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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
by yo go re

One more for the Young Avengers lineup!

A brilliant MIT student with a passion for engineering, Riri Williams' life takes an unexpected turn when a school project brings the Wakandans and a dangerous foe to her doorstep.

It's amazing how fast you can get accustomed to something. Sitting in the theater, watching Wakanada Forever, and you're just absolutely soaked in that Wakandan Xhosa-inspired accent for a good 35 minutes. Then Riri Williams shows up, just rocking a rather plain US voice (the character's from Chicago and goes to school in Boston... well, not in Boston, but nearby [Tufts? --ed.]), so she's the one who sounds out of place and weird. And to think, Marvel initially wanted Chadwick Boseman to speak with an American or English accent! That'd be messed up.

The first (Marvel Legends) figure from Black Panther 2 to hit shelves, Ironheart is sold in a larger-than-usual box, rather than just being part of the standard line. And frankly, that was the right choice. The armor is large enough that while a normal box would have worked, it would have felt cramped. Especially with all the extras we get, but that'll be covered later in the review.

The MCU Ironheart armor is a cross between the comics' "I just look like Rule 63 Iron Man" Model 2 armor and the superior (but not-yet-toyed) Model 3. It's candy apple red, rather than magenta, but has panel lines more reminiscent of the later suit - particularly the heart-shaped chest, which has a blue line angling through it, suggesting an EKