Avengers: Endgame brought about an end to the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s founding father Tony Stark, but new rumors suggest that the super-genius inventor’s legacy will carry on in the new character of Ironheart, soon to make her MCU debut on the Disney+ streaming service. While the move is almost certain to anger many people, there are also a number of reasons to be very excited for Ironheart taking on the mantle of her predecessor Iron Man.
If true, the Ironheart series will join seven other Marvel series’ currently in development for Disney+ – and two others rumored to be in pre-production, a Secret Invasion series and a Ghost Rider project which I will also cover. An argument could be made that Marvel is over-expanding themselves, but so far we have yet to see the studio make a mistake: and many of their upcoming series’ are already attracting very positive buzz, as fans clamor to see the stories of characters like Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Loki and Hawkeye (is anyone actually clamoring for that last one?) continued on the small screen and with more screentime than they would receive in the movies. But the streaming service is also a place where Marvel is looking to introduce several new heroes, including Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams.
Williams is a recent addition to the roster of Marvel heroes in the comics, having made her solo debut in 2018. She’s an intelligent and capable young black woman who builds her own iron suit while still an M.I.T. student, and later receives Tony Stark’s own blessing. Her story is largely wound up with that of Stark and his wife Pepper Potts, who give the young heroine advice, refuge and assistance during her Ironheart missions. That obviously poses a little bit of a problem for the MCU version of the character, since Tony Stark is already dead and Pepper seems to have been retired.
The comics do provide a solution for this problem, as Riri Williams’ Ironheart is often accompanied by the Tony Stark A.I., a sentient hologram of the hero. In the MCU, it wouldn’t be hard to explain the existence of something like that – Tony Stark was constantly inventing things, and he prepared for his death far in advance: in Endgame, it was revealed that he had even prepared one last holographic message for his daughter to comfort her during his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to have Riri discover that he had also built himself a second body and brain with a fully-functioning consciousness – again, there’s precedent in the way Stark (albeit unintentionally) designed and created his own sentient A.I. personal assistants, most notably Jarvis.
There’s just one more obstacle. Robert Downey Jr. would have to return – he would likely only be willing to do that if his role was substantial enough to warrant it, but to do justice to Ironheart, any role Tony Stark plays would have to be small enough that he doesn’t overshadow her character. It definitely wouldn’t benefit either character, or the show in general, if Tony Stark’s return to the MCU drew criticisms for a white savior narrative. If the screenwriters for the series could find a delicate balance, they might just be able to convince Downey Jr. to make a return to the MCU – but in my opinion, it would have to be a one-off: the A.I. tech might be broken or only half-finished, meaning that Stark only gets to stick around for the duration of the series.
Without Downey Jr.’s involvement, there’s still ways for Riri to be a compelling character. If having her encounter Tony Stark himself is impossible, she could still be inspired by his enduring legacy in the MCU – a fun alternative might be to have one of her role models be someone like Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick War Machine, who is one of the saga’s most underrated characters, or Princess Shuri of Wakanda, another young, black super-genius. Riri’s main villain in the comics has an origin story that could be tinkered with to tie into either the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series or Shang-Chi, or both: Tomoe, or “Techno Golem” as she is more commonly referred to, is an Inhuman who uses her power as the head of the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate to control an army of ninjas from her hideout in the criminal underworld of Osaka, Japan. And Riri herself, apart from all outside influences, isn’t just a tokenized legacy character, as some are quick to claim – quiet and introverted, but driven by her ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for science to pursue her dreams, she also suffers from the trauma of witnessing the death of her best friend and her step-father in a shooting. With a talented actress in the role, she could easily be on par with Tony Stark, or his own hand-picked successor, Peter Parker.
And who better to play this pioneering character than an actress like Marsai Martin? Martin is currently fifteen – the exact same age as Riri Williams in the comics – and has the distinction of being Hollywood’s youngest producer, as well as a winner of several NAACP Image Awards. She is best known for her roles in ABC comedy Black-ish, and as the star of Universal’s Little, but she should have no problems transitioning over to Disney+.
So what do you think of the idea of an Ironheart series? Have I helped to convince you that it’s actually a pretty good idea, or are you still on the fence about it? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!