Writer: Eve L. Ewing / Artist: Kevin Libranda & Luciano Vecchio / Marvel Comics
What is apparent, from the very first panels of Ironheart #1, is that Riri is set to have her most authentic voice to date. The personality and backstory is well known for Riri Williams and Ewing’s pen doesn’t stray from those stone-etched markers. However, the language has more nuance and a sense of identity in it than the version of Riri we were introduced to. Whether it’s quoting Maya Angelou or using localized AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) in discourse with friends or the heat of battle, the shift of the character is noticeable. It isn’t swung like a hammer. Riri isn’t going to look unrecognizable to anyone that has read her in the Invincible Iron Man or Champions runs. But it is the difference between telling the story of an extraordinaire teenage girl who happens to be Black and telling the story of an extraordinary Black teenage girl. Ewing’s story for Riri seems very much planted in the latter and that should be very exciting for those looking for unique stories that don’t play lip-service or just check the box in regards to diversity of characters.
As for the story itself, we pick up with Riri back at MIT with her own lab. While the opportunity and access is an amazing one, the story does a good job of identifying what the cost is for all of that opportunity. Whether its who she has to answer to or who she has to let into her space, it highlights the weaknesses that Riri still has, namely her social interactions with people as opposed to tech. The balance is good, as it’s very easy for Riri to be some perfect model of human potential, but that’s not the story we’re given. For every clever comeback during battle or ingenious tactic to save people, Riri still doesn’t know how to interact with large groups of people to make polite conversation and carries an insecurity about what she doesn’t do well. It’s necessary to ground a character who is smart enough to figure out any intellectual problem.
While Ewing’s script is fun and compelling throughout, Libranda and Vechchio’s pencils are just as complimentary. They have struck a nice balance for Riri’s character model, showing a slightly aged but still youthful protagonist. Much conversation has been made about Riri’s new suit, and I personally had some reservations when it was introduced. Seeing it in action, however, is a treat. The sleek design and fluidity really make the suit look like an extension of the character compared to her just piloting it. The downtime is good, and the action sequences are excellent. It really pops with the representation of the powers involved, Riri’s HUD, etc. Just an overall great looking book.
Ironheart #1 is a great start that feels both like a continuation of Riri’s story and a new arc with a bit more agency assigned to her. Ewing writes a compelling script that feels fun and authentic, coupled with some excellent art to usher the story along. If issue #2 is any indication, Riri has a very bright future ahead of her.
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