Unsurprisingly, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is among the most anticipated movies in recent memory. Not only is it a sequel to one of the most culture-defining films of the past ten years, but questions remain about who exactly will play the title hero. But one of the more surprising points of interest involve a new addition to the MCU, Riri Williams aka Ironheart.
Williams first appeared in 2016’s Invincible Iron Man #7, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Mike Deodato, as a young genius inspired by Tony Stark. In the issues that followed, Williams reverse-engineered Stark’s Iron Man armor to deal with a threat, eventually earning her own suit. In her solo series and in the teen team-up book The Champions, Williams has continued to evolve the armor into something more sleek and personal, less beholden to Stark’s aesthetic.
Leaks from both Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the forthcoming Ironheart DIsney+ series have given us some interesting looks at Williams’s armor. Where the teaser trailer only shows Williams, played by Dominique Thorne, greeting Shuri and later pounding away at a slab of metal, a set of action figures featured Ironheart in red and black armor, with a glowing heart-shaped logo. This is a marked difference from the set photos from the Disney+ show, which found Thorne wearing bulky armor that recalled the War Marchine suit worn by James Rhodes.
Thanks to Twitter user @CeeOfCreativity, we have a more detailed look at Ironheart’s upgraded look in Wakanda Forever. The images show a variation of the red Ironheart armor seen in the previous toy leak. But here, we have a few notable, combat-ready additions. On her back, Ironheart wears two large rockets, both spouting blue flame or energy. These suggest a different mode of flying than the smaller rockets found in most Iron Man armor variations, hewing closer to the War Machine look. Also, like War Machine, this Ironheart armor has a large gun on her left hand, the blue plating suggesting a vibranium power source. Finally, the toy comes with a gauntlet gun to place on her right hand, similar in design to the gauntlets Shuri wore during the climactic battle in Black Panther and in Avengers: Endgame.
While these toys continue to suggest that Ironheart will be upgrading her armor throughout the film, leading to the movie’s big battle, they also give us an idea about Williams’s relationship to her forerunners in the MCU. As indicated by her codename and basic armor design, Williams will take inspiration from Tony Stark, whose absence is still felt in the MCU today. However, the Wakandan tech points to a connection to Shuri — who may have her hands full if she takes on her brother’s mantle as Black Panther. Furthermore, the large gun and rocket boosters add credence to a War Machine connection, something already hinted at by the early armor she wears in Ironheart set photos.
With these larger connections, it’s clear that Ironheart will become one of the major players in the MCU. Her role in the Universe will be felt beyond Wakanda Forever and Ironheart, possibly stretching to Armor Wars and maybe even the Avengers.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever comes to theaters on November 11.