WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Invincible Iron Man #599 by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Alex Maleev, Marte Gracia and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
For Riri Williams to be so new to the superhero game, she's had quite the wild ride when it comes to threats faced and obstacles overcome. Ironheart got the official seal of approval from Iron Man to carry on his legacy, multiple superhero teams want her as their newest member -- with the Champions succeeding in adding her to their ranks -- and a mystery figure looking to recruit Riri for unknown reasons.
Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli have been teasing this game of cat-and-mouse between Riri and her suitor through Invincible Iron Man's "The Search For Tony Stark," and as we wind down to Issue #600 and Bendis' departure from Marvel to DC Comics in an exclusive deal, we learn the true identity of the mystery person pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Will The Puppetmaster Please Stand Up?
Whoever has their eyes set on Ironheart has also handpicked additional characters to bring into the fold -- Toni Ho, the former Iron Patriot; Arno Stark, Tony Stark's brother; and Madison Jeffries of Alpha Flight. What all three characters have in common with Riri is they're all technology and armor-based superheroes, who also have high levels of intelligence. The only odd choice for this group is the vampire hunter Blade, who first made contact with Ironheart at her home in Chicago.
The man in charge guided Riri to M.I.T. where she was introduced to the "Armor Squad" of Toni, Arno and Madison. Our new team worked pretty well together, as they were able to take down the super-powered arms dealer Ceres Goldstein during their search for the missing Iron Man. But with that distraction now behind them, it's time for Riri to get some answers, starting with who's calling the shots.
Though she makes a pretty reasonable demand, Toni can't help her because she's in the dark as well when it comes to who brought them all together. Of course, Toni has an idea of who it could be, based on the serious players who she claims are aware. Before Toni can divulge anything more, the pair are pulled into the air by their recruiter. He's taken control of their armor after eavesdropping on their conversation and decided now is the time to finally meet face-to-face -- and man, is his identity a surprise!
It's Long Past Time For A New Thing
While Bendis dropped a few clues along the way, with references to S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer being around and a void being left in its place, nothing could prepare us for the reveal of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D., as Riri's recruiter.
da Vinci, of course, stars in the long-delayed S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries from Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver, which launched back in 2010 and deals with the agency's secret history and star-studded founders like Isaac Newton, Nostradamus and Galileo, along with Marvel stalwarts like Nathaniel Richards (Reed Richard's father) and Howard Stark (Tony Stark's father). With the organization he helped create now dissolved, Leonardo da Vinci has come out of hiding in order to form a suitable replacement, with the help of Riri Williams, Toni Ho, Arno Stark and Madison Jeffries.
It's quite possible Bendis is helping to shape Riri's future in the Marvel Universe by having her work with Leonardo da Vinci to form a brand new global security task force, similar to S.H.I.E.L.D., but with the goal of making the world a better place through science. This could all be leading to the future Riri encountered in Generations: Iron Man & Ironheart. And if that's the case, then the future is bright for the young blossoming hero.