Invincible Iron Man #1: Civil War II delays Riri Williams debut


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.

Bendis botches Ironheart launch with Tony Stark fans

Iron Man fans know that the clock is ticking on Tony Stark. Brian Michael Bendis is relaunching Invincible Iron Man with a new character — Riri Williams — as the protagonist. This young woman, who Bendis said is “probably” smarter than Stark, will call herself Ironheart.

It is my belief that Marvel has once again botched an opportunity to diversity its stable of superheroes without annoying long-term readers. Check out my new YouTube video on the subject and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Iron Man #11: Bendis gives Riri action, Tony tepid climax

IIM 11 cover

Invincible Iron Man #11 should have been an action-packed extravaganza with War Machine, Captain America, Nova, Ms. Marvel, She-Thor, Vision and War Machine all joining forces with Tony Stark to destroy “Techno Golem” and her network of terror. Writer Brian Michael Bendis had other things in mind — action for Riri Williams, and a tepid climax for Tony. Long-time readers should be chafing.

Here is what you need to know for IMM #11:

  • Stark’s board of directors hire corporate saboteur Ghost to break into Tony’s lab and override his servers.
  • Mary Jane informs the board that she is Tony’s new Executive Administrator. She wards off the hostile takeover by telling everyone that Stark is secretly working on new products.
  • Riri Williams tests her new suit during a prison break outside New Mexico State Penitentiary.
  • Tony meets “Rhodey” at a secret meeting place to ask why the Avengers are flying around Osaka, Japan. He soon realizes that he is speaking to Ms. Marvel in shape-shifted form. She informs him that a rescue operation is taking place.
  • The Avengers, War Machine, and S.H.I.E.L.D. launch an assault on the bio-hack ninjas that nets Zhang but misses the big fish “Techno Golem.” The action (that is being generous with the term) is a single shot that takes up two pages.
  • Tony poses as “Franco” in a prison cell with Zhang and asks where “Techno Golem” went. Zhang says she feels betrayed, but that the woman could be “anywhere” and will ultimately destroy S.H.I.E.L.D.

The best way to describe Invincible Iron Man at this point is disappointing. It had so much potential, but Mr. Bendis essentially over-promised and under-delivered. There needed to be serious action in IIM #11, and instead it was just talking…and more talking…and Tony scratching the back of his neck while in deep thought.

It’s nice to have witty and intelligent banter, but at some point it seems like endlessly watching two cats pat around a ball of string.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the issue is that it takes place before James Rhodes dies in Civil War II (i.e., the timing called for something special that never transpired).

This was a “rescue” operation to bring Tony out of hiding and wipe out a deadly foe, but readers are not given a memorable battle for a man who has meant so much to Mr. Stark. Instead, the book features Riri Williams punching the engine of a getaway vehicle in the desert, and a snapshot of the Avengers in action.

“That was my first superhero thing. I’ll do better next time,” Ms. Williams says after sending two convicted felons through a windshield. Meanwhile, Rhodey must embarrassingly hem and haw when he is informed that he captured the wrong High Value Target.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger wrote “Invincible Iron Man: Bendis’ superb work lures back old Tony Stark fan” on Oct. 22, 2015. I published positive reviews in the months that followed, but somewhere along the line the book began to offer diminishing returns. My guess is that Mr. Bendis has been allocating the bulk of his creative energy to whatever he is doing with Riri Williams behind the scenes.

If you are a fan of Tony Stark, then I suggest staying away from Mr. Bendis’ efforts until the billionaire has his undivided attention.

Bendis slimes Riri Williams critics as racists with straw-man argument

Brian Michael Bendis Time

Marvel’s editorial team may share nothing in common with Matt Drudge, but there is no doubt they were thrilled on Wednesday when the media mogul gave Riri Williams (aka, the soon-to-be Iron Man) a ton of free publicity.

Mr. Bendis sat down for an exclusive interview with Time magazine, where he said that his 15-year-old MIT genius, Riri, would soon take the reins from Marvel’s coolest billionaire entrepreneur. Yours truly wondered in March if Riri would soon replace Mr. Stark, but for some reason Marvel doesn’t send scoops this way. How odd… **cough**cough**

What is most striking about the writer’s discussion with Time, however, is the giant straw-man argument he used to slime critics of his work as racists.

Mr. Bendis said:

“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound. I’m not saying if you criticize you’re a racist, but if someone writes, ‘Why do we need Riri Williams we already have Miles?’ that’s a weird thing to say. They’re individuals just like Captain America and Cyclops are individuals. All I can do is state my case for the character, and maybe they’ll realize over time that that’s not the most progressive thinking.

But increasingly we see less and less of that. Once Miles hit, and Kamala Khan hit and female Thor hit — there was a part of an audience crawling through the desert looking for an oasis when it came to representation, and now that it’s here, you’ll go online and be greeted with this wave of love.

Translation: “I’m not saying you are racist if you say [insert critique that Mr. Bendis doesn’t agree with], buuuuut, you’re probably —  hurrrrm — racist. You’re most certainly not — hurrrm — progressive.”

The vast majority of critics, who are tired of “wave of love”-driven decisions being shoved in their face, do not say things like, “Why do we need Riri Williams — we already have Miles?” Most readers get upset with Mr. Bendis for turning a Spider-Man derivative into a God-like being for the “more power means cooler hero” crowd, but they do not have a racist or sexist aversion to his characters.

