stark-hologram

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.

animax

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.

riri-williams

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.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

22 comments

  1. I’ve never understood this need to sideline major characters like Iron Man in the name of diversity. Why not create a new minority character and let him or her stand on their own two feet?

    1. “I’ve never understood this need to sideline major characters like Iron Man in the name of diversity. Why not create a new minority character and let him or her stand on their own two feet?”

      Carl, Carl, Carl… How many times do I have to tell you, my friend? Your Marvel Comics career is going to be dead in the water as long as you keep up this annoying habit of using logic and reason. 😉

    2. I have heard the argument that it’s very hard to create new characters period, so making a new character a legacy one is one way to maximizing their chances of staying long term. I don’t know about that (esp. since the originals always come back eventually), but that is one line of thinking.

      On the other hand, a new character means new kinds of stories that can be told, since a different character will react differently to similar circumstances. For example, take “Ultimate Spider-Man.” The Peter Parker era was new spin on the classic idea; he becomes a superhero because he made some serious mistakes and is somewhere between penance and living out the lessons he learned the hard way. The Miles Morales era was the story of someone trying to live up to a legend and carry on a legacy. That’s a different story and one that could not have been told with Peter.

      Personally, when this question comes up, my first question is: can the superhero in question work as a legacy character (which is subjective, to some extent). If the answer is “yes,” then I don’t really see the major problem; a successor could be anyone, so why not a someone of a different minority? I mean, case in point, it’s irrelevant if Miles Morales is black/Hispanic, or white, or whatever. The character caught on, not because of a diversity gimmick, but because people like the character. Who’s to say that the same won’t happen with RiRi Williams (Every character is someone’s favorite, and I think it’s safe to say that there will be some readers for whom Williams is the “real” Iron Man).

      Also, Williams isn’t the only Iron Man now, Doctor Doom (a white guy, interestingly enough) is taking on the title as well. While I know very little about either, it sounds more like a setup of a conflict over who’s is the true successor to Iron Man and worth to wear the red-and-yellow gold-titanium alloy and less of a “PC stunt.”

      (I’ve gathered that my “what’s the big deal?” opinions on this topic are not very popular on this blog, so all of this is IMHO, me thinking out loud, your millage may vary, et cetera, et cetera.)

    3. “Personally, when this question comes up, my first question is: can the superhero in question work as a legacy character (which is subjective, to some extent). If the answer is ‘yes,’ then I don’t really see the major problem; a successor could be anyone, so why not a someone of a different minority? I mean, case in point, it’s irrelevant if Miles Morales is black/Hispanic, or white, or whatever. The character caught on, not because of a diversity gimmick, but because people like the character. Who’s to say that the same won’t happen with RiRi Williams (Every character is someone’s favorite, and I think it’s safe to say that there will be some readers for whom Williams is the ‘real’ Iron Man).”

      Let’s do this merry-go-round again for new readers… There is zero problem if a natural successor takes on the mantle of a hero. If Iron Man were to die, then at this point people would accept Rhodey. If Steve Rogers goes down, then it makes sense for Falcon to pick up his shield and carry on since the creative foundation has long been built.

      This is not the case with all the changes that Marvel is mandating “NOW!” In fact, the “Marvel NOW!” tagline is quite appropriate and telling because it’s like Axel Alonso and his friends are screaming in your face, “Accept this! NOW! The beatings will continue until morale improves!”

      Well, no. People do not like blatantly creative shortcuts, and they really don’t like it if those shortcuts “cut” out their favorite character for a political agenda. Again, we can’t even get a Riri launch without racial politics being inserted into the book with the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” junk. (And let’s not get into how that entire phrase was shown in court to be a total fiction.)

      “Also, Williams isn’t the only Iron Man now, Doctor Doom (a white guy, interestingly enough) is taking on the title as well. While I know very little about either, it sounds more like a setup of a conflict over who’s is the true successor to Iron Man and worth to wear the red-and-yellow gold-titanium alloy and less of a “PC stunt.”

      Yay! Marvel killed the white guy for weird political purposes and then made sure the only other “Iron Man” was … and evil white guy named Doctor Doom. Thanks, Marvel. You rock. No, you’re totally not spitting in the face of long-time fans. Not all all. It’s totally innocuous.

      (I’ve gathered that my “what’s the big deal?” opinions on this topic are not very popular on this blog, so all of this is IMHO, me thinking out loud, your millage may vary, et cetera, et cetera.)

      It’s not that your “what’s the big deal?” questions “are not very popular” — it’s that you ask a question like that and then when you don’t like the evidence people provide to back up their anger you downplay it as “not a big deal.” Marvel’s sales compared to D.C. these days show that it is a big deal. But if guys like you want to play ostrich about it, then by all means continue on. People did that on a national level on Nov. 8, and then were shocked (shocked, I tell you!) at the election results. That’s why Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos are in their underground safe spaces right now.

      Also, Williams isn’t the only Iron Man now, Doctor Doom (a white guy, interestingly enough) is taking on the title as well. While I know very little about either, it sounds more like a setup of a conflict over who’s is the true successor to Iron Man and worth to wear the red-and-yellow gold-titanium alloy and less of a “PC stunt.”

      (I’ve gathered that my “what’s the big deal?” opinions on this topic are not very popular on this blog, so all of this is IMHO, me thinking out loud, your millage may vary, et cetera, et cetera.)

    4. Weblurker, thank you for sharing your views. Now I shall share mine as well.

      First off Ultimate Spider-Man started in a different universe so he did not replace the 616 Peter making it easier to embrace. With that said he was successful, but the run was losing steam and the sales were not heading in a good direction (the whole Ultimate universe was sinking).

      Second Miles was a well written character so he was embraced, this is different than replacing the long term character and beating the reader in the head about how much better they are than the original. This transition was well done in the past with Thor (not she Thor), Eric Masterson took over and he was clearly a rookie trying to live up the the legend, the whole story showed respect to the original Thor Eventually Eric proved he was truly worthy and Odin gave him his own magical mace when Thor came back.

      There is nothing wrong with replacing a legacy character with a minority character, I do not think you will find any issue against that here. One problem is that Marvel likes using diversity as a marketing tool and then they double down on disrespecting people by always making the changes short term gimmicks. If you are going to make a change be ready to make it permanent or else the readers will just see it as another shock stunt for a temporary boost in sales. If Marvel would take the time to develop a new minority character they could grow the brand and show creativity.

      How creative is it to just slap a new person in the costume? If anything Marvel is being disrespectful to minorities by not making new characters and just giving them temp jobs as a marketing tactic since it gets media attention and short term boosts in sales. If Marvel really cared they would take time and expand the universe with real character integration, just like we see in the real world, unlike Dan Slott’s (I am sure you are reading this Dan) twisted view that you have to take from one group to even things. Natural growth will provide balance and true growth and diversity. The method Marvel uses causes abrupt change and division and clearly it has not had great long term impact on the brand and sales.

    5. “Carl, Carl, Carl… How many times do I have to tell you, my friend? Your Marvel Comics career is going to be dead in the water as long as you keep up this annoying habit of using logic and reason.😉”

      Ha ha. Logic is very much anathema to Marvel Comics these days, as is reason.

      “I have heard the argument that it’s very hard to create new characters period, so making a new character a legacy one is one way to maximizing their chances of staying long term. I don’t know about that (esp. since the originals always come back eventually), but that is one line of thinking.”

      I disagree with that argument myself. Plenty of non-comics writers have created new characters that were successful over the years. It’s not hard to do. In the book I’m trying to get published, there are a couple of minority characters that I created from scratch. It’s easy to do, if you actually make the effort, but Marvel isn’t interested in doing that. They’re more concerned about filling up quotas set for them by SJWs on Tumblr and Twitter.

      “Well, no. People do not like blatantly creative shortcuts, and they really don’t like it if those shortcuts “cut” out their favorite character for a political agenda. Again, we can’t even get a Riri launch without racial politics being inserted into the book with the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” junk. (And let’s not get into how that entire phrase was shown in court to be a total fiction.)”

      I don’t have any weird racial politics in my book at all. Why? Because it’s 2016, and also because it’s a contemporary fantasy adventure story. People do not want to read about politics in what should be escapist fare. They want to get away from the real world for a while.

