Months ago it was announced that Marvel would essentially be race and gender-bending Iron Man by handing the book over to a teenage genius named Riri Williams. Fans were not given much to work with in terms of the new character’s background, other than Brian Michael Bendis’ claim that she was “probably” smarter than the billionaire philanthropist (who would go missing before Invincible Iron Man relaunched).
IIM is now on the market, but technically Tony Stark is still around due to delays with Civil War II. That means that many customers who purchased Riri’s debut issue reached the last page and had the same reaction I did: “What the heck happened to Tony Stark?! We weren’t told in IIM 14 and we weren’t told in Infamous Iron Man #1. Thanks a lot, Bendis.”
Here is what you need to know for IIM #1:
- A flashback sequence includes a Steve Harvey lookalike telling Riri Williams’ family that she is a “super genius.” She was five years old at the time of the diagnosis.
- Riri’s stepfather and best friend were killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago two years ago. Riri would have likely died had her stepdad not pushed her to the ground.
- Teenage Riri, now in her Ironheart armor, flies to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to take on the mutant Animax and her genetically created monsters. The A.I. in the Riri’s suit is horrible, but eventually Animax is defeated.
- Cops (seemingly raaaaaaacist because they come from Wyoming and are not as enlightened as Brian Michael Bendis and his pals in New York City…), see the color of Riri’s skin and then shoot her armored hemet between the eyes without warning. After shooting her they say, “On the ground now!” and “Dude! Weapons down!” (Note: Check out the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” pose on Riri before a bullet pings off her helmet. Subtlety is not Marvel’s strong suit these days.)
- Riri crushes the officers’ handguns and takes off.
- A mysterious package arrives at Riri’s house. She pushes the button as her mother watches next to her. The “essence” of Tony Stark, an A.I. version of the genius billionaire, says it’s time to “get to work.”
Here’s the deal: Technically, there is nothing wrong with Invincible Iron Man. It’s a decent first issue for a character, but the problem for Iron Man fans is that decent isn’t good enough when a writer is trying to replace Tony Stark.
Making matters worse for Mr. Bendis is the fact that Iron Man fans are being asked to fork over cash for his replacement (temporary, it seems safe to assume, as long as Robert Downey Jr. is starring in Marvel Studios films), without knowing what happens to him by the end of Civil War II.
Right now Mr. Bendis is using A.I. Tony Stark like Dan Slott used “ghost Peter” during Superior Spider-Man, hoping fans will be placated enough by a talking shadow to keep the book on their comic shop pull list. That’s a tall order, and it’s made even more difficult by the politically correct predictions already being thrown about by industry reviewers.
Inverse reported Nov. 11:
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. …
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.
Got that, Tony Stark fans? The prediction, which seems to be a safe bet, is that Brian Michael Bendis will spend the next year flogging you over the head with weird messages about “white privilege.”
This issue it was those darn racist cops from Wyoming, but next issue perhaps it will be A.I. Tony Stark letting you know that he is “socially and intellectually” behind the power curve.
My suggestion, at least for now, is to hold off on buying Invincible Iron Man until a.) Civil War II concludes, and b.) Bendis proves to readers that he is going to keep racial politics to an absolute minimum.
Update: I’ve uploaded my latest YouTube review: “Brian Michael Bendis’ obsession with racial politics returns in Iron Man relaunch.” Check it for extended coverage of the writer’s “Hands up, don’t shoot!” politics that were inserted into the issue.