Ironheart: Meant to Fly is a book I want to love. A young, Black, genius teenage girl from Chicago building her own suit of armor and using it to help her community deserves to be a new Runaways’ or Ms. Marvel. What’s disappointing is this book flirts with that greatness, but too often pulls back from what I think makes Riri Williams special.
That doesn’t mean everything is bad here, or even that it’s mostly bad. I enjoyed my time with the story, and I particularly love this format that Marvel is employing. Twelve issues collected in a size reminiscent of a First Second graphic novel rather than a TPB doesn’t feel like the fresh new idea that Marvel maybe thinks it is, but it is fun, and the $13 price tag means this is the most affordable print product Marvel has to offer. Even if I have some reservations with it, this comic would make for a great and affordable gift for anyone who is interested in superheroes and wants an entry point.
Along those lines, this serves as a great introduction to Riri. I’m actually not sure if I had read anything with her in it besides Civil War II before reading this, and throughout the story I’m totally sold on her as a character, and I do like her character arc throughout the series. It gives you plenty of reasons to root for her and she has relatable faults. Again, while I do think this misses the mark in some places, I still think this does a good job showcasing why Ironheart is a great concept for a character.
But the problems remain. Overall, the story works, but I think it loses me when it changes focus in the back half. To me, Ironheart isn’t interesting because she’s Iron Man Jr and has inherited his villains. The model for what an Ironheart series could be would be a mixture of Nighthawk and Ms. Marvel, and to its credit, it shines when it flashes a light on social and racial inequalities. My favorite moment and issue of the book has Riri’s focus turn to her city’s problems, and it really works when it does that. Writer Eve Ewing clearly knows what she’s talking about when she talk about Chicago (just look to her wonderful Twitter threads) and when she focuses on that the series sings. I just wish there were more of that.
And really, this kind of feels like a problem of format. As much as I love this collection as a physical object, it isn’t a 264 page story, it’s twelve 20 pages ones, and it wasn’t designed to be sold, or told, really, in this fashion. While I don’t know at all if it would change the story, I do wonder if Ewing would have made other choices when writing this if she didn’t have to sell a monthly book and instead was given the opportunity to write a 200 page comic instead.
Even then, this is a book that I’d recommend, at least at the $13 price point. There’s some genuinely great stuff here, even if I think it’s also a bit of a missed opportunity.
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