    6. The most political I get in my book is when I have a character call out politicians who spend most of their time golfing and also where the main character’s love interest, a telepathic woman who likes guns, criticizes the idea of gun-free zones (they visit a prison where their weapons are confiscated from them), but that’s it.

  2. Is it the fact that she’s appearing in the Iron Man title the reason you say she’s replacing Tony? Because they’re not calling her Iron Man, I think (to be honest, I burned out on Bendis’s Iron Man months ago, with all this Civil War stupidity – I just don’t feel like he can pay anything off for all the setup he’s done, after what he did with X-Men).

    1. “Is it the fact that she’s appearing in the Iron Man title the reason you say she’s replacing Tony?”

      When she originally was introduced in IIM at MIT, she made herself a Riri-ized version of Stark’s armor just to see if she could do it. Then, the two met and he sort of saw her as a protégé. She now essentially has Stark armor with Tony A.I. serving as her J.A.R.V.I.S.

      For all intents and purposes, Riri Williams is Iron Man. And since Bendis has said that she is “probably” smarter than Tony, well … he’s basically trying to force you into accepting her in the role. If you don’t, then I guess you’re like the “raaaaaacist” cops in Wyoming that shot at her the moment they realized she wasn’t “the” Iron Man.

    2. Correct, you can even see Riri on the cover in MPQ instead of Tony even though you play the character as Tony.

      She is clearly another replacement.

  3. About all the replacements of the last years I came with a answer that explain why Marvel is doing it right now and posted it on Vine, I called it the Slottification of the Marvel Universe or The Troll Era of Marvel. Let me explain:

    All begins with Superior Spider-Man, Peter was replaced with DockOck and took his body and life and Slott did everything in his power to downplay the supporting cast and humiliating Peter, just to anger the fans, Peter only comeback after more than a year and at time of TASM2. SSM was a big fat gimmick, it did well sales wise (better than ASM title lacerated after One More Day) and the relaunch (boosted by Peter return and the new movie) was even bigger. So Marvel saw it is the perfect formula to increase the sales in normal periods and boost even more when a new Marvel movie is released. So Marvel replicated the same thing with other heroes, just like a cake recipe:
    1 – Substitute the superhero.and keep him away for a very long time.
    2 – Broke the hero, humiliate him and wreck his world, the fans will be angered and they want this.
    3 – Bring the hero back for the relaunch. AH, the aftermath… Who cares?

    However, Marvel added one more ingredient: The replacement have to be of a different gender or race, Miles Morales worked in 2011, why not put one more gimmick and advance the political agenda Marvel writers have?

    The problem is they did with all main Marvel heroes at once. And the Marvel Universe now seems empty and much less interesting. Worst indeed, all the knife twisting they do with the white male heroes plus the diverse substitutes are seeing as a form of punishment for this characters just because they are white and the fans don’t take this well.

    The worst part is the necessity to disrespect the characters and insult the fans, it happened in SSM because Slott is a narcissistic Prima Donna that can’t take criticism and take pleasure in punish and troll the fans. They turned one of his worst behaviors and turned it in a Success formula.

    1. “About all the replacements of the last years I came with a answer that explain why Marvel is doing it right now and posted it on Vine, I called it the Slottification of the Marvel Universe or The Troll Era of Marvel.”

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Black Suit. Let me say that your observations are incredibly insightful and some of the most impressive I’ve seen on this topic in the last few years.

      The problem is they did with all main Marvel heroes at once. And the Marvel Universe now seems empty and much less interesting. Worst indeed, all the knife twisting they do with the white male heroes plus the diverse substitutes are seeing as a form of punishment for this characters just because they are white and the fans don’t take this well.”

      Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. What you’ve done is a creative series of mortar fire that just landed on Marvel’s collective head.

      Marvel rushed to implement a political agenda, and you cannot do that without angering fans. Worse, the political agenda is being implemented by Axel “hobby for white guys” Alonso. (because who wouldn’t be insulted by saying Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and countless other creators treated their vocation — their craft — as a “hobby.”).

      Indeed, there is creative “knife-twisting,” and all one needs to do to see them admit to the did is to spent a bit of time on Twitter. The more political guys are happy to call you “evil” if you disagree with them.

