Black Panther: Wakanda Forever closed out the MCU's Phase 4 slate in 2022, introducing Riri Williams to the franchise for the first time in the process. This had led to some concern from fans due to Thorne's character essentially replacing Downey's iconic MCU hero, especially after Tony Stark's death so poignantly capped off the Infinity Saga in Avengers: Endgame.
Black Panther 2 director Ryan Coogler compared the change to Miles Morales and Peter Parker as Spider-Man, expressing his excitement in 2022 to spotlight somebody with "a different background" and a fresh perspective that fans haven't seen before.
The two have even been said to have a "complicated" connection in the MCU, which will be explored even further once Williams takes her place as the leading star in Ironheart.
Ironheart Star on Iron Man Replacement Concerns
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Ironheart star Dominique Thorne addressed fan concerns about her character replacing Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man.
She remembered noticing the "hesitation and doubt and...concerns" about her character's introduction, recognizing how people are now looking forward to seeing where Riri Williams goes on her MCU journey:
"It feels absolutely beautiful to sit in the middle of. It feels now that people are genuinely interested in knowing more about who this Riri Williams character is. I remember when the announcement was first made that she’d be entering the MCU, there was so much hesitation and doubt and definitely some concerns about why, and what could her future in the MCU be, and now it seems that folks are very excited learn what that is. So I’m very excited to go on that journey with them."
She also spoke with Variety about what she's looking forward to with her own series, commenting on the "warm reception" she felt after her introduction in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and looking forward to seeing "how people feel about the rest of her:"
"I am so excited for folks to get to meet Riri and just dive into her, to finally get to share the depths of this girl, at least in so far as we’ve been able to tap into her in the series. I think that there was such a warm reception to her through ‘Wakanda Forever,’ and I’m so, so, so excited to see how people feel about the rest of her."
Ironheart Star Ready for MCU Solo Arrival
Ironheart is only the latest MCU hero to take over a mantle for a veteran Marvel character after She-Hulk, Kate Bishop, and Yelena Belova, and it's clear that Dominique Thorne hears fans' concerns about the move. But after the heroine's full debut as a supporting character in Black Panther 2, Thorne sees a shift in opinions about her upcoming solo story.
Thorne has even gotten plenty of encouragement from Downey himself as she joins the MCU, who didn't actually give her any advice for the role and told her that she'd be good going down this path.
Now, fans wait to find out more information about her upcoming solo series, which will put her on an exciting journey in her hometown of Chicago as she faces magic for the first time in her story.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now streaming on Disney+. Ironheart is expected to debut on Disney+ in Fall 2023.