If you’ve read my reviews in the past (I thank you for that by the way) than you know my reviews contain very little about my critical analysis of a film or comic. Yes, I do point out flaws with everything I review, but the point of my reviews is for me to really give some insight into my thoughts on whatever I’m reviewing. I also look to bring awareness to certain issues and ideas that (should) define the comic book industry. Diversity is one thing that’s always on my mind. Every person deserves an opportunity to shine. Every story needs to be told. There shouldn’t be a correlation between profit and diversity. Companies should just want to include minority characters because it’s the right thing to do. If you want to have all white guys on a superhero team, that’s fine. Just don’t be surprised when people criticize your story for being boring. Racism in America is another issue I love to cover in my reviews. I’ve lived through it, researched it thoroughly, and have seen it right in front of my eyes. I’d be doing my soul a disservice by not using the amazing platform known as the internet to give my thoughts on what’s going on in this country. I don’t like to go on rhetorical rants or shame anyone who thinks differently than me, but I try to form my thoughts clearly and concisely. If you don’t agree with some of the things I’ve said, you’re more than happy to not read my reviews. All that stuff is a part of who I am. Still, the main reason I decided to start Hero Reviews and News was for my simple, yet wonderful love of superheroes. My love of good storytelling. My love of character development. I read novels as well, but comics means something different to me entirely. Watching a writer craft a story in just a few short issues is something special to witness. A good story can make you stop and think about your life. It can make you reexamine your morals, your values, and even light an ambition in your heart you never even knew was there. That’s what every writer sets out to do when trying to tell a unique story. Some don’t succeed. It’s just a simple fact of life. Some writers though, do a spectacular job. I don’t know (or really give a damn) what others think, but Brian Michael Bendis is one of those writers to me. His resume speaks for itself. When I learned about Riri Williams, I didn’t know what to think. That’s only because I knew how the white males who dominantly read comics would react. You can sadly predict what they’re going to say when a new minority character takes over the mantle of a popular superhero (Miles Morales, Sam Wilson, Amadeus Cho anyone?) Because of that, I thought Marvel might not get behind her 100%. But as her first solo issue came closer, I became more excited. Then a variant cover of her first issue was released. There wasn’t much wrong with the picture, except that Riri didn’t look like a 15-year-old girl. Her hips were too wide, big boobs, and her pants were a bit too low as well. The backlash from the black nerd community was loud. This made me a bit nervous too. Marvel has proven to me that they care about one of my passions, diversity. But at the same time, they want/need sales. Sexualizing women is one of the biggest cop outs when it comes to attracting customers. Normal comic book readers wouldn’t blink twice at it either. Look at the history of sexualizing women in comics. I was hoping that Riri would be viewed as more than that though. I think she is. Bendis is great at taking minority characters and making them feel right at home in the Marvel Universe. When I went to go pick this first issue up, I had a bunch of feelings going through my head. This comic represents everything I love about the industry. Diversity, racism in America, and immaculate storytelling and character development. Welcome to the team, Riri.
The story starts off with Riri Williams at five years old. Her parents are meeting with a child psychologist of some kind. He’s telling her parents about some behavioral outbursts she’s been having. The doctor reassures her parents that Riri’s outbursts aren’t because she’s a bad child, but because she’s extremely bored. He goes on to explain that Riri has tested as a super genius. Her parents are spoon feeding her crap when she wants to do more. It’s a cool scene because I like getting a little background on Riri’s family. It isn’t a complex or even an innovative way to introduce a genius child, but it was fine with me. The doctor tells Riri’s parents that their main concern needs to be making sure that Riri doesn’t lose her humanity. They need to make sure she never gets too bored with the world or never gets too lost in her own head. He tells them that they need to remind her to experience life. That she should learn to love the world for what it is, not what she wants it to be. It’s a cool moment, because this tells us more about her parents than it does her. Riri is a genius, but she is only five here. This advice from the doctor helped them realize that Riri needs all the love she can get. This is the type of home she grew up in. One filled with love, care, and understanding. Sounds cliché, but not too many parents devote their entire focus to their child’s happiness. If they did, smart phones and apps wouldn’t be so popular among seven-year-olds. Riri has good parents, there’s no question. My only gripe during this part here is the art. I don’t like the amount of light on their skin on most of the pages. Yes, we all know these characters are black, but they look a bit weird sometimes because of the amount of light is shown on the top of their heads and their cheeks. It’s a small complaint but something that popped up in my head when reading this.
Now we’re in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A small town, but currently being overrun by monsters. Riri Williams is on site in her suit. It isn’t a slick, Tony Stark designed suit, but something she designed herself. The suit doesn’t have an AI (Artificial Intelligence) helping her out, so she’s pretty much fighting blind. The person tormenting the city of Cheyenne is a mutant named Animax. Animax can conjure up beats with her own DNA. The fight is entertaining for a second, then we go back to the past again. I enjoyed the flashbacks much more than the present in this issue. I wish Bendis would’ve stayed in the past the whole time. Just start there, stay there, then transition to the present at the end of the first issue, or even in the second or third. I wouldn’t mind them taking their time with this character, letting her breathe a bit. Anyways, during this flashback, Riri is trying to build something. She’s ten. Her mother tells her she needs to go outside and do something. She promises her mom she’d quit soon. Just as she was about to dive back into her work, Riri notices a girl outside on a bike. The girl comes in and bugs Riri about what she’s making. They have a funny back and forth. Riri gets to display her brain here. She talks about her gadget she’s working on. The girl’s favorite superhero is Spider-Man. Riri explains that she wants to make something to help a hero like Spider-Man do Spider-Man things even when he’s not able to. She’s frustrated because she can’t figure it out. We learn the girl’s name is Natalie. So we learn that Riri was raised by caring, loving parents, and now we just witnessed her first friendship.