      “The worst part is the necessity to disrespect the characters and insult the fans, it happened in SSM because Slott is a narcissistic Prima Donna that can’t take criticism and take pleasure in punish and troll the fans. They turned one of his worst behaviors and turned it in a Success formula.”

      Yep. There is a cultural in the current Marvel offices that seems to encourage its creators to be combative with fans. Thin-skinned activist-writers see themselves as moral freedom fighters when, in reality, their blind ideology turns them into officers for the Thought Police and wannabe tyrants.

      Again, great comment. I really appreciate it, Black Suit. We need more guys like you on message boards across the internet who are willing to expose Marvel’s cadre of Orwellian editors, writers, and artists.

    2. Thanks! The political preaching and clear social agenda that Marvel implements is part of the problem, but not the biggest one. The main problem that is ruining Marvel Comics is the total lack of creative motivation and the blatant and unashamed commercial motivation of the editorial team.

      As I said, all the replacements are gimmicks to boost sales when the hero comes back in relaunch the title that is tied with the new Marvel movie. The heroes will come back with the movies and the scrappy replacement will be kaput, we all know that. Add to this they trying to propel characters like Captain Marvel and the boring Inhumans putting them in everything at point of annoyance and, for many fans, it seems that Marvel comics are completely subservient to the movies and not a independent media with a life of its own. If we hate set up movies, just imagine how we hate an entire set up media.

      We also have the never end cycle of Big Events with heroes fighting heroes and acting like jerks and the several relaunches of the last years and we see that everything that don’t serve the movies and don;t boost sales are just vetoed, we don’t see character development or they having a moment of triumph or a good personal life. Civil War II is the quintesential example of what is bad with Marvel right now.

      The diversity push just add insult to the injury. Fans are upset and when they complain they are framed as racist and bigots and it just alienate them even more.

    3. “The diversity push just add insult to the injury. Fans are upset and when they complain they are framed as racist and bigots and it just alienate them even more.”

      I could almost understand Marvel’s decision to shove politics into the books if it was filling some sort of cultural gap — but it’s not. Everywhere you turn these days you’re bombarded with political lectures. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, television, etc. … Is it so much to ask that my Marvel comics don’t serve as supplementary reading material for some kids Gender Studies 101 class?

  4. Expect even more of this, because the people at Marvel will now see themselves as courageously standing up against Trump. Because, you know, Marvel comics have such an impact on voting and public policy.

    In the end, Marvel’s people are powerless before the force of the marketplace. The marketplace chewed up and spat out every single one of Dan Slott’s characters — Jackpot, Carlie Cooper, Alpha. The only exception was Anna Marie Marconi. Civil War 2 is proving to be, if not a flop, then a major under-performer. And regardless of the incessant hype, She-Thor hasn’t sold all that well. Miles Morales’ title is selling at a mediocre level. The recent Mockingbird series was a flop.

    It will work the same here. If people like the Riri Williams character, they’ll support the product. If they don’t like her, they won’t, regardless of how much racist guilt-shame Bendis throws.

    1. “Expect even more of this, because the people at Marvel will now see themselves as courageously standing up against Trump. Because, you know, Marvel comics have such an impact on voting and public policy.”

      Right when you were composing this comment I was responding to WebLurker about the ostrich mentality at Marvel and how that affected the Nov. 8 presidential elections. Timely point. 🙂 Marvel seems to be learning the exact opposite lesson from its own sales numbers and the election. If they keep doubling down on insulting a huge part of its long-time readership, they will continue to get pummeled by DC.

      “In the end, Marvel’s people are powerless before the force of the marketplace. The marketplace chewed up and spat out every single one of Dan Slott’s characters — Jackpot, Carlie Cooper, Alpha. The only exception was Anna Marie Marconi. Civil War 2 is proving to be, if not a flop, then a major under-performer. And regardless of the incessant hype, She-Thor hasn’t sold all that well. Miles Morales’ title is selling at a mediocre level. The recent Mockingbird series was a flop.”

      Let us not forget “Freak.” Heh.

