As has been mentioned multiple times in TSL Comic Book Convo, Riri Williams is now Iron Man and Invincible Iron Man #1 picks up with Riri aka Iron Heart fighting her first superpowered villain.
First off, the writing was rather daring. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, the story is non-linear and jumps back and forth from the present day to pivotal moments in Riri’s childhood. Though the fate of his physical body kind of ambiguous, 15-year-old Riri is being trained and guided by an artificial intelligence version of Tony Starks that was created by its narcissistic template in case he died.
And the A.I. arrives just in time because, though Riri’s armor is advanced, her homemade computer isn’t capable of safely controlling her suit of armor, which has an untold number of integrated systems that must work in unison.
Invincible Iron Man #1‘s first page begins ten years in the past as RIri’s mother and stepmother sit in the principal’s office while little Riri waits outside the glass doors. The principal tells Riri’s parents that she is acting out in class due to boredom and that her mind needs to be stimulated. But he also cautions the Williams family not to compromise her childhood and humanity, and that she needs to be constantly reaffirmed lest she disappear inside of her own mind in favor of numbers, equations and theorems.
Then, boom, the reader is taken back to the present as Riri battles Animex, a moderately troublesome X-Men villain. During this battle, the reader is taken back again. This time it’s five years ago, at the time when Riri meets her best friend, Natalie. The tech geek, gear head Riri and Natalie seem perfectly balanced for friendship. With Natalie being outgoing and talkative, and Riri being the recluse inventor, they hit it off well.
Though they were initially vague to me, these flashes to the past are meant to give Riri Williams a full backstory without having to use an entire book to do so. After four pages in the past, we’re back to modern times and Riri is in clear and present danger at the hands of Animex. But after several panic attacks, Riri figures out how to defeat Animex via a Youtube video of a prior battle with the X-Men. That’s learning in the digital age, ladies and gentleman!
Just as things are getting hairy on the battlefield, the reader is taken into Riri’s past yet again. This time it’s two years ago and Riri and Natalie are at a picnic with Riri’s mother and stepfather. Riri is complaining about her parents, as teenagers often do, and Natalie is trying to convince her how lucky she is to have a mother and father who actually love her.
Shots ring out in a crowded park, and both Natalie and Riri’s stepfather are mortally wounded. It was at that moment I wanted to put the book down. I get so tired of everyone (Black, White and Other) weaving black death into creative works in order to make it more “real”.
Initially, for a brief period of time, it came off as a cheap trick. Then, throw in the fact that Riri’s real father was also killed in a shooting, and the cold, almost alive but definitely deceased face of Natalie gazing emptily back at Riri from a hospital gurney made it all too real.
I, like many others, read comic books to escape. I don’t want to be reminded of the fragility of life or the horrors of raising a family in the inner city, I just want to be entertained.
But, right in the middle of my fan tantrum, I remembered that this was a first issue, and first issues are meant to give insight into the character. Really good characters have really troublesome backstories. Heck, look at Uncle Ben and Spider-Man, but even that tragic tale was child’s play compared to the way these deaths were written and illustrated. Emotional and fast moving, Invincible Iron Man #1 is a damn good book.
Also, major props go out to Stefano Caseli for drawing black phenotypes very well. The rounded noses, full lips, mocha and chocolate skin tones, as well as age and culture appropriate hairdos, were greatly appreciated. You could definitely tell that both Caseli and colorist Marte Garcia studied black faces and skin color. And the only reason I can tell is because most mainstream comic artists simply draw a figure and paint it black, making it look like a white person that they just colored to look black.
There was initially a great deal of controversy surrounding what critics called a serialized variant cover upon which Riri is depicted as having a midriff shirt. There was also concern about coloration on the cover, but none of those issues were in the book.
Well written, beautifully illustrated and even daring in some ways, Invincible Iron Man #1 was the ideal send off for one of Marvel’s newest heroes. Invincible Iron Man #2 was released in December and Invincible Iron Man #3 is due to drop later this week.
Look, I know everybody’s jockstrap is rubbing them the wrong way over all the changes going on in the Marvel Universe but Riri Williams is Iron Man aka Iron Heart, for now. Plus, you get a cool Tony Starks hologram. So, hanging in there and keep reading.