At just 15-years-old, RiRi Williams has experienced great loss. Her father, stepfather, and best friend were killed by random gun violence; the latter two right in front of her. The intelligent, tech-savvy teen grieves by diving even deeper into her designs and inventions. She eventually grabs the attention of Tony Stark, who hands her the title of Iron Man in his absence. But she’s still a young girl, working out the kinks in her armor and learning the superhero ropes. She may be a genius, but RiRi has a lot to learn. Enter Tony Stark’s advanced artificial intelligence to act as her guide.
The first volume of RiRi’s Invincible Iron Man, which consists of the first six issues, follow RiRi as she deals with repressed feelings for losing her best friend and how Tony Stark, along with his team, help her find her legs. In his own annoying, but well-intentioned way, Tony is the one who coins her superhero name: Ironheart — the girl who protects herself and her feelings by building armor tech.
Of course I have to mention that it’s not just her age and sex that sets RiRi apart from the Iron Man we’re used to: she’s also black. It’s an important time in comics right now, with many diverse titles (both the characters and the creators) getting a lot of attention for finally representing marginalized groups who’ve longed to see themselves reflected on the page. RiRi Williams makes a fantastic addition to the likes of Kamala Khan, America Chavez, Lunella Lafayette, and Amadeus Cho.
Though she’s the lead of this title, she’s not the only woman making an impact in this series. She has the help of Pepper Potts; Tony’s biological mother, Amanda Armstrong; Sharon Carter at S.H.I.E.L.D; Mary Jane Watson; and her own mother.
One of the reasons diverse titles have resonated with readers is the authenticity they bring to the people they represent. This series is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who, you may know, is not a black woman. Still, I’m impressed with the conversations between RiRi and Mrs. Williams in particular, but with the way RiRi speaks overall. She sounds like I did when I was that age, but a tad less brilliant.
Stefano Caselli’s art is also a highlight for the series. There’s great attention to detail in the hair of the African-American characters and RiRi’s facial expressions cover the spectrum to laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreaking in panels like the one in which she sees her best friend’s dead body in the hospital.
The volume ends with RiRi facing a big dilemma. She’s already taken down an Inhuman in the Japanese cartel, Techno Golem, with the help of Pepper Potts and her own quick thinking and fearless spirit. She’s so impressive that the leadership at Stark Industries want her to use Tony’s lab to continue her work and training. This is a definite step up from her garage at home. But she’s also offered workspace at M.I.T., and since she used materials there and their lab to build her suit, she’s worried that they may have a legal claim to it if she says no.
RiRi will have to make a decision fast as Lucia Von Bardas has evil plans to make Latveria great again, and Ironheart may be the only one who can stop her.
Reviews for Invincible Iron Man #7 and #8 will be up within the week, and monthly reviews will begin with issue #9.
Invincible Iron Man - Vol. 1
"Vol. 1: RiRi Williams"
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Stefano Caselli | Cover Artist: Marte Garcia | Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles