The latest chapter in Riri William's life tests her optimistic and individualist nature against the more cynical world of S.H.I.E.L.D. and adults. While Bendis' story does remain a bit slow, Caselli's art direction and Bendis' characterization of Marvel's latest millennial superhero help INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8 stand tall as a series.
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Heart of Gold

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8 furthers the character development of Marvel’s newest hero, Riri Williams. Brian Michael Bendis details how well Riri interacts alongside the world as a super genius, despite her age. From her past as a mature child to her current conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D., Riri recognizes that people want things from her. This is all because of her abilities as a genius and later a hero. Recognition like this allows Riri to be portrayed as a hero wiser beyond her years figuratively as well as literally. However, at the same time, this maturity devoid of a cynical adult perspective shows Riri as indecisive. It makes INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8’s narrative move at a rather slow pace. Nevertheless, with a compelling look at its protagonist and impressive visuals, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8 manages to remain worthwhile despite its somewhat tedious pace.

Image from INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8: Enter the Crime Scene

Starting off with another video diary,  Riri discusses the recent offers that she has been given so far (i.e. Tony Stark’s lab, an invite from the Champions) before arriving at the scene of an explosion at the Smithsonian. The cause of this incident? A suicide bomber sent by Lucia von Bardas to cripple S.H.I.E.L.D. Upon arriving, Ironheart discovers S.H.I.E.L.D. director Shannon Carter, who managed to survive the explosion physically unharmed but emotionally shaken. Seeing as she was the only person willing to show up, Carter asks Riri to work with her on neutralizing the perpetrator of this incident. Can our hero trust Carter’s call for help as genuine, or is there an ulterior, government-based motive at play here?

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Arguably the most original aspect of Riri’s interactions with the Marvel universe has been how her sense of optimism clashes against the world-weary skepticism and cynicism of others. We see this early on in flashbacks. In one, Riri’s younger self seeks inspiration from a teacher who fails to understand what drives her student forward. The teacher means well, but her advice isn’t the kind Riri needs or wants to hear. Later in life, Riri’s approach to handling conflict also differs from the advice given to her by Tony Stark’s A.I. The A.I. tells Riri to act serious around Nick Fury, as well as remain skeptical about Director Carter’s intentions. However, Riri seems to recognize that there might not always be a shady motivation behind one’s actions. Even if S.H.I.E.L.D. has been monitoring her since childhood, she can acknowledge they genuinely are in need of help.

New to the Game

This continues a trend from previous entries in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, slowly building up Riri’s list of choices without ever showing what she herself has decided on. This approach has both pros and cons for the current narrative. On the one hand, it allows for the protagonist’s decision-making to feel more natural. This makes it so the audience never knows precisely what direction Riri’s story will take. Her choices feel more human with flaws, rather than a cookie-cutter, by the numbers comic book character.

On the other hand, such an approach risks diminishing audience interest, as readers still expect some form of progression per issue. Therefore, when INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8 takes too much time to display the next stage in Riri’s arc, it can feel a little tedious. Hopefully, next issue’s upcoming confrontation will allow the writers to emphasize how the current storyline will impact the protagonist’s future journey.

Image from INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Shading is Key in Caselli’s Artwork

Like the rest of the series, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN # 8 looks gorgeous. Artist Stefano Caselli captures an enormous level of detail within the frames. Each character looks incredibly vivid, and even the closeup shots manage to capture their internal emotions within the moment. There are the occasional wide shots in which faces and figure details are blurred. However, for the remaining 95%, it maintains consistency. Caselli also places emphasis on shadows and reflections within certain interactions. He heavily shades the moments of characters’ uncertainty towards their predicament. This is most notable in the scenes shared between Ironheart and Director Carter. Carter’s face is darkened from grief within the Smithsonian’s ruins, and Ironheart’s is hidden behind a mask. Even if the story remains somewhat slow, the visuals do provide ways to understand what is going on in this story. It’s more concerned with the human side of these characters.

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INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8’s story is by no means poor. It progresses the story of Riri William and her humorous suit mentor/A.I. as she navigates opportunities in a cynical world. However, the moments of incredibly slow progression could turn a few readers off. This is particularly true if they want to see a larger focus of this series placed on action. Nevertheless, with an endearing protagonist and impressive art design driving the story, I still wish to see more of Riri’s journey unveil itself in the upcoming months. Presumably, by that time, the series will have changed its title to THE INVINCIBLE IRONHEART.

One Comment

  1. Alex Reynard

    June 26, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    You skipped the part where Li’l Riri WANTS her teacher to be sexist towards her, because she wants to be inspired through having someone oppose her. She is disappointed in her teacher for approving of her desire to be a scientist. I cannot like a character who needs to be a victim to define herself.


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