Riri Willaims

With that said, even the “weird” comment Mr. Bendis cites is only “weird” at a cursory glance. Mr. Bendis lies by omission by not really explaining the whole situation to Time.

As was already mentioned, Miles Morales is a derivative of Spider-Man. Likewise, She-Thor is a derivative of Thor, and Amadeus Cho is a diversity-upgrade for Hulk. Heck, even Falcon cannot be Falcon — he must be Captain America — because Marvel has decided Steve Rogers is generally just fit to be … dead … or a Nazi-sympathizing Hydra agent.

The point is this: Rational people might begin to wonder why classic superheroes all need a female or minority replacement when creating cool new characters is always an option.

It is actually more patronizing to women and minorities to pat them on the head and say, “Here you go my special goo-goo, ga-ga, coochie-coo. Here’s a Spider-Man and Iron Man and Captain America and Thor just for you. Don’t you cry, little ones.” 

When Brian Michael Bendis talks about going online and being “greeted with this wave of love,” it is important to remember just how much Marvel writers want it. They crave the wave. They seek it from Time magazine. They seek it from mainstream comic book websites. They seek it from Tumblr kids. They seek it in their Twitter stream and every other digital tributary — because it is addictive.

Do not let Mr. Bendis use straw-man arguments. Do not be cowed when he implies or outright calls you a racist over legitimate criticisms of his work. There are right ways and wrong ways to create a more diverse Marvel universe, and fans should not be shamed into silence because writers are quick to start talking about racism at the least bit of criticism.

Bendis debuts ‘Iron Maiden’ in Iron Man #10 while Tony goes deep undercover

Iron Man Franco

Brian Michael Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man has employed a cloak and dagger sensibility for ten issues now. Readers have more or less been treated to a solid tale of corporate espionage, but at some point in time even the most patient readers will move on. There needs to be a payoff to months of running around in the shadows, and luckily it seems as though IIM #11 will be the issue to deliver.

Perhaps the best way to describe IIM #10 is to liken it to a man at a talent show spinning plates. Bendis jumps around to multiple locations to keep his “Tony,” “Rhodey,” “Riri,” and “Mary Jane” plates moving long enough to get to his grand finale. What would be a total disaster in lesser hands (e.g., Jose Molina’s “point” issues in The Amazing Spider-Man) is handled well, and as a result it appears as though IIM #11 will be a must-read.

Before we move on, here is what you need to know about IIM #10:

  • Tony has gone under cover as the former Navy SEAL and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent “Franco.” Biohack ninjas in Japan take him hostage in the middle of the night because their leader wants to know more about him (he saved Yukio when her illegal gambling operation was raided).
  • Tony meets face-to-face with  Tomoe, aka “Techno Golem,” an Inhuman who can control technology. After proving his hand-to-hand combat skills with her biohack ninjas, she tells “Franco” (i.e., Tony Stark using advanced bio-technology to look like an aging Luke Perry) that he may be potentially valuable to her. She wants to take down S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, Wakanda, Atlantis, and Attilan. She also wants to kill … James Rhodes.
  • Mary Jane goes to her apartment after receiving a mysterious package. A device with a button says “push me” and she inexplicably obliges. Tony’s AI assistant, Friday, emerges and pleads with her to take the job at Stark Industries. The board of directors is meeting to seize control of the company because they believe Tony is dead.
  • Riri Williams, the 15-year-old whiz kid from MIT, conducts a test flight in her Iron Man-like armor. She deems herself “Iron Maiden” and tells a friend, “You can tell no one what I am about to do.”
  • James Rhodes meets with the Avengers and says they need to figure out how to confront a tech-based terrorist group using only their “natural abilities.” He says all contact has been lost with Tony, which means things may “get very bad very quickly.”

Given what readers know, it is imperative for Bendis to bring serious action to IIM #11. Mary Jane will undoubtedly spend time attempting to defuse the situation with Stark Industries’ board of directors, but it can be stressed enough how much this title needs some high-octane butt-kicking, bullets, and giant explosions. It’s time. Make it happen, Mr. Bendis. Seriously.

Finally, one cannot talk about IIM #10 without wondering about Riri “Iron Maidan” Williams.

Riri Willaims Iron Maiden.jpeg

Who is she? Where did she come from? Is Bendis blatantly signaling this is just checking off a gender score card when she specifically asks her friend, “If Iron Man was a woman what would you call him?”

Fact: I want to like a superhero in Stark-like armor named Iron Maiden. It’s cool. I cannot deny that. What is not cool is blatantly beating readers with the message “I am doing this because every iconic male superhero needs a female counterpart — and if you roll your eyes then you’re kind of a bad person.”

Many readers, myself included, will give Riri Williams a shot — but if Bendis starts trying to guilt Iron Man fans into an instant love fest, then it is likely his efforts will spectacularly backfire.

Exit Questions:

  1. Mary Jane is supposed to be winking at readers in this cover photo, but why does it just look like Tony Stark gave her a black eye?
  2. Why would Mary Jane push a button from an anonymous stranger that looks incredibly bomb-like? She even covers her face with her left hand — as if that would somehow shield her from a giant blast. Did she not watch the old Ren and Stimpy episode with the “History Eraser Button”? Tsk, tsk, MJ.

Mary Jane Iron Man button

Stimpy Red Button