We go back to the present for only a page, then another flashback. This time, Riri and Natalie are 13 years old. Their friendship has grown, and they’re having a barbeque at Marquette Park. Marquette Park is a popular area in Chicago. Unfortunately, it’s a place where violence isn’t an aberration. Riri’s mother tells her to set the table. Her stepdad then tells Riri to remember that it’s a great day. Riri makes a snarky remark about it being annoying. She says she doesn’t get the point of him saying that, because he says it even if it isn’t a good day. Natalie tells Riri she’s gladly take her no father for Riri’s annoying stepfather. I didn’t really get the sense something bad was going to happen here. I was thinking, “This is a nice moment. I can’t wait to see her and Natalie’s friendship now” Yeah, Bendis made me feel like a moron. Life doesn’t always work out the way we want it. A drive by shooting occurs. Riri’s mother shouts out to the girls. Her stepdad rushes to protect them. She’s unharmed, but when she gets up, she notices both her stepdad and Natalie (along with a couple of other boys who the shooting was intended for) are dead. The art here made me tear up. Natalie looks up at Riri and says, “Why?” Seriously, people. Why does this continue to happen to the best of people? It’s infuriating because it makes me question my life. Why am I alive? I consider myself to be a good person, but there are thousands of great teens like Natalie who have their lives cut short by violence. Whether it’s drive by shootings or incompetent policemen, it doesn’t make any sense. I think of a quote from Sylvester Stallone’s character in Expendables 2. Liam Hemsworth’s character dies. He’s a young kid who’s faithful to his girl that’s overseas. All he wants is to see her again. The rest of the men have no interest in settling down, but this kid has a good head on his shoulders. He begins working with the Expendables to make some extra money and he’s one of the best snipers in the world. He’s the youngest member of the group, but risks his life for them. They hold a funeral for him. Sylvester Stallone says, “Why is it that the one of us who wants to live the most, deserves to live the most dies, and the one who deserves to die keep on living? What’s the message in that?” It’s a quote I think of whenever truly innocent, good people die.
Back in the present and Riri figures out how to defeat Animax. She makes quick work of the mutant and is greeted by the local police force. Riri is explaining to them that she’s still fairly new. She is still talking when a cop shoots her right in the head. Of course, she’s okay because of her armor, but the message here is clear. That cop didn’t give a damn that Riri saved them. He didn’t care that she put her hands up and began to explain herself to them. She didn’t move, her hands were up, and she had just saved the city. Still got shot. She responds by saying, “Wow, really?” She uses some sort of tractor beam to pull in the officer’s gun and then she crushes it.
The issue ends with her back at home working on her suit. Her mom comes up and Riri explains that she needs an AI in order for her suit to function properly. Just as she says this, a man appears with a weird box. Inside the box is a machine that says ‘Push Me.’ Riri loses her mind as the machine emits a blue light in front of her. Instantly she knows what it is. Tony Stark downloaded himself into a digital construct to help Riri as she prepares to take over. He’ll be her new AI. He tells her they have a lot of work to do, and the issue ends.
All in all, a GREAT introduction to who Riri Williams is. We learned a lot about her family life, her friends, and the type of struggles she’s gone through growing up in Chicago. I would like a bit more consistency when it comes to what she looks like, but I feel like it’ll sort itself out soon. As I stated earlier, this comic represents everything I love about comic books. It was going to take a pretty ridiculous story to make me dislike Riri’s first issue. She’s in good hands with Bendis. I hear people talk about how he isn’t qualified to write about black characters because he isn’t black. For your average Hollywood writer or your average comic book writer, I’d usually agree. White writers tend to pander to black audiences by adhering to unnecessary, outdate stereotypes. It’s infuriating as a black man to see some television shows still thinking we all talk like idiots with no grammar skills at all. Slang is one thing, but nonsensical rambling is another. Bendis isn’t one of these writers though. Does he truly, to his core understand what it’s like to be a minority? No, no matter how many minorities he writes, he isn’t one. But Brian Michael Bendis cares about inclusion and diversity. It’s amazing what a white man in charge can do about the scope of diversity (I say that sarcastically, because white men in charge are going to be the driving force behind diversity in comics. They start caring, everyone else will fall in line.) He is the co-creator of Jessica Jones and Miles Morales. Definitely two of my favorite Marvel characters today. Riri should grow up nicely during her run as Iron Heart. I’m totally okay with Tony Stark being her AI for this series. I already hate the guy, but seeing him as just her mentor, not someone she desperately relies on will be nice. I hope everyone goes out and gets this book. It’s a solid intro and has me anticipating more. Here’s to more diversity in comics!
Enjoy this review? I’ll be reviewing every issue of this series. Please go pick it up though and read my reviews to get my insight on Riri’s growth. As always, follow me on Twitter @Hero_Review
Until next time! Peace, Love, and Comics!!