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Review: ‘Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart Vol. 1—Riri Williams’

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Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart Vol. 1—Riri Williams
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Marvel Comics; $24.99
Rated T+ for Teens and Up

Invincible Iron Man Riri WilliamsThanks to his prominence in the Marvel Studios movies, Iron Man Tony Stark has become one of the pillars of the modern Marvel comics universe, one of several centers at the middle of everything important going on in the fictional shared setting. So kinda sorta killing him off in the pages of Civil War II—technically, he just used his advanced technology to put himself in a coma-like state when he was on the verge of death—was kinda sorta a big deal. So too was the idea of temporarily replacing him with a new hero to carry on his legacy and (perhaps more importantly) keep his monthly title in circulation, which is something that happens to most superheroes at one point or another in their careers.

The new “Iron Man” received a bit of buzz upon initial announcement, on account of the fact that she wasn’t a man at all. Or even a woman. Instead, she’s 15-year-old super-genius Riri Williams, who was experimenting with her own suit of super-armor in her Chicago-area garage when Stark kinda sorta died. This book, with its rather convoluted title, is the first collecting the relaunched Invincible Iron Man with Riri Williams as the protagonist. The title character Tony Stark continues to appear, although now only in holographic form: He’s downloaded his consciousness to make for a very chatty operating system that can serve as Riri’s mentor/smart-ass Siri equivalent.

As a young black woman, Riri is a refreshing change of pace from Stark, the quintessential, Cold War-era, middle-aged white guy, dad-substitute superhero, and she stands out as a rarity in the Marvel Universe, even at a time in the publisher’s history when both the Thor and Wolverine titles (and superhero identities) are held by women, and Devil Dinosaur is teamed with another young black girl who is also a super-genius.

Riri hails from Chicago, and the epidemic of gun violence that has afflicted the city is part and parcel of her origin story; both her stepfather and her best friend are accidentally killed by stray gunfire, so her main way to relate to the rest of the world comes from her ambition to be a superhero.

These early issues reveal that backstory via flashback, while in the present day Riri receives the Tony Stark artificial intelligence holographic operating system, redesigns her clunky, Transformers-esque super-armor to resemble the sleek red-and-gold of Iron Man, meets Stark’s ex-girlfriend Pepper Potts (who goes by Rescue when in her armor) and battles villains from the previous volume of Bendis’ work on the Invincible Iron Man title.

Bendis has been writing Marvel comics, particularly those starring younger heroes, for so long now that these sorts of scripts must come to him without too much difficulty, as even at his absolute worst, Bendis is pretty good at this sort of thing. And this is hardly Bendis at his worst.

He ends this particular book with a pretty pressing cliffhanger, but given Riri’s almost certain temporary stewardship of the title, there’s a sort of inherent drama to her future that will seem just as urgent as any particular plot line’s complications. Although the fact that Bendis has gone so far as to give Riri her own superhero identity of “Ironheart”—Stark’s first few suggestions were Iron Girl, Iron Woman and Fe-Male, since “Fe” is the chemical symbol for “iron”—seems to ensure that she will have a place in the Marvel Universe indefinitely, no matter what happens when Stark inevitably returns.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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