Riri Williams has been a major addition to Marvel Comics, brining with her an emphasis on youth, gender and ethnic diversity. Introduced in 2016, Riri was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mike Deodato as the successor to Tony Stark. Following his 'death' at the end of Civil War II, the 15 year-old M.I.T. genius officially took up the Iron Man mantle under the codename Ironheart, aiming to honor his legacy and as expected, kick some supervillain butt.
It did take fans a little while to get used to a black, female teenager in the armor, but soon it grew clear that she was a solid addition to the Marvel Universe. What also resonated was that Riri's path, much like Miles Morales (another Bendis co-creation), wasn't just about coming-of-age as a superhero, but about self-discovery as a human being. Guided in Invincible Iron Man by a revamped Team Stark -- Tony's A.I. persona, his birth mother Amanda Armstrong, assistant Mary Jane Watson and another A.I. called Friday -- the Marvel U took notice of Ironheart's heroics. The Avengers, the youthful Champions and the world as a whole, especially after she politically liberated Lavteria, quickly realized she was worthy, and wise beyond her years.
Though Bendis is headed to DC Comics, he has promised that there are big plans still in mind for Riri. The closing pages of Spider-Men II #5 offers a possible hint as to where the future may lie, as we see the Ultimate Universe reborn. It's here that we encounter Riri, in an Ironheart armor, fighting alongside resurrected Avengers, including Peter Parker as Spider-Man once more.
This leaves us wondering who this Riri is, and what it means for both the 616 (Marvel's primary universe) and the (potentially) Ultimate version of the character. Is this the Ironheart we've followed over the last year, or a brand-new Ultimate incarnation? It'll be a whole before we know for sure, but we're kind of hoping it's the 616-Riri. Having her make the leap into the Ultimate Universe is the best way to have her truly step out of Tony's shadow as a definitive Iron Man, and to add something back to her story, something crucial to her personal journey: family.