It can always be intimidating when trying to figure out where to start with Marvel. Just because you’ve picked up the first volume of a series in trade paperback doesn’t mean it’s a great starting point. While volume one of Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart certainly builds on past Iron Man stories, it’s a much easier place to begin if you want to read about the teenager now in the Iron Man armor, Riri Williams. This hardcover volume collects the first five issues of the 2016 Invincible Iron Man series, as well as some bonus material.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Publisher: Marvel Comics
During previous installments of Invincible Iron Man and Civil War II, Tony Stark met Riri Williams, a 15-year-old Chicago girl who built her own armor inspired by Iron Man’s. Stark supported Williams and she helped him fight Captain Marvel. But Tony went into a coma after the fight, leaving Williams to pick up the reins to make sure an Iron Man is still here to save the world.
You don’t really need to know all that entering Ironheart. You just need to know that Tony is presumed dead and he’s found a successor in Williams. Writer Brian Michael Bendis makes sure that Williams’ story can stand on its own, without the weight of years of Marvel history.
And it’s a pretty good story. It does follow a little too close to the basic tropes of an origin story – with a young hero learning the ins and outs of being a hero in the Marvel universe while staying true to herself – but it’s the details in Riri’s story that make it different. She’s an inner-city kid whose father was killed in a random drive-by shooting before she was born. Then, she’s later dealt a double tragedy that she witnesses, which makes her feel guilty. It also makes her erratic when she starts fighting.
At first, Williams’ origin might feel a bit like pandering to those calling for more diversity on Marvel’s part, but that goes away when Bendis is done building her origin. Yes, even in comic books, origin stories are as boring as they are in movies.
Once the origin is done, Riri is left to go around the Marvel Universe to meet up with Tony’s cohorts, including his mother and Pepper Potts. In between, there’s some fighting with ninjas led by the Inhuman Tomoe. But the main goal of the first five issues of Ironheart is to get Riri familiar with the new world of heroes she’s fighting in. There’s also a tantalizing cliffhanger that will make you want to run over to your local store to pick up #6. (After all, #6 is the end of the first arc, so it doesn’t make any sense for volume one to end with #5… other than to make sure you buy volume 2.)
The art from Stefano Casselli is exceptional. You can tell he must have had a lot of fun drawing those ninjas. There are also several great two-page spreads, as he tries to make some of Bendis’ talky scenes a little more visually interesting.
After the five issues, there’s a gallery of all the variant covers, along with a small collection of Casselli’s cover and character sketches.
Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart Volume One is a great collection for anyone looking for an entry point into Riri Williams’ Iron-hearted adventures. Sure, Tony Stark isn’t in the armor, but Riri is a unique character who readers can have fun with.