Before he takes over DC Comics' Superman franchise, Brian Michael Bendis is bringing his time as the writer of Invincible Iron Man to a close with "The Search For Tony Stark." As the title suggests, the main story involves Riri Williams teaming with Tony's mother Amanda Armstrong and Mary Jane Watson to find the missing Avenger. However, an underlying theme running in the background is quietly building towards Riri's future in the Marvel Universe.
Bendis' imminent Marvel departure left some fans worried about that Riri wouldn't be featured in stories going forward, but the writer has assured readers that his creations -- including Riri, Miles Morales and Jessica Jones -- will live on in his absence. Thankfully, Bendis has also left clues as to what Ironheart's status will be going forward, and as you'll see, the word "future" is closely tied to the young Marvel hero.
The Future Is Calling
Invincible Iron Man #596-597 ended with the young hero receiving an unexpected visit from Marvel's daywalking half-vampire: Blade. He came with a mysterious offer that we've yet to learn the details about, but it seems odd for a vampire hunter to have an interest in a technological genius. Then, Issue #597 introduced Toni Ho, Madison Jeffries and Arno Stark, who are also working to find Tony. The three stopped what they were previously working on to dedicate their time to the search, which piqued Riri's curiosity. Toni then said they were working on "The future," and that they (along with Blade) are working for someone else.
Whoever this person is, they must have ties to not only Tony Stark, but his family members and close personal allies. Toni is the daughter of Yinsen Ho, the man who helped Tony build his original Iron Man armor; Arno is Tony's brother and the biological son of Howard and Maria Stark; and Madison Jeffries is a fellow inventor like Tony, a former member of Alpha Flight as Box and also wears a suit of armor.
But back to the "future" for a moment -- fans got a firsthand look at Riri's future in Generations: Iron Man & Ironheart #1. Marvel's Generations initiative took place during the closing moments of Secret Empire, and transported select legacy heroes to the past where they had the opportunity to interact with their mentors. What made the Iron Man Generations one-shot different is instead of sending Riri to the past, she traveled to the far-flung future where Tony Stark swapped his inventor cap for the flowing red cape of the Sorcerer Supreme.
After the shock of being in a different time period wore off, Riri began to learn just how much things have changed for the better -- and according to Tony, all because of her influence. Of course, Tony didn't go into many details for fear of learning too much about one's future, but he heavily implied that Riri is a pretty big deal and maybe even had a hand in fixing the world along with the rest of the big brains in the Marvel Universe. In fact, the entire galaxy has a high opinion of the future Dr. Williams.
Feeling inspired, Riri heads back to the present-day and immediately gets to work on her next project, which is building a replica of the same mini-Iron Man robot that Future Tony kept in his Sanctum Santorum. She tells A.I. Tony that the bot is to help her stay focused, and when he asks on what, she replies, "The future."
So to recap, first we have Riri's far-flung future adventure where she meets Tony Stark, master of the mystic arts. During the trip, she's given breadcrumbs alluding to her becoming not only a doctor, but also a great inventor whose accolades are spread throughout the galaxy. When Riri returns home she begins focusing on this future while also having characters she's never met -- Blade, Toni Ho and others -- reaching out on behalf of an unknown individual. It's all lining up for a big reveal, most likely in Invincible Iron Man #600.