While the plot of the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever remains unknown, allowing the MCU to build suspense for the question of who’s succeeding the late Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa) as the film’s leading man, the film’s cast roster continues to grow. The movie was announced immediately following 2018’s Black Panther and the massive swell of critical and commercial success that ensued.
The very same year, Letitia Wright confirmed her reprisal of T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who will be given a more prominent role in the sequel due to Boseman’s passing. Danai Gurira was also confirmed as Okoye, Winston Duke as M’Baku, and Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest from the first film. In addition, Dominique Thorne, an African American actress known for Judas and the Black Messiah, will make her MCU debut as Riri Williams (aka Ironheart) ahead of the release of the Ironheart television series.
Thorne’s portrayal of Riri Williams in the Ironheart series on Disney+ has been previously teased by Marvel Studios, though we won’t be formally introduced to Riri until her first on-screen appearance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This slow rollout is no surprise, considering how Marvel likes to intertwine its characters and introduce them outside of their respective franchises. In fact, the world’s first introduction to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther didn’t occur until 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, which also introduced Tom Holland as Spider-Man.
Unfortunately, details regarding Riri Williams’ MCU debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever are as scarce and unclear as are the plot details of the move itself. It is worth noting, though, that the character does have some history with Wakanda. So, naturally, looking into the character’s comic book history may give us some clues as to how the character will be portrayed when she makes her big on-screen debut.
From what we know so far, Riri Williams’ Ironheart will make her official MCU debut in Wakanda Forever, suggesting that the character’s origin story developed elsewhere; in this case, the Ironheart Disney+ series. However, it’s entirely probable for the series to adhere to the details from the comic books in which she’s portrayed as a teenage engineering genius whose intelligence levels rival that of even the late Tony Stark himself, whom she’s often associated with. In fact, Riri Williams’ first appearance in comic book form was as a cameo appearance in 2016’s Invincible Iron Man Vol.3 #7, though she made her full appearance as Ironheart in 2017’s Invincible Iron Man Vol.4 #3.
Through a series of tragic events that usually become the impetus of a comic book character’s development into a superhero, Riri suffered a family tragedy, which prompted her to reverse-engineer the technology from the outdated Iron Man Armor Mark 41 — a lightweight Iron Man armor briefly seen in 2013’s Iron Man 3. She soon started developing her own prototype armor using stolen material from the MIT campus, leading her to adorn the armor and stop two escaped prison inmates. Hearing about her efforts, Tony Stark reached out to Riri, granting her his blessing and even becoming an AI within her armor for a while.
Despite the fandom’s outcry to see Tony Stark’s Robert Downey Jr. reprise his role (yes, we know what we said), there’s still no clear indication whether either of the two will be a part of Riri Willams’ character backstory in the MCU.
While the character’s comic book history contains adventures in Wakanda, in which Riri is accompanied by Wakanda’s purported future Queen and perhaps the next Black Panther, the prominence of Williams’ debut role in the upcoming film remains unclear. In all possibility, we might witness her taking Iron Man’s place in the MCU, although she won’t have Tony Stark’s help after the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Perhaps he’ll be the AI inside her suit, as he was in the comics, who knows?
Regardless, everything about the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is kept under tight wraps, with the production and the cast being incredibly tight-lipped about the project. However, the sequel to the massively successful Black Panther will be Ironheart’s live-action debut, and the casting of Tenoch Huerta as Namor the Sub-Mariner is somewhat suggestive of the direction of the upcoming movie might take and what we could potentially expect from the narrative.
The exceptionally talented Dominique Thorne will be the one set to portray Riri Williams, as one of several young actors who recently signed on to help steward the next phase of the MCU. So far, these new MCU cast members include Ant-Man‘s Cassie Lang, WandaVision‘s Billy and Tommy Maximoff, and Black Widow‘s Yelena Belova. Kate Bishop will join the list shortly, seeing she debuts in the upcoming Hawkeye, as well as Kamala Khan in the upcoming Ms. Marvel.
Anyone interested in watching Riri Williams’ MCU debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will have to wait for July 8, 2022, when the film is scheduled for a theatrical release. Unfortunately, Riri Williams’ Ironheart series still doesn’t have a premiere date on Disney+.