Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever sports a massive cast of characters. One of the new personalities on that list, someone audiences haven't yet met, is Dominque Thorne's Riri Williams. Not only will she be new to the scene, but she'll pick up the habit that Robert Downey Jr. left behind in Avengers: Endgame - making high-tech super suits.
Fans have already seen two different designs for suits she'll be sporting in Wakanda Forever, and set images from her series, Ironheart, show off a third model. Though, despite these suits that are very reminiscent of Iron Man, the two characters don't seem to have ever met or known each other.
While Riri Williams in the comics has direct ties and interactions with Iron Man, with Stark dead in the MCU, the two characters feel more disconnected from each other than they should be.
So how exactly will the legacy of Robert Downey Jr.'s iconic hero influence the up-and-coming inventor?
Robert Downey Jr.'s Ironheart Influence
When asked about what it was like to film sequences and moments that were reminiscent of Iron Man's time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moore commented on how "it was really exciting" while also noting that Riri's Ironheart "probably steps less directly in Tony's footsteps" in the MCU than she does in the comics:
"It was really exciting, and you sort of put your finger on it. It is both a nod to Tony Stark, but [also] its own thing. You know, Riri Williams, I think, probably steps less directly in Tony's footsteps than she does [in the comics], but there's certainly an admiration for all the stuff he built, and even as we're crafting shots and sequences, thinking about what you've seen in other Iron Man movies, and sort of doing our riff on it, was really fun."
As for the design of Riri Williams' suit in Wakanda Forever, the producer shared that the idea behind it was to visualize what it would look like "if someone was actually trying to build an Iron Man suit" without Tony Stark resources:
"... The notion was, and Ryan [Coogler] is such a grounded filmmaker, if someone was actually trying to build an Iron Man suit, but didn't have Iron Man resources, where would she go? So it is a little bit more ad hoc. And he also loved the idea that, you know, Riri used to build cars with her dad. So, there's sort of a, kind of, Detroit-motor-city feel to it. It's not as sleek and clean as Tony's suit."
Moore likened Riri's Ironheart suit to "a muscle car as a suit," one that "is kind of big and clunkier than Tony's suit:"
"Even the trails of the suit are more gas-powered. Like, you get the feeling that it's like a muscle car as a suit, which we thought was interesting and also contrasts really well with Dominque [Thorne's] size. Because she's such a small person, but such a powerful personality. That the suit is kind of big and clunkier than Tony's suit cause that's how she would have built it."
Connecting Ironheart to Iron Man's Legacy
Some might be disappointed in the lack of direct ties to Tony Stark, but given that he's dead, there wasn't much choice in it for Marvel.
Though, from the sound of it, they still do the character justice in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever while also doing their best to give appropriate nods to Stark's ingenuity that has almost certainly inspired Dominque Thorne's hero.
But could Ironheart one day have direct interactions with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark? Sure, he might be dead, but in the comics, the Avenger does create an AI version of himself—one that ends up in Riri's suit.
It certainly seems like an easy enough plot development to set up, one which would help connect the two characters while not taking away from Iron Man's death.
Tony's legacy will go a lot further than affecting Riri Williams in the MCU's future. Based on the premise of the upcoming movie Armor Wars, which follows Stark Tech getting into the wrong hands, it seems the wider world isn't going to forget about the late Avenger any time soon.
Hopefully, Riri's Disney+ series, Ironheart, can also find additional ways to tie the character more directly to Iron Man's time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ironheart is set to hit Disney+ in Fall 2023, while Armor Wars does not currently have a release date.