WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Ironheart #1, by Eve L. Ewing, Luciano Vecchio, Kevin Libranda, Matt Milla and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
With Ironheart #1, Riri Willaims soars into her first solo series after being in a number of titles since 2015. Though Iron Man and Champions readers know her by now, the creative team of Eve L. Ewing, Luciano Vecchio and Kevin Libranda had to do the work of introducing Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, to a new audience. And while Riri does fight a bad guy in this inaugural issue, the most compelling part of this comic was learning more about Riri. as it tuns out, Riri’s superhero origin story, personality and interests are relatable to nerds of all kinds, but especially Trekkies.
Riri Is One of Us
In the first couple of panels of Ironheart #1, we learn quickly about the tragedies Riri has experienced. Her birth father died before she was born, while her stepdad and her best friend, Natalie, were murdered by gun violence. While this may be shocking to some, gun violence is an all too familiar issue for many, especially those who grew up in certain areas of Chicago like Riri did.
Riri now uses technology to fight back against criminals. However, she’s not Tony Stark and is therefore bound to MIT for funding. This means she has to deal with the Dean bringing people into her lab and general university bureaucracy. Riri has to put on a smile and explain her tech to world leaders, but she accidentally puts people off by being a little too graphic in her descriptions. This is, again, a familiar feeling among nerds of all kinds; we’re used to getting a little too excited and too into the details of something we’re working on that it alienates a casual observer.
Riri is so focused on her work, she turns down friendly colleagues who try to invite her to lunch. Despite her penchant for superheroics, Riri is undeniably lonely. During the issue's prerequisite battler, Clash, a former scientist at Parker Industries turned terrorist, tells her that they’re similar, a revelation that severely affects Riri. She thinks to herself, “We are alike. Because when everyone tells you you’re brilliant, but it seems like no one really sees you… what’s the point?”
The underlying problem is that Riri has never felt as though she's actually seen. The delegates who visited her lab asked her questions about her tragic past and how her tech compares to Stark’s, but nothing much about her as a person. The colleagues who work near her have good intentions, but she doesn’t consider them friends.
It. Is. Cosplay.
It's at this point when Xavier, her neighbor from Chicago who grew up with Riri, calls her. At first, it’s a nice surprise, but then Riri gets suspicious and asks how he got her number. Xavier admits that her mom talks to his mom, who pressured him into reaching out. When Riri is about to hang up on him, Xavier notices something on her desk and quickly asks her about it.
That thing on her desk is a Geordi La Forge visor from Star Trek: The Next Generation. We may at first assume it’s a new piece of tech Riri is working on inspired by this series, but we quickly learn it’s for cosplay.
Riri calls herself a nerd and confesses the visor is for her Geordi cosplay. Instead of making fun of her, Xavier opens up about how much he loves Star Trek. These two Trekkies nerding out over Geordi, Sisko and Klingons leads to other conversations, ending with a meaningful one about the full reason why Riri chose to be Ironheart.
This is another experience that nerds can relate to. Nerding out over a fandom provides a second language for us to speak in. Once you feel comfortable speaking passionately about a fandom, you’re more prone to opening up about other things. If someone can accept your love for the Enterprise-D’s Chief Engineer, it’s safe to tell them about why you became a hero.
A visor from Star Trek and a confession about cosplaying forged a connection between Riri and Xavier as well as the reader and Riri. And hopefully, in upcoming issues, we’ll see Riri in her Geordi cosplay.