Ironheart is the kind of character that inspires confidence that Marvel Comics knows what it’s doing for the future. A new young character with an incredible mind who’s still trying to figure out the ropes when it comes to being a hero. Brian Michael Bendis created this character in part because it inspires young people and adds representation in superhero comics where most are white. The first story arc is now out in trade paperback, featuring the first six issues as she manages to navigate her role at MIT, being a hero, and uncovering a villainous plot that may connect to her childhood.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Riri Williams, the armored hero called Ironheart who took the comics world by storm, takes center stage! When a group of world leaders is held hostage by one of Spider-Man’s old foes, Riri must step up her game. But she’s thrown for a loop when an old acquaintance from back in Chicago re-enters her life! Now, Ironheart is caught between her need for independence and her obligations at M.I.T. – and when an old friend is kidnapped, she needs to make some tough decisions! Luckily, Riri has a will of steel, a heart of iron…and a brand-new A.I. system on her side! CHAMPIONS artist Kevin Libranda joins award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing, as Ironheart steps boldly out of Tony Stark’s shadow to forge her own future!
Why does this matter?
This is a good start to a series I hope never goes away. Why does Tony Stark get to have all the iron-suit fun in the universe? The younger character also adds another character for younger readers to appreciate. Plus, it offers a chance to see Boston in the Marvel universe!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The collection opens in a way that many younger people will relate to. Riri doesn’t quite have a footing in the world, has suffered great loss, and just wants to be the best she can be. She’s at the age where she’s finding herself, but also living on her own. As the story plays out we get great examples of how smart she is with some clever problem solving that readers can even get in on. She must stop a sonic powered villain and uses science to find solutions in defeating him. That’s a refreshing example of how fists aren’t the only way for heroes to stop villains.
Early on, this collection introduces a few of Riri’s new inventions as she shows them off to a tour group at her MIT lab. One of the coolest things introduced is the A.I. Riri has yet to program. Ewing sets up this A.I. in an interesting way only a hyper-genius would think up and it actually comes full circle at the very end in a satisfying way. This A.I. plays an interesting role in Riri’s character development and it’s a clever way to draw out her emotions in the heat of battle and in other scenarios throughout the collection.
As the story unfolds we meet a new villain who comes complete with a full origin story. This ties into some street-level crimes but also connects to politics and a person close to Riri when she was little. It comes together nicely and it’ll be interesting to see how this villain is used going forward.
The pencils by Kevin Libranda and Luciano Vecchio are very clean and do a great job showing off the new suit. Riri may have her face showing on the cover, but the main use of the suit has a plated face which is sleek and very cool. The action has a manga feel to it, partly due to the speed lines, but the suit offers more dramatic poses you might not expect from a full metal suit. Character emotion feels genuine and real and I wouldn’t be surprised if these panels were drawn using a mirror. When Riri’s suit comes off or gets automatically attached to her it’s quite a cool sight. The many smaller pieces flow together nicely in an oddly satisfying way. The final issue, drawn by Libranda, has Riri running to save Miles Morales. The environments have an attention to detail that’s appreciated.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The plotting shifts quite a bit at times, throwing things off. With a flashback, a location change, and then reintroduction of Riri’s family in the second issue, there’s a lot to take in. All that while attempting to understand who and what this new threat is and how Ironheart fits into it. Oh, and Riri is figuring out her relationship with an A.I. on top of all that. The narrative also shifts location in an odd way with cool shots of Boston here and there early on, but then shifting everything away to be closer to Riri’s mom. The villain gets a bit repetitive too since Riri fights him, loses, fights him some more and loses again. The fight scenes seem to exist to add action, but don’t do much beyond that.
Is it good?
A great first collection that not only introduces the character well but sets up plenty of trials for Riri to deal with moving forward. From boyfriends to employers to understanding herself, Ewing and company have a winner on their hands. Riri is like a YA version of Iron Man, but even smarter and more interesting. Ironheart is a superhero for a more modern and hopeful era.
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