Who Is Riri Williams?
Get to know the hero known as Ironheart with her complete comics history!
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It’s not the suit that makes the person, it’s the person who makes the suit—for young Riri Williams, the latter works as a double entendre and the truth. Riri hasn’t been part of the Marvel Universe for a long time, but her impact is as powerful as the energy powering her Ironheart suit. So, how did this new kid on the block become such a memorable character? Let’s dive into her journey from a young Black girl on the South Side of Chicago to a fulltime Super Hero on par with any Avenger.
TRAGIC BUT HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Riri Williams, named after her late father, was introduced back in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2015) #7. Although she only appeared on one page, her dedication to her craft was as loud and clear as the door she slammed in the faces of those interrupting her in an M.I.T. dormitory. Turns out, she was busy tinkering with an Iron Man armor after daring herself with the task.
Soon after, she made two-to-three-page appearances that continued to grow her presence in the Marvel Universe. It wasn’t until Tony Stark went missing that her budding curiosity turned into a journey to become a Super Hero. In her first go in the Iron Man suit, she stopped an escape at the New Mexico State Penitentiary.
Unlike other young heroes, Riri did not receive powers through an accident or outside circumstance. Instead, she pieced together her own armor using her intellect and the materials she found. She quite literally forged her own path. She didn’t meet Tony Stark until INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2015) #12, and even then, it’s not your typical meet-and-greet. As Riri’s mom frantically asked her to show her what she’d been working on, Tony showed up and gave his approval of Riri’s Iron Man helmet.
In INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2016) #1 we get into Riri’s tragic origin story. When she was five years old, her mother and stepfather learned she was a super-genius. Educators tasked them to remind Riri that the world was a beautiful place worth exploring. Unfortunately, Riri received a painful lesson at the tender age of ten that the world can also be very ugly. Both her best friend and stepfather were killed in a shooting and her life was irrevocably shaken.
Fast forward to the present day, and Riri was holding her own in a bulky Iron Man suit without A.I. She managed to defeat a mutant named Animax. Soon after, she received an A.I. copy of Tony Stark’s consciousness who acted like her Jarvis—which helped her be more efficient in her armor. She even teamed up with Pepper Potts against Tomoe the Techno Golem and her ninjas.
Yes, Riri Williams helped Doctor Doom, who had taken up the Iron Man mantle while Tony Stark was still out of the picture. In INFAMOUS IRON MAN (2016), Riri sought out Doctor Doom to tell him that he couldn’t continue being Iron Man because he was tarnishing Tony’s legacy. However, the two found common ground in their boredom with academic curriculums. The next thing Riri knew, she was helping Doctor Doom on a spiritual journey by hitting him with a level nine repulsor GBDs a few times.
Riri found herself on the receiving end of several opportunities, from being offered Tony Stark’s old lab by his mother, Amanda Armstrong, to being approached by M.I.T to use their facilities, to then being offered a spot on the Champions team. All of which came after she got involved with a conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Latverian army. She subsequently became the new Queen of Latveria. Riri brought peace to the country long enough to help them pave the way to their first free election!
KICKING WITH THE CHAMPIONS
Soon after her time in Latveria, all hell broke loose when Hydra launched a massive attack on the American government under the hand of a fascist doppelganger of Captain America. During her time working with the Underground, Riri got closer to the Champions team. And, once they left the Underground, Riri went with them. Under the guidance of Black Widow, Ironheart, the Champions, the Red Room, and Spider-Man all worked together to figure out a plan to take down Captain America. However, she and the rest of the Champions were arrested after Black Widow was murdered by Cap, but were later freed by the Underground when they attacked Washington, D.C.—which led to the defeat of Hydra and the return of the original Captain America. For her trouble, Riri received an opportunity to visit the distant future thanks to the sentient Cosmic Cube, Kobik. While there, she met the Sorcerer Supreme, Tony Stark, and was inspired to continue working on her own future.
Ironheart didn’t become an official member of the Champions until after she was invited to take part in a think tank founded by Leonardo da Vinci who intended to create something to stand in place of the defunct S.H.I.E.L.D. She helped rescue Amika Aliyak and her team with the help of Alpha Flight and went to outer space to help Nova save the Chitauri from genocide. Being the Tony Stark protégé she is, Riri even attempted to take on Thanos, but he disintegrated her armor. If it weren’t for her teammates fighting on behalf of Thanos against the Warbringer, Thanos wouldn’t have spared her life. It was good that Viv Vision was there to help her work on a new iteration of Ironheart armor, which was inspired by the Chitauri they had fought. (INFINITY COUNTDOWN: CHAMPIONS #2)
Riri resigned from the Champions after being triggered by the shooting at Miles Morales’ school but would rejoin with the team when it was time to rescue missing members Nova and Nadia Pym from another dimension akin to a fantasy RPG. Riri became a noble Paladin by the name of Lady Ironheart!
A KISS FROM VIV
During their quest together to save Nova Knight and Wicked Wasp, Viv Vision realized she had romantic feelings for Riri. Viv kissed her, and due to her social awkwardness, Riri found herself unable to articulate what that meant. This put a strain on her presence with the Champions. Eventually, Riri was confronted by Viv who wanted a resolution for her romantic confession, but Riri remained unable to provide the closure that Viv sought. This led to Riri avoiding the Champions for an extended period. Viv finally apologized to Riri for putting her in such an awkward situation, which helped snap Riri out of Blackheart’s control and allowed her to defeat him. Once things settled, Riri resolved things between her and Viv by letting her know that she was happy to be friends but that she couldn’t return Viv’s romantic feelings.
IRONHEART (2018) #1 starts with Riri no longer with the Champions. She accepted the offer from M.I.T. to have her own lab. There, she continued to work on her own armor and A.I. system. During her time on campus she also fought the villain Clash, who gave her a token of the Ten Rings after she defeated him (leading to a potential villain era that was thankfully cut short).
Shortly after, Riri found that the A.I. she had developed had been scanning and compositing her brainwaves and memories, and had taken the form of an aged-up version of her late best friend, Natalie. Riri dubbed the A.I., Neuro-Autonomous Technical Assistant & Laboratory Intelligence Entity. With the help of N.A.T.A.L.I.E., Ironheart would return home to Chicago to investigate the disappearance of an old childhood friend named Daija Hamilton. This would lead her to encounter the Ten Rings agent, Midnight’s Fire, who was using corrupt politician Thomas Birch to hold Daija and other children hostage.
Riri received reward money for uncovering the Birch conspiracy and selling the patent for the technology she created to find Daija. With the money, she dropped out of M.I.T. to establish a new base of operations.
After Riri uncovered the villain Eclipse was behind the zombie outbreak in Chicago, she realized she needed some magical assistance. She consulted Doctor Strange, who showed her that the Wellspring symbol she recognized was in Wakanda. With the help of Tony Stark, Riri was able to find passage into Wakanda, which led to a bit of a rocky start between her and Shuri, who didn’t appreciate it. The two quickly buried the hatchet and dispelled an invasion of Shadow creatures coming from the Wellspring. Much later, Riri would return to Wakanda to help assemble an armada for their space program. She even took part in a battle for Wakanda against N’Jadaka’s army.
Following the enactment of the Underground Superhuman Welfare Act, which outlawed teenager vigilantism, Riri was forced to give up the mantle of Ironheart. This caused friction between her and N.A.T.A.L.I.E. because the A.I. felt she should confront Andre Sims, an industrial saboteur. The two fell out even further once Sims’ software corrupted N.A.T.A.L.I.E. The A.I. attacked Sims on its own, and although Riri managed to bring the A.I. system back to her senses, Riri was still left with no choice but to put her armor in storage.
Riri has since been back in her Ironheart armor and worked with the Champions to take down C.R.A.D.L.E. and discredit the masterminds behind Kamala’s Law. It all culminated with Ironheart and the Champions able to go back to being heroes. Riri even went on to meet her idol Storm while assisting the Marauders. Not bad at all for a kid from the Southside of Chicago.
All comics mentioned are available to check out and read on Marvel Unlimited!
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