Generations Reveals Riri Williams' True Role in the Marvel Universe

In the far-flung future (we’re not told exactly when), the Avengers have spread out to the stars and defeated Thanos. Back on Earth, a flesh-and-blood Tony Stark is very much alive and has reached the ripe old age of 126. He’s also grown his hair long, started wearing a cape, and taken over as the Sorcerer Supreme. And one more thing: Riri Williams, not Stark, is the greatest futurist the galaxy has ever known.

Generations: The Iron is (so far) the only Generations one-shot that takes place in the future. Penned by Brian Michael Bendis with a team of artists that includes Marco Rudy, Szymon Kudranski, Nico Leon, Will Slinet, Scott Tolbish, Dean White and Paul Mounts, it is as notable for what it leaves out, as for what it leaves in.

The story begins with Riri falling out of the sky as her armor stops working. After the Tony A.I. that helps Riri guide her suit goes silent, she switches to manual control, but all of her systems fail, except for the emergency no-crash safeguards. After a bumpy landing, she takes off her helmet and spends a few seconds trying to figure out the suit’s technical issues, But then she looks up and realizes that her hometown of Chicago has changed. A lot.

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As she's pondering her situation, she encounters a group of teenagers that touts itself as the Mighty Avengers, but whom we know as the Next Avengers. These children of our current Avengers know her real name when she introduces herself as Ironheart. “Like Riri Williams Ironheart?” one of the young heroes asks, just before Riri passes out from stress.

When she awakens, Riri finds herself in a version of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Here, she discovers that Tony Stark is not only alive but is also now a Sorcerer. Despite his magical prowess, however he is still very much an engineer. His lair teems with autonomous drones: mini, flying Iron Man torsos that scoot about the place.

As she talks with the future version of her mentor, and worries about not being bothered about not knowing how she got to the “far-flung future,” Tony gets philosophical. He urges her to “appreciate what’s happening and not obsess over the how and why.”

His calmness suggests that he has undertaken a journey that mirrors the path of Stephen Strange. The self-centered Tony, a supreme rationalist who values his hands and his intellect above all, has turned to mysticism—and like the one-time surgeon who was the previous Sorcerer Supreme—he has found peace. But ever the engineer, he admits that he misses armor craft, and explains that Riri’s suit probably stopped working because it is being blocked by his “World Energy Shield”® (his quotes and trademark symbol, not mine). He also explains that she can’t hook up to her A.I. because he got rid of the Internet... and replaced it with something better.

Unwilling to give away too much of what the future holds, Tony further explains that he, and others, also convinced the world’s leaders to divert the money being spent on weapons to solving humanity’s problems. “You did it,” exclaims Riri, “You - You fixed the world…” Tony protests that it was a big “we,” not he, who solved the Earth’s problems. Although he is referring to the collective efforts of the many scientists who rose to the challenge, could the “we” be Tony and Riri?

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Following a brief moment of near-conflict with sorceress Morgan Le Fay, the last stop on her tour of the future brings Riri face to face with a grown-up Franklin Richards, who is reluctant to let Tony use his father’s time machine to send Riri back to the past. It is here that Tony tries to explain the reason Riri was flung forward.

Reminiscing about his own trip through time -- albeit a journey backward to the Court of King Arthur -- Tony imparts one last lesson. He explains that he was having trouble with recovery and with focusing on work, and that the trip back to the Middle Ages helped him realize how technology had improved the lot of humanity. “I think you were sent here for the same thing,” he concludes before he and Franklin walk away, “Inspiration.”

As mysteriously as she was sent to the future, Riri finds herself whisked back to the present (completely ignoring the Secret Empire ending which found her standing among the other heroes who also went on cross-time adventures). She reconnects with the Tony A.I., and even though her personal diary circuits recorded nothing of her trip, in a Twilight Zone-esque twist, she reconstructs one of Tony’s miniature Iron Man drones from memory.

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