Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artists: Kevin Libranda & Luciano Vecchio
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Amy Reeder (regular)/Jen Bartel, Stephanie Hans, Jamal Campbell, Humberto Ramos, Luciano Vecchio and Skottie Young (variants)
Editors: Alanna Smith & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the various Iron Man titles toward the end of his tenure at Marvel Entertainment, and Riri Williams was one of the more interesting characters to arise in the course of that run. At first, it felt a bit like Eve L. Ewing, a writer and academic who’s new to the medium of comics as far as I can ascertain, didn’t quite have a strong a sense of the beats and pacing necessary to hold my attention as well as Bendis (who, in all fairness, has been at this comics game a long time). But in the third act of this issue, everything came into focus. Ewing’s sense of who Riri is, what drives and what’s missing from her life all made for a compelling, relatable read. And the twist revealed at the end was something I should have seen coming, but didn’t — and I loved it.
Riri Williams is the most famous person at MIT these days, and the administration knows it and sees her as a resource to be tapped. As such, she finds she has trouble getting time to herself — which is ironic, as she has isolated herself from everyone around her. When a super-villain attacks a delegation of world leaders attending a conference just down the street from her college lab, Riri flies into action as Ironheart, using technology to get a handle on the situation and to find solutions. Little does she know that tech is about to play just as important a role in her personal life as well.
I’m really not sure how the art chores on this comic were divided up. The credits inside list Kevin Libranda and Luciano Vecchio as “artists,” but it’s not clear if the former is the penciller and the latter is the inker, or if they contributed different pages. The overall look of the comic reminds me of a cross between the styles of Stefano Caselli, who was the main artist for the Iron Man run that focused on Riri, and that of Todd Nauck, perhaps best known for his work on Young Justice years ago and more recently various Spider-Man projects. I particularly appreciated how the art reflects my mind’s-eye vision of Riri, which is Caselli’s interpretation; young but confident, and not at all sexualized.
My biggest issues with the art are the redesign for the title character (which predates this series) and the disconnect between the visuals and the script in the second, action-oriented act of the story. The redesign appears to have tried to make the heroine’s look more feminine by incorporating pink/fuschia, which is a cutesy touch that doesn’t seem in keeping with the character. Furthermore, I found the action to be confusing. The choreograph of the fight between Clash and Ironheart rarely makes sense, and Ewing’s script is always telling us what’s going on, and it doesn’t seem to match what we see in the panels.
Ewing’s script is accessible overall, but when it comes to the antagonist, the reader is left in the dark. I haven’t been following Spider-Man comics in recent years, so Clash was something of a question mark for me. After reading a little bit about him online after reading this comic, I felt just as confused. Fortunately, new readers will get everything they need to know about Ironheart to delve into her story. In fact, I felt Ewing was a bit too focused on exposition; the background information on Riri’s history and motivations seemed a bit redundant… until we get to the final page, when it all makes sense. In establishing a new direction for the title character, the writer delves deeply into her past, and I really enjoyed the concept and the surprise.
The scene that really sold me on the book was the quietest one. Riri’s long talk with Xavier really rang true. It gets to the core of her inner conflict — her tendency to isolate herself due to her sense of loss and grief — as it addresses it and spotlights how she truly hungers for connection. Those early, through-the-night conversations are such a universal representation of burgeoning love, and it’s incredibly easy to see oneself in Riri’s shoes, in Xavier’s. That strong, succinct scene demonstrates a strong sense of characterization, and it transformed a run-of-the-mill super-hero comic into one that shows promise. 7/10