Black Panther: Wakanda Forever certainly deals with a lot of its past and present. From the ramifications of making itself known to the world to the aftermath of losing its beloved King, there’s a lot to explore alongside its action. But, as is the case with most Marvel offerings, the film also prepares us for the future. It is the final project in Phase 4, so of course it lays groundwork for the next chapter in the ongoing saga of the MCU. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever introduces Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart, and sets the stage for her Disney+ series in a wonderful way.
The film serves as almost a backdoor pilot for Riri Williams, introducing her to the live-action world. She’s a 19-year-old computer and engineering wiz MIT student (so she gets an age bump from the comics). Riri is also a hustler who uses her genius intellect to do her fellow students’ homework for money. She’s also not above blackmailing them to get a better fee. She might be young, but she’s tough enough to stand up to Okoye, fight the police, and go into battle.
As expected, she’s also a major Iron Man fan who builds her own secretive suit. But her skills as an engineer also put her life in peril. Ironheart finds herself on the wrong side of Namor and the Talokans. To spite a professor, she builds a machine that can detect vibranium, the only such device in the world. Like Tony Stark did long ago in a cave, it’s partly made out of scraps, showing just how much she learned toying around in her late father’s garage as a kid.
As a result, Namor wants to find Riri and kill her because, well, he doesn’t want anyone sniffing around the ocean for the valuable substance. The search for vibranium could lead to the discovery and destruction of his underwater world.
That’s how Riri comes under the care and camaraderie of Wakanda and Shuri, a comic connection that forms an undeniable bond. Their first major interaction leads to us seeing a cool early version of Riri’s Ironheart suit in action. In Wakanda, Riri uses the country’s tech to make an improved, far more stylish suit that she takes into battle. However, at the end of the film Shuri makes Riri leave the new iron suit behind. But while her original vibranium detector is destroyed in the film, the CIA knows Riri is the only one who can build one. She might be safe from Talokan for now, but likely not from her own government.
Ironheart and Her MCU Future
The Ironheart series will debut sometime in fall 2023, close to a year after Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. However, it seems that Ironheart will be a direct continuation of Riri Williams’ story. Her TV introduction certainly won’t be like Ms. Marvel’s, where her entire path from regular kid to hero took place on-screen. We will already have a foundational knowledge of who she is in the MCU and the very real journey she’s about to take.
In the comics, we see Riri taking a step back from being a hero, yet getting into the mix of an investigation alongside N.A.T.A.L.I.E. The details of that lead her back into the suit and eventually into a collective of young heroes. Riri’s first trip to Wakanda certainly isn’t her last, but that’s not likely in her television show. It’s up in the air how things will go and what new suits Ironheart will possibly build. (I am personally holding out hope for her pink one to make an appearance.) Until then, we can take joy in knowing that Black girls are shining in the Marvel Universe.