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Riri Williams makes a big splash in ‘Black Panther 2.’ Here’s her comics backstory

a young woman soldering pieces of equipment
Dominique Thorne makes her MCU debut as Riri Williams in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
(Eli Adé / Marvel)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to expand its roster of next-generation heroes.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” out Friday, will see someone new taking on the mantle of Black Panther after the death of Wakanda’s King T’Challa. There’s plenty of speculation about the identity of the mystery woman behind the mask, but we will not get into those details in this spoiler-free post.

The “Black Panther” sequel, directed by Ryan Coogler, also introduces a couple of new faces to the MCU, including Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, who is set to star in her own Disney+ series, “Ironheart,” launching sometime next year.

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Riri is a fairly new character, especially compared to Tenoch Huerta’s Namor, whose comic book history dates back to 1939. Making her first appearance in a 2016 issue of “Invincible Iron Man,” Riri quickly became a fan favorite, especially after taking over as the lead character of the comic book series.

Here’s everything you need to know about Riri Williams:

Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o return to Wakanda without the late Chadwick Boseman in Ryan Coogler’s stirring follow-up to “Black Panther.”

a comic book cover with a woman in workout clothes holding a superhero helmet, standing in front of a man in a suit
The cover of “Invincible Iron Man” No. 1 (2016) by Jeff Dekal.
(Marvel)

Who is Riri Williams?

Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato, Riri Williams made her comic book debut on the last page of “Invincible Iron Man” No. 7 (2016), where she is shown tinkering with her own high-tech suit of armor in her dorm room at MIT. The 15-year-old supergenius from Chicago is more properly introduced a couple of issues later, when it is revealed the scholarship student “borrowed” what she needed to build her own Iron Man armor from all around campus.

After taking her suit — reverse engineered from an official Iron Man suit — on a test run to stop some criminals, she catches the attention of Tony Stark. Shortly after Riri’s comic book debut, it was announced that she would be taking over as the “new Iron Man” in a relaunched “Invincible Iron Man” series in 2016 (by Bendis and Stefano Caselli).

More of Riri’s backstory is revealed in her “Invincible Iron Man” run, such as how her best friend and stepfather were killed in a shooting at a park when she was younger.

The Riri introduced in “Wakanda Forever” is a little bit older but still a teenage supergenius.

‘Wakanda Forever’s’ Tenoch Huerta opens up about racism and colorism in Latin America — and the ‘crazy heartfelt’ speech he gave to win over the crew.

How did she become Ironheart?

Not long after Tony and Riri meet for the first time, a major comic book event takes the original Iron Man out of commission. Riri figures it’s up to her to pick up the slack and operate as the new Iron Man, even before she works out a superhero name for herself. (She understandably had no desire to get stuck with “Iron Girl,” “Iron Woman” or “Iron Maiden.”)

But because Tony Stark is Tony Stark, he had prepared a digitized version of his consciousness to be sent to Riri to help her get a handle on being a new superhero, and to act as an AI for her armor. This AI even helps her come up with the name Ironheart.

Riri’s path to becoming Ironheart may be different in the MCU, but Tony’s absence does make it a good time for her to take up being a superhero.

comic book cover image of a woman in a chair touching a suit of high-tech armor
“Invincible Iron Man” No. 1 STEAM variant cover by Mike McKone.
(Marvel)

What other characters has Riri interacted with?

Early in her tenure as Ironheart, Riri meets Pepper Potts, a.k.a. Rescue, who wants to make sure Riri knows what she’s getting into by adopting the superhero lifestyle.

She also was recruited to join a team of young superheroes known as the Champions. The team’s lineup over the years has included such familiar characters as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales/Spider-Man and other next-gen characters such as a newer, younger Hulk and even Vision’s daughter.

Riri even visited Wakanda in one storyline, where she worked with Shuri, Okoye and others to take down the Ten Rings. (It’s not a spoiler to say the Ten Rings have no presence in “Wakanda Forever.”)

What do we know about “Ironheart” the series?

Not much! “Ironheart” will take place after the events of “Wakanda Forever.” Besides Thorne, the series stars Anthony Ramos as Parker Robbins, a.k.a. the Hood.

The six-episode series’ cast reportedly also will include Lyric Ross, Alden Ehrenreich, Zoe Terakes, Manny Montana and Shea Couleé.


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