Disney + series…
Real Name: Riri Williams
Affiliation: The Champions
First Appearance: Invincible Iron Man #7 (March 2016)
Growing up in Chicago, the young Riri Williams was confirmed to be a ‘super-genius’ after she started to act out at the age of five. From then on, her parents did their best to support her in any way she could, indulging her desire to work on her various projects and inventions.
But in the process, the young genius became something of an introvert, shutting off slightly from the outside world, with little in the way of friends bar another young girl from the neighbourhood, Natalie. So when tragedy struck, and Natalie and Riri’s step-father were killed in a drive-by shooting, Riri started a new project; reverse-engineering the technology from an old Iron Man suit of armour, and eventually building her own variant.
By the time she had turned fifteen, her antics caught the attention of Tony Stark himself, who chose to endorse Riri and help her on her quest. But after Stark fell in the second super-hero Civil War, Riri was forced to step up and become his successor, Ironheart!
In the wake of the second super-hero Civil War, Tony Stark is out of action. But prior to his ‘death’, he met a young rising star by the name of Riri Williams. A 15-year-old genius with designs for her own suit of high-tech crime-fighting armour.
Now, Stark has left Riri all the things she needs to kick off her superhero career and become his successor. But not everyone from Stark’s past is on board with such an idea.
I’ve unintentionally been on a bit of a Bendis binge as of late. At the end of last year, I read a lot of his event comics and the corresponding Avengers titles, and this year I’ve been reading through his Ultimate Spider-Man works. For the most part, despite previously expressing some dislike of some of his stuff in the past, I’ve been reading from the eras when he was at his best. At times, you can see some of his negative writing traits slip through, but it’s not until now that we’ve finally entered what I’m going to call the ‘bad Bendis era’.
I don’t mean to disparage the guy; by all accounts, he seems lovely. But the longer he stayed at Marvel, the more the quality of his writing started to slip.
But despite this comic being published fairly late in his Marvel tenure, it’s actually pretty decent.
However, it’s not perfect. I personally find a some of the dialogue tiresome (there’s a whole three pages taken up by a character talking to herself to provide exposition, as opposed to us learning about her thoughts through natural conversation) and the pacing can be a bit off. Riri’s evolution as a hero highlights this well. We see her face her first supervillain (in this series). Then we see her in a montage of a bunch of adventures that she deals with far too easily considering she just started out, and then we finally see her struggle and falter in the next fleshed-out encounter, which would perhaps be more effective if we hadn’t just seen her stomp various supervillains and massive monsters.
But the general story is pretty well written. And when Bendis reins in his overly wordy dialogue, he’s able to deliver an interesting backstory for Riri that highlights how her dalliances with tragedy have informed some of her choices (like her clear disdain of guns). It’s simple. It’s effective. And sometimes it’s even poignant.
That aforementioned latter battle nicely highlights that her defining strength is her intellect, and the way she’s forced to improvise out of her armour to resolve that situation, rather than concluding the arc with a display of her super-powers, is a nice touch.
The art is also great. Stefano Casselli proves once again why he’s one of my favourites, as while it might not be as creative or vibrant as the art you see in, say… Scarlet Witch, it’s perfectly expressive and crisp.
To be honest, if I read any more Ironheart comics (which I no doubt will prior to the series premiere) I’ll probably skip ahead to when she’s being penned by another writer, but as starting points go, this one is a good one.
All-in-all, I give Riri Williams a…
Thanks for reading! Are you excited for the MCU debut of Riri Williams? Let me know in the comments below!
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