This is actually for both Invincible Iron Man #1 and #2 since #2 came out when I finally got a chance to read #1. It’s also my Read Harder 2017 superhero comic with a female lead cause she’s taking over the title, for at least a while.
From the violent streets of Chicago, a new armored hero rises! Clad in her very own Iron Man armor, Riri Williams is ready to show the Marvel Universe what she can do as the self-made hero of tomorrow. But is she ready for all the problems that come with stepping into Iron Man’s jet boots? Where’s a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist when you need one?
I wanted to read this one as soon as it came out but I wanted to buy a physical copy to read because I’ve been loving having all the first issues of the new fabulous women that Marvel have been making the headliners of comics like Thor and Ms. Marvel. But no. This one does not yet have a physical copy available at the time of this writing, even at Amazon. So disappointing.
But alas, I decided to go ahead and get the Kindle/comiXology version and check out the story. As soon as I sat down to write this, I noticed on Amazon that #2 was also out, so I scooped it up and took the break to get that one in too because I had been intrigued about the way #1 ended.
Can I just say, though, that I loved the idea of Riri Williams from the first moment I saw her? Yeah, there was some controversy over the horrible hyper-sexualized version of the cover that lots of people wrote about. My favorite article about it was this one from Sublime Zoo. I couldn’t agree more with the essential problem of that cover and everything it implied. At the same time, Ms. Marvel had been written and drawn so well and not sexualized that I held out hope that Marvel would listen to the outcry and fix it, which they totally did. But before they fixed it so that she looked like a teenager instead of a grown woman, there was this awesome display of cosplay in the outfit from that cover. It’s so great to get a character that people want to cosplay as. It has to be the dream, right?
Okay, now let me get my main criticism out of the way and I’m going to do this without spoilers. There was one seen in the first issue that made me go, WTF? I am interested in seeing how it plays out in the media or if it gets any attention at all. Not being from Chicago nor sharing race, ethnicity, or any background with Riri Williams or anyone in the scene that gave me pause, I have to wonder what people who do share those things will think about that scene. It came off a little too stereotyped. It’s one where I have to wonder how much of it is really an aspect of that location and how much is just a stereotype or whether there is some truth to find there.
The author is Brian Bendis, who is a white male comic writer for Marvel. I won’t pretend that it wouldn’t have be nice for this series to follow the Black Panther model for having POC write characters of color, but I get it. This is an established writer for comics who, according to his Wikipedia page, has won most of the awards he’s been nominated for. He probably knows what he’s doing and it was probably a decent call to get an established Marvel writer to transition the title from an established character to a new one because the established Iron Man audience that he normally writes for may not be quite so estranged by Iron Man’s title being taken over by a black girl if the author is someone they feel they have a relationship with. And yes, she is a girl and not a woman just yet.
As the comic stands in the first issue, she is still a girl and very much looks like one. She is not the hyper-sexualized version that was in the problematic variant cover from this summer and honestly made a teenager look like she was closer to 25. Thank goodness. So glad they listened. Not only is she not in the hyper-sexualized version, but she doesn’t even appear in that outfit. She is presented as a kid more interested in building things than her appearance and literally anything else. As in, virtually no skin is exposed ever. They must have gone back to Ms. Marvel and noticed what was done there. Nothing wrong with dressing sexy as a teenager, I did it as much as I could get away with, but it’s entirely different for people to draw these girls as something for men to look at the way the older versions of most female heroes were. A little modesty in the superhero world is not a bad thing. We can stand to be, you know, treated like heroes and not eye candy in completely insane outfits and heels. But they appear to know already, so I’ll stop here.
Aside from the scene that really felt unnecessary and stereotyped to me (though it could be my ignorance or privilege hiding that it’s a general truth in Chicago, Idk), the rest seemed pretty gender and race neutral. What I mean is, none of the rest seemed put there to focus on either her gender or race in a negative way that might dehumanize or unnecessarily underestimate her nor did any of it look showy like it was only designed to show how great they were for attempting diversity. It was just there in that she was just a girl with a big brain on her kind of way.
Is she a perfect hero right out the gate? No. But that’s normal. Neither was Spider-Man in any of the movies (I don’t read his comics, not my thing but loved the old Tobey Maguire moveis), Silk, or Ms. Marvel. She should have a bit of a learning curve here. I still really enjoyed her first fight and the conversation that opens the entire comic between her parents and a head shrinker. I enjoyed his insights and the parent’s responses. It had a little extra tinge of beauty because I had just seen Hidden Figures the day before and that movie opens with a similar, though not identical, conversations about the potential of a black girl (or African-American, if you prefer).
Moving on to #2.
Her backstory continues but no reveal as to her main motivation. Yes, her backstory contains reasons but so far it’s more “she can” and not so much of a “why she does it”. The art for her continues to be awesome and not sexualized while being gorgeous in a realistic way.
A fun little thing for me is the mention of my all-time favorite Disney princess by Riri (The Little Mermaid) though not whether or not she likes that one…. it was just cute to see the reference.
Other than that, #2 mostly just continues the activities of #1 and gives a few more details. I really like the little intros in both of these issues where she’s making a video for what seems like a journal.
I came into these two issues without having read Civil War II and I’m starting to feel like I need to go back and do that before going further. Okay, I don’t currently have a choice about going further since #3 isn’t out yet, but you get my point. I’m almost caught up with Lumberjanes and then plan on catching Ms. Marvel up to that point and then giving Captain Marvel another shot to get into the whole Civil War thing and see what must have been Riri Williams’s debut, because it’s mentioned that she was in it.
So far, the comic is living up to the promise, at least for me. Riri is a genius and treated that way with no excuses or anyone trying to downplay her intelligence, just as Tony has been in the movies. She is what she is and her family at least pretends to be okay with her habits and abilities while still trying to get her to have a more normal childhood experience. I thought it was cute in the first issue when her mother, like so many of us these days, was telling her to go outside. I love the way her parents and her friend, Natalie, took it in stride when they asked what her projects were too. Most people would have scoffed at these ideas, but they have obviously normalized her genius level already because they just go with it. The mother even offers an alternate and more mainstream use for her first one. She’s not treated like a freak or too smart or any of the other crazy things that we see sometimes when people talk to or about women in general being smart and all that negativity can be magnified sometimes when the discussion is women of color.