The following contains major spoilers for Iron Man #24, available now from Marvel Comics.
Tony Stark has always been one of Marvel’s most resourceful heroes, and the last few months have seen him prove it over and over again. Instead of lashing out or launching any kind of large-scale assault against his latest foes, Iron Man has embarked on a campaign to dismantle the maniacal Source Control with cash. Unfortunately, Source Control’s most dangerous assets continue to elude him, although they have landed much closer to home than Tony initially believed. In fact, he’s another armored hero who now wields the Ten Mandarin Rings, even if Ironheart can’t do it with the success she hopes.
In the face of yet another heartbreaking betrayal, not to mention the apparent death of James Rhodes aka War Machine, Tony Stark has managed to maintain an eerie level of calm. As seen on the pages of Iron Man #24 (by Christopher Cantwell, Angel Unzueta, Frank D’Armata, and VC’s Joe Carmagna), this is largely due to being prepared for these two results. What he had never considered was that none other than Riri Williams was the one inside the menacing Cobalt Man armor. With her help, he and Rhodes would be more than capable of turning the tables on Source Control’s henchmen, though that doesn’t mean she’s willing to work alongside them in the way Tony expected.
Ironheart has the mandarin rings
While Tony has worked tirelessly to amass every piece of Source Control’s vast arsenal, Riri has focused her efforts on specifically acquiring the Mandarin’s Rings. Initially, Tony is beyond grateful for her help, though that feeling of gratitude soon turns to concern when he realizes that she intends to keep the impossibly powerful artifacts for herself. As someone who has battled against the power of the Mandarin Rings, Tony knows all too well how destructive and corrupt they can be. Riri has spent her entire life watching so much power go to waste and she just can’t afford to let them go.
Since its first appearance in 2016 invincible iron man #7 (by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato Jr.), it was painfully clear that she was destined for something akin to the greatness Iron Man found before her. As a student at MIT, Riri created his own power armor, and the following year he would debut as Ironheart. In the years since he proved as capable behind armor as he is in any lab, superheroes were only supposed to be the beginning of what he set out to accomplish.
Ironheart will not give the Mandarin Rings to Iron Man
As he explains to Tony, giving up the Mandarin Rings would mean giving up using their power forever. Not only has she spent countless hours figuring out how to use them to provide humanity with answers to its biggest problems, but Riri is also determined to make that happen. This is certainly endearing, so much so that Tony can’t help but accept it once the line has been drawn, but it’s also indicative of precisely what he’s worried about.
Even if Riri can control the Mandarin Rings without being influenced by them in an overtly harmful way, she might not be able to help but lose sight of how dangerous that kind of power is. Much like the time Tony spent competing with Korvac for the Power Cosmic, Riri could very well be setting up the Mandarin Rings to be the next great treasure for the world’s worst supervillains. If her ambition gets in the way of her needing to safeguard the Rings she now owns, Riri might even become the world’s next biggest problem without realizing there was anything to worry about in the first place.