REVIEW: Invincible Iron Man #2 – “Training Pains”

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Marte Gracia

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 12/21/16

Tony Stark’s Artificial Intelligence Matrix wants to train Riri Williams to make her into a more efficient heroine in the present, while more light is shed on her tragedy in the past.

Plot: Invincible Iron Man #2 begins with Riri being roped into an impromptu training session with Tony’s armors, led by his A.I. Riri is resistant at first, and she trades quips back and forth with her would-be mentor. The sparring quickly turns serious, though, and Riri has to put her best iron foot forward to beat her opponents.

At the same time, the readers learn more about Riri’s painful past through flashbacks. Last issue we learned about her step-father while this issue focuses more on her best friend Nat.

Story: The interplay between Riri and Tony – we’ll just call him that for the sake of clarity – is humorous and engaging. While Tony’s presence runs the risk of dwarfing the fledgling heroine, Riri is already so fleshed out and dynamic that she never gets overshadowed. Hopefully that will continue to be the case as her story develops further and she begins facing more established villains. Speaking of which, the end of this week’s Invincible Iron Man introduces the first potentially long-running external conflict of the series. We’ll have to wait another month to see how it pans out, but the set up is intriguing enough.

One of the biggest reasons that Riri feels so three-dimensional after only two issues is the use of flashbacks to expound on her backstory. Not only do these scenes connect readers to the other characters in Riri’s life, seeing as they her mother has yet to appear in the present day, they also unlock aspects of her personality that we might not otherwise know. It’s also heartwarming to see her friendship with Nat play out and learn who she was before life’s horrors visited her.

With less skilled writing, Riri’s past might seem maudlin, but Brian Michael Bendis handles it with aplomb. The scenes that take place in the past are wracked with emotion and heartbreak, so much so that it’s a relief to watch her exchange barbs with Tony and outwit his Iron Men in the present.

Art: Bendis is not the only person to praise when it comes to the emotional impact of Invincible Iron Man. Stefano Caselli draws Riri and her supporting characters with such detailed expressions that they feel like real people, and Marte Gracia fills every panel with vibrant colors that transport the audience into Riri’s world.

Even the training and fight sequences, which could easily get repetitive, feel fresh and rich. For example: when the water splashes around her armor, it nearly jumps off the page thanks to the addition of textured droplets in the scene. The red and black speech bubbles to differentiate Tony from Riri are also clever, and they actually feel robotic. Clayton Cowles continues to prove how much versatility he has when it comes to lettering.

Verdict: Invincible Iron Man #2 builds on the strong foundation of the first issue and provides even more insight into our new heroine. Bendis makes the right choice is slowly introducing readers to both Riri’s past and training, because in this way our affection for her grows as she does. As Riri Williams begins to make her mark on the Marvel universe at large, she has a solid base to return to in her current series.