Ironheart’s Armor Copies What Made Phase 1 Iron Man So Cool
Warning: This contains SPOILERS for Black Panther 2.The MCU’s Multiverse Saga has already made Riri Williams’ Ironheart suits of armor as fun to watch as Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits were back in MCU Phase 1. Iron Man’s absence has been felt throughout the MCU since he died, not just because of Tony Stark’s wit and personality, but also because of his impressive roster of armored suits, which practically served as the MCU’s mascots throughout its first three phases. However, with Riri Williams making her debut on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, hi-tech, homemade armored suits are back in the MCU.
Ironheart’s armor was initially a capable but ultimately poor copy of Iron Man’s base technologies, but her second armor was made with Wakandan technology. The final Ironheart suit also includes vibranium, so Shuri didn’t allow Riri to take the Ironheart Mark II armor out of Wakanda in the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ending. With Riri Williams set to star in Ironheart, possibly Armor Wars, and other MCU projects, Ironheart is bound to undergo a similar journey as Tony Stark when he was developing early versions of his armor. This allows the MCU to once again take advantage of what made MCU Phase 1 Iron Man so cool — the early Iron Man suits felt like the could exist (unlike the nanotech in Avengers: Endgame). This is what makes Iron Man and Ironheart feel grounded and real, despite the fact that their story arcs are hinged on impossibly advanced technology.
Iron Man’s Early Suits Felt Real
Like the main Ironheart suit featured in the climax of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Tony Stark’s first Iron Man armor was the product of a life-or-death situation. Stark made the bulky Iron Man Mark I with while held captive in a cave. Every Iron Man armor/suit MCU Tony Stark wore in some way upgraded its predecessor, be it with more powerful repulsors, an AI system, a portable suit-up system, or any of the many other enhancements seen. Several years and many versions of the Iron Man armor later, Stark finally perfected Iron Man with nanotech. This gradual progression made Iron Man an incredibly powerful superhero — but also removed part of what made his early appearances so exciting.
Iron Man’s suit-up process stands out in the MCU’s Iron Man trilogy and The Avengers. Unlike the nearly instant mechanism of the nanotech suits in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Iron Man’s first suits of armor took their time to show how every piece slid into place and how all the gears and plates adapted to Tony Stark’s body. While not nearly as powerful as the Mark 50 or Mark 85 Iron Man armors, suits like the Mark IV provided a clear sense of weight that made the early Iron Man suits appear stronger. With Tony Stark gone, Riri Williams will likely continue this tradition by creating similar armors that put on a spectacle every time they’re assembled.
Riri Williams’ Ironheart Suit Honors Iron Man’s Legacy
There are many MCU characters that may be willing to continue Iron Man’s legacy after his death. Spider-Man was Tony Stark’s protegé, War Machine his best friend, and Justin Hammer his envious rival. But Iron Man’s definitive successor needs more than a genius mind or good fighting skills. As Tony’s true successor, Riri Williams has demonstrated her ability to adapt by using vastly different armors, from an improvised one like the Mark I to specialized suits like Iron Man 3‘s Iron Legion prototypes. This can be seen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, with Riri’s first prototype being a crude but fast and well-armed model, and the second Ironheart suit being capable enough to give even Namor trouble.
As the definitive Ironheart suit is a collaboration between Riri and Shuri, the new Black Panther, the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cast actually pays tribute to Tony Stark in more ways than one. The circumstances of Riri’s MCU debut giving a sense of urgency to the creation of the Ironheart armor also allowed the MCU to avoid the mistake of basing her first suits on Stark’s Endgame nanotech. Giving Ironheart nanotech from the get-go would likely stunt her character arc. It would be more appropriate for Riri Williams to struggle with all the minutiae, just like Tony Stark did. Seeing her suit up the same way Tony used to during his first appearances, hearing the movement of the joints and the clink of the mask closing, and seeing the hero’s face while inside the suit takes loyal fans back to Iron Man’s glory days.
Ironheart’s Suit Makes The Tech Feel Like Tech Again
Iron Man eventually using nanotechnology to pull off feats virtually indistinguishable from magic made sense for his story arc. However, it also lacked the grounded-yet-classic sci-fi look and feel of Tony’s earlier suits. By the time Ironheart or Black Panther 3 releases, Riri is bound to sport a similarly advanced Ironheart suit — but the MCU certainly made the right call by allowing Riri to undergo Tony’s journey of developing their own technology by utilizing what’s available. Even with the help of Shuri and Wakandan technology, Ironheart’s armor still feels like it’s not that far beyond real technology. Tony’s final Iron Man armors, on the other hand, only really made sense for a final, spectacle-ridden showdown. When the entire universe doesn’t hang in the balance, a hero with Tony’s nanotech would feel a little overpowered. Ironheart has armor that feels like armor again, rather than a combination of Dr. Strange’s sorcery and a Venom symbiote. Tony Stark may be dead, but through Riri Williams what made early Iron Man so great has returned to the MCU.
Next: After Wakanda Forever, All OG Avengers Have 1 Surprising Thing In Common