This blog may contain spoilers.
In Invincible Iron Man Vol 2 #1, Tony Stark made mention of a 15 year old girl at M.I.T. who had reverse engineered his tech on a dare, then posted it online.
That girl, was RiRi Williams.
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato, RiRi Williams: IRONHEART is both the hero we deserve, and the one we desperately need. She is young, black, excellence and I'm all the the way here for it. Her story begins during her time at M.I.T. To say that she's ahead of the curve would be an understatement. She is beyond brilliant and because of that she has trouble focusing on anything other than her work. She seeks to reach her intellectual limit and through that pursuit, begins a secret project to make her very own power suit by reverse engineering an old suit of Iron Man Armor (Model 41) using what we in the art world like to call "found materials".
She steals them.
When campus security grows suspicious, RiRi decides to do what any 15 year old super scientist would do while wearing a makeshift Iron Man Armor. She flys away, and roams around the country while testing her super suit's abilities. Along the way she happens to encounter and subdue recently escaped convicts, and just like that, a hero is born. She eventually takes the name IRONHEART, but before that Stark notices her potential and takes her under his wing. Shortly after he is mortally injured and put in a medically endued comma to heal, leaving RiRi minus one millionaire playboy mentor.
I'm admittedly late to the party and being completely transparent, it was intentional. RiRi's original design was a bit off putting because it seemed to sexualize an underage black girl. Sadly that's a recurring theme and it's despicable every single time. There was a huge social media blacklash (black backlash) and thankfully Marvel made alterations to the character. Here's the other side of that, it's not uncommon for children to look much older than they actually are these days. While that's true to life, there are also children who still look like children. When given the freedom to choose between the two, why choose the former? That is after all, the beauty of creating worlds. You can willfully choose which pieces of reality you like and build the narrative as you see fit.
After the redesign she still looked older than 15, but they got rid of the sassy hip pops and midriff shirts. That made a huge difference.
Another thing that turned me off was the fact that a black person would not be writing for her. Bendis pens the series and I feared the story would be tone def and use her blackness as a novelty, if they spoke on it at all. The other side of that is the fact that a writer being black doesn't necessarily mean that they will be loyal to our people, or tell our stories with the nuances that are unique to us. After all, two black writers are writing the HBO slavery fanfic (I'm not going to let you forget that). I didn't enjoy Coates' Black Panther as much as I'd hoped I would, simply because it seemed to focus on the deconstruction of the character, while Priest made the Black Panther that we all know and love. Priest's Panther is the symbol of black power, not only physically, but technologically, socially, and spiritually as well. I'm aware that quality varies from case to case, but it was something I had to consider, especially since Black Panther was CREATED by a duo of white men (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby).
Invincible Iron man (2016) follows RiRi as she discovers what she can do and who she truly is. The character is extremely relatable because her quest is one that many of us share. She wants to be her best self. Though a series of wonderfully frightening events she finds herself exactly where she's always wanted to be, but she's not entirely sure that she's ready to be there. Interestingly enough, before Stark was put into a comma he apparently created an A.I. copy of his personality to assist RiRi. Now it's all that's left of him. RiRi and the Stark A.I. have an entertaining relationship. He's her girl Friday. He trains her while in the use of her suit and helps her develop better versions of it, all while delivering the boyish quips that we'd expect from the real Stark.
The support cast is very believable, especially RiRi's mother Mrs. Williams. You can feel her love for her daughter. She has been given the nearly impossible task of raising a headstrong girl with a super intellect. Her baby is a super hero, and she supports her through it all. I love their interactions. Regardless of how intelligent RiRi is, she still respects and appreciates her mother. Besides, what could Mrs. Williams do if she didn't? Ground her? Take her armor away for a week? Make her wash a Quinjet? Mrs. Williams knows her child is special and gives her the room she needs to be who she was meant to be.
That's just good parenting.
RiRi is also woke AF. S.H.E.I.L.D. offers to make her an agent and she turns them down cold. She's added to their watch list as a child, but they watch her closely for her views on social issues. They fear those views together with super intelligence could be potentially dangerous. Turns out their right. After Sharron Cater makes a questionable decision to send RiRi on an international covert mission, she overthrows the government of Latveria on a whim, then provides Carter with a list of demands full of social improvements the country requires, all of which must be met before she will step down from the throne. M.I.T. asks that she return to the school to continue her studies with them, Amanda Armstrong (Tony Stark's rock star birth mother, long story) offers her his lab in his absence, and The Champions offer her a spot on their team. So many great things are happening for her that she has trouble deciding which path to take. Wouldn't you?
This kid is something special.
I've really enjoyed the run so far. I have a profound love for prodigy stories, especially ones that involve a passing on of an established mantle to a new or familiar character. I do wish more stories about original characters of color would be created and fully supported. Having said that, this one has yet to disappoint.
What IS disappointing is that the very same day I decide to finally try (and of course immediately fall in love with) the series, Bendis is announced to have defected to DC Comics, leaving RiRi's future uncertain.
And as I'm sure you can understand...
I have concerns.
All of this is so ridiculous. How is my timing possibly be this bad? This is why I have trust issues. There's no telling what will happen to the series now that Bendis has abandoned ship.
Will they find another writer to take the helm?
Will they replace her?
Could Bendis have left enough notes and/or instructions to at least finish a few story arcs?
This can't end now.
I just got here!
Tell me what you think about this character and what you think might happen next.
As always, thanks for dropping by.
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Isn't she just adorable?!