A Guide to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”‘s Scene-Stealing Riri Williams

A Guide to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”‘s Scene-Stealing Riri Williams

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. © 2022 MARVEL.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” introduces quite a few new characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of our favorites? Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, played by Dominique Thorne. The character makes a major splash in the sequel, interacting with Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and Namor (Tenoch Huerta) in fun, funny, and moving ways. At the end of the movie, she returns to the US, where fans will meet her again in the upcoming Disney+ series “Ironheart.” The character might be new for movie and TV viewers, but she has her own history in Marvel comics. Ahead, we’re breaking down her comic history, her role in the MCU and “Wakanda Forever,” and where her story could go from here.

Who Is Riri Williams in the Marvel Comics?

The character of Riri and her superhero persona, Ironheart, was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mike Deodato in 2016. She made her first appearance in the “Invisible Iron Man” comic book series, and she starred in the third volume of the series that debuted at the end of 2016.

At the start of her journey, Riri is a 15-year-old genius living with her mom and aunt in Chicago. She gets a scholarship to attend MIT and uses items she stole from campus to make her own Iron Man-style suit. Eventually, Tony Stark hears about her heroics and gives her his blessing. She eventually becomes a member of the teenage superhero team known as the Champions, which includes Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales as Spider-man, Nova, and Vision’s daughter Viv.

Who Is Riri Williams in the MCU?

In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Riri makes her introduction as a scientist who’s made a Vibranium-detecting machine for the US government. Namor wants to kill her for that reason, because that machine led them right to Tālocān, the secret underwater kingdom he rules.

Okoye and Shuri track Riri down to MIT, where she’s a student. She’s a few years older than her 15-year-old comics counterpart, though still has most of the same backstory, including her origins in Chicago and her grief over her father’s death. It turns out she made the machine for a class assignment and didn’t know that the government was using it. Okoya and Shuri follow her to her warehouse, where she has a prototype of her Iron Man-style suit and some other projects, including her dad’s old car, which gets wrecked in a fight against Namor.

Eventually, Riri ends up in Wakanda, where Namor attacks them all. Queen Ramonda dies saving Riri from drowning. Riri helps them plan to defeat Namor, and, with Shuri’s help, she builds a more advanced suit and burns a heart into the center plate, becoming Ironheart. After the battle, Shuri sends Riri back to MIT without the suit but with her dad’s fixed car.

“Wakanda Forever” features a few moments that call back to Tony Stark’s introduction into the MCU as Iron Man. During the chase through Boston, Riri flies her suit very high up to take out a drone, losing oxygen and crashing back down to earth. Iron Man does something very similar in the first “Iron Man” film. And later, when Riri builds the newer version of her suit in Wakanda, she wears a tank top as she literally bends iron with a hammer. An iconic shot of Tony from the first movie saw him doing the same thing while building the first Iron Man suit in a cave.

Viewers will see Riri next in her own “Ironheart” Disney+ series. The show will follow her adventures at MIT and also star Anthony Ramos as Parker Robbins, aka the Hood. The six-episode series, which is part of Marvel’s Phase 5, will premiere in late 2023.