Tony Stark is going to have to learn how to live with Riri Williams, and vice versa. The two holders of the Iron Man mantel are astoundingly similar despite their polar opposite backgrounds, and those similarities and differences will, no doubt, result in a few explosions.
This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man #1.
Marvel had already introduced Riri Williams to us once before, but Invincible Iron Man, Vol 3 #1 gave us a much better look into the life of the 15-year-old MIT engineering student.
You know Tony Stark: billionaire inventor of the Iron Man suit and founder of the Avengers. He’s great. He’s cool. He’s helped start two civil wars. He’s a white dude with an ego bigger than the Avengers’s comics Mansion and cinematic Tower combined. He comes from a privileged background and, despite everything he’s been through and everything he’s learned, there’s no changing that.
Then there’s our next Iron Man (Iron Girl? Iron Person? Ironheart). She’s a girl genius, a young black woman whose loving step-father and best friend died in one tragedy: a park picnic abruptly ended by a drive-by shooting that resulted in both of their deaths. Now, she’s got her mom and a garage full of stolen engineering equipment that she fashioned into a suit. Riri’s story couldn’t possibly be any more different from Tony’s.
Yet, despite their backgrounds, Tony and Riri are remarkably similar.
Brian Michael Bendis, one of the writers behind Riri in Invincible Iron Man, told Inverse, “[Riri’s] value system and the way she was raised, where she was raised, they’re completely different than Tony’s, and yet they came to the same conclusion: building and wearing the armor to represent something.”
Riri and Tony’s overlapping story arcs just go to show that two very different people with two very different backgrounds can come together, work together, and create something wonderful.
And yet, how can there not be problems between the two in the future?
The end of Invincible Iron Man #1 has an A.I. of Tony Stark being hand-delivered to Riri. She spends the whole first issue dealing with her own slow-to-respond model, so having Tony’s mind at her disposal will, undoubtedly, be beneficial to Riri’s mission. She’s bouncing up and down with excitement over Tony’s gift, but we imagine her mood won’t remain that way.
Despite their similarities — their genius-level intellects, engineering abilities, and desire to help people — Riri’s background is going to define her in a way that is completely different from Tony. She’s a young black woman who’s known careless violence and who built her own flying suit as a teenager — she’s miles ahead of Tony both socially and intellectually.
Tony’s used to being in control. There’s nothing more he likes than being right. He’ll act as Riri’s J.A.R.V.I.S. while she’s flying and fighting, but while J.A.R.V.I.S. was snarky at best, we imagine Tony will get downright difficult to work with.
On top of everything, Riri is going to have to deal with Tony’s attitude and privileged background. For once, Tony will have to take a backseat, and watching their relationship unfold throughout the course of the series will be half the fun.