Following her superheroic debut earlier this year in the previous volume of “Invincible Iron Man” #10, Riri Williams officially takes over for Tony Stark in this week’s brand new “Invincible Iron Man” #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli. This first issue offers the first part of her origin story, complete with the young hero’s own awkward Mark 1 grey armor. But while Riri, like Stark, is a super genius from her early life, her road to heroism follows a different path.
The issue is broken up between a present-day action sequence, and a series of flashbacks showing how events in Riri’s childhood influenced her to don a giant suit of armor. It all seems to start at the age of five, when she’s deemed so intelligent that her school principal not only tells her parents Riri needs a more academic program, but also entreats them to make sure her emotional well being is nurtured, as well.
The Williams family takes this lesson to heart, telling Riri to take a break from tinkering on her technological masterpieces to go play, and her stepfather makes a point to tell her “It’s a nice day” every day, to Riri’s annoyance. But he and Riri’s friend Natalie, the only girl she can talk to about her inventions or, for that matter, anything, are tragic bystanders in a shooting at Chicago’s Marquette Park, tearing down a teenage Riri’s emotional support system.
The Fight for Tomorrow
She does not seem to have grown maladapted, though, unless you count wearing a human-shaped tank and going out to fight bad guys as a bed thing. Tony Stark is gone following the events of “Civil War II,” with at this point no one sure what’s become of him. Riri, endorsed as his successor, steps up to the plate.
She fights a woman called Animax, who possesses the power to conjure monsters bred from her DNA. Riri, not yet going by the code name Ironheart, dives in, calling on her AI to feed her info on the villain. But the AI is… slow. The girl may be a genius, but she lacks the experience to know what would be needed for combat. She may have been designing gadgets (intended) for superheroes since she was ten years old, but, well, sometimes you don’t know what you really need until you’re in it.
Eventually, though, she gets the intel she needs and:
The local police don’t know what to make of her, however, and attack. Depending on what sort of superpowered being she is, she could a.) fight back; b.) fly off; or c.) crush their guns and then fly off. C it is!
When she gets home and starts back to work on her tech in the garage, Riri is visited by a man-in-black type who delivers a gift. Her mom warns her not to open it, and definitely not to push the giant “push me” button revealed inside. But guess what.
Tony Stark is inside! Or his “essence,” anyway, to be used as Riri’s new AI. Problem solved!
What’s to Come
“Invincible Iron Man” #1 is just the start of Riri’s origin story. We know she’ll soon get her own distinctive (and less bulky) suit of armor – and now know it will come equipped with T.O.N.Y. inside. She’ll go by Ironheart, but acknowledges on very early on that she’s essentially the new Iron Man. She takes possibly an even more hands-on approach to designing her own technology than did her predecessor, ad there’s considerable tension both in comfort and in tragedy, thanks to her knowing that her intelligence sets her apart from the people she loves.
There’s also a pointed moment, seemingly out of nowhere, in which Riri refers to the man who raised her as “stepdad,” correcting her friend who’d called him Riri’s dad. This suggests there’s a biological father that will play a role in Ironheart’s life somewhere down the line; perhaps Virtual Stark, whose human counterpart also recently had the truth of his parentage upended, will have something to say about that situation when it rears its head.
The other big question is how the AI Stark will act as a mentor, and how Riri will respond to having the original Iron Man inside her head – not to mention where the real Tony Stark is, and what will happen if/when he returns.
Although much of the origin story is fairly straightforward, the creators’ focus on social isolation is telling. Riri is portrayed as likable, highly competent (not always the same as being a genius), and on the whole able to face challenges head on. But to spend half the issue on her need for closeness to people – a need, it should be noted, that is defined by others – suggests it’s significant. Will the conflict come in Riri’s own failure to connect, or is there some sort of manipulation going on behind the scenes?
This issue should answer a lot of fans’ questions about the line of Iron succession, while raising questions about who the young woman inside the armor truly is.