      On a more serious note, it appears as though his characters do much better when they’re passed off for others to handle. This makes sense, given that he’s more of a guy who comes with the general story idea (e.g., what if all the spider-powered heroes had to save the multi-verse), than the guy who makes memorable characters.

      “It will work the same here. If people like the Riri Williams character, they’ll support the product. If they don’t like her, they won’t, regardless of how much racist guilt-shame Bendis throws.”

      Marvel can always release 25 variant covers per issue, inflate the sales, and then pretend there was a natural groundswell of support. 😉

  5. Jack,

    “regardless of the incessant hype, She-Thor hasn’t sold all that well. Miles Morales’ title is selling at a mediocre level. The recent Mockingbird series was a flop.”

    Winner.

    Marvel tries to spin the story hard as these are doing great “just like Ms. Marvel”, they are inflated statements and they are simply not true. Here is an interesting point, Marvel claims it is so that more people can relate to the characters, therefore they say you have to have the same color of skin or gender, or sexual orientation, or whatever in order to relate to a character. Now ask yourself who is the racist?

    I have never felt that I could not relate to a character because of color or gender, neither have my children. One of my favorite characters is Luke Cage, I have loved him since the 70’s. For many years I also have always showed my care for the Falcon, and I think he is a great successor, with that said his book is written poorly as a political tool for a very talented, but badly slanted writer that diminishes his work by pushing his own political agenda. My son pretends to be Supergirl, and many other heroes as well. When a writer claims they need to change the characters to relate once again ask, who is racist? If their children can’t relate to a character because of skin or gender, where did they get that behavior from, could the issue be that the writers are the problem?

    Could the writers be making a problem based on their bent world view?

  6. The only way to save comics is to let it destroy itself.

    And anyway, this stuff is entertaining.

    I’ve successfully read Bendis’ mind before…and I’m telling you…his entire reason for creating Riri is to have the cops shoot her in the head in ‘bumfukwyoming’

    Bendis: “MAN…I hope that image goes VIRAL…like the VC guy being executed photo in vietnam!!”

    He’s probably wondering what to do with a black character next…

    “damn…what do I do now?! …maybe have her grab a snickers at a 7/11 after stopping an invasion of Celestials and have a white hispanic shoot her in panic!”

    Stories we won’t see:

    Protecting a family that wanders into a BLM protest with ‘protesters’ rocking the car and threatening to beat the driver.

    Riri being called an Oreo, or Uncle Tom for not punching Tony repeatedly from behind and shooting him in the back with repulsors.

    Riri successfully cleaning up the streets of Chicago by tossing large numbers of criminals in prison. (more likely to be shot by the 2 or 3 white Chicago police)

    Stories we will see:

    Riri facing down an Orange super-villain bent on taking over the world by warping the minds of the geographically disabled…he is both stupid and cunning plus brash/arrogant and cowardly/insular at the same time…or whatever we want him to be.

    Riri facing down Tony’s inner racist, as he accidentally uses ‘you people’ and ‘I bought some fried chicken, you hungry’? As Riri DESTROYS Tony Stark in a balloon about racial inequality while chomping down on a thigh (actually that would be a fun scene)

    Rocks being thrown at Riri after saving a white baby from a fire started by another orange super-villain…from a riot started by the baby’s parents as they shout “You don’t make America great again!”

    IF only I could watch it without paying Marvel.

    1. “I’ve successfully read Bendis’ mind before…and I’m telling you…his entire reason for creating Riri is to have the cops shoot her in the head in ‘bumfukwyoming’”

      He couldn’t even get through the first issue without inserting stupid racial politics into it. Unreal. These guys have serious problems.

    2. “He couldn’t even get through the first issue without inserting stupid racial politics into it. Unreal. These guys have serious problems.”

      It shows you how morally bankrupt the people in charge of Marvel are now. It’s no longer the House of Ideas… it’s, well, I don’t what it is now, but I don’t like it.

  7. The reason they replace the original characters is because writers are not capable of creating brand-new characters that would succeed. They have to parasitically feed off successes accomplished by more creative minds. If you think about it, Marvel hasn’t had anyone working for them in a very long time who can legitimately be called consistently successful “creative” or “imaginative” people (maybe Hickman is an exception) They just do one stunt after another with the pre-existing IPs.

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