“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was a truly befitting tribute to Chadwick Boseman and the legacy that he had left behind by portraying the character of Black Panther. As much as we missed him, the film ensured that his absence remained one of the core aspects of its narrative. We saw the return of our beloved characters from the kingdom of Wakanda. We also got two new faces as well as the return of some old ones. Among the new ones, we have Namor and Riri Williams. The old ones include Everett Ross and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. In this article, we will talk about Riri and Valentina and how they will pave their way into the future of the MCU.
Riri Williams, AKA Ironheart
A child prodigy, Riri Williams, was introduced in 2016’s Invincible Iron Man Volume 2 #7. Created by Brian Michael Bendis, Riri is a 15-year-old teenager, as opposed to a 19-year-old in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” who is studying at MIT. After making a suit of armor for herself, Tony Stark offers her sponsorship, and that is the beginning of her Ironheart story. She also develops her own A.I., NATALIE (in the film, she has Shuri’s A.I., Griot, voiced by Trevor Noah). NATALIE is named after her late best friend, who died along with Riri’s stepfather during a shooting at a park in Chicago.
Now, we know about MCU’s inclination towards improvisation. So, recalling how Tony made every student an equal recipient of the September Foundation Grant at the beginning of “Captain America: Civil War” can imply that Riri was one of the students who received the grant. Tony became her idol, and she thus based her armor on the Iron Man suit.
In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” we learn that it was Riri Williams’ (played by Dominique Thorne) now-deceased father who put tools in her hands. This was her first step towards the love she later harbored for machines and technology. She also mentions her brother in the film, who isn’t there in the comics. At the end of the film, she returns to MIT, but her talents can easily turn her into a target for men of power. This will probably be a plot point in the character’s upcoming solo series, “Ironheart,” on Disney+.
In the comics, she has interacted with Pepper Potts, Kama Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, and Miles Morales. She has also encountered the Ten Rings. While Kamala has already arrived at the MCU, Miles has yet to make his entrance. But we can be sure that these three will meet in the future in the MCU as well. As for the series, all that we know is that it will feature the supervillain Parker Robins, aka The Hood. In the comics, Robin owns a magically cloaked hood and a pair of magical boots that Dormammu intended him to have as part of his own larger plan to grow his foothold on Earth. Anthony Ramos will play the role. There is a chance for Pepper Potts to turn up in the show, as well as Happy Hogan and James Rhodes. Considering her connection to the Ten Rings, the show might reveal her father to be a member of the cult, now run by Xialing, Shang Chi’s sister. The “Ironheart” show will have six episodes and will come out in the Fall of 2023. After the show, Riri Williams will show up in the Don Cheadle movie “Armor Wars,” which is now going to be a movie and not a series.
Valentina Allegra De Fontaine And The Thunderbolts
We last saw Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the “Black Widow” mid-credits scene, where she hires Yelena Belova to track down Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. Before “Black Widow,” she played an important role in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” While she was Countess in it, in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” she gets a new position and plays the role of CIA director and ex-wife of Everett Ross. That she is looking for vibranium is yet another threat to the world, as it will make her team invulnerable. This brings us to the Thunderbolts.
We all know that she has been recruiting her own team of super-agents, and with her now as the director of the CIA, she has the power to not just recruit but train them on her own terms. The team will be called “Thunderbolts” (the film arrives in July 2024), and we already know its members. They are Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), John Walker, aka U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), the Red Guardian (David Harbour), the Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and the Ghost, aka Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen). Interestingly, in the comics, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is a Skrull, unlike in the MCU. However, it might be that the Skrulls decide to contact her in the MCU’s upcoming “Secret Invasion” (the show arrives in 2023), which will show Earth being invaded by the Skrulls. But before getting their own solo film, the Thunderbolts will appear in “Captain America: The New World Order” (May 2024). All this does make sense, as after being empowered by the Skrulls and vibranium, de Fontain will probably intend on establishing the U.S. as a superpower, crushing other nations, especially the likes of Wakanda and Talokan. This is when Sam Wilson’s Captain America will intervene, defending America and its belief in a world shared by all nations.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the last theatrical film in the Phase four of marvel cinematic universe and Phase five will kick off with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which will probably get a release in February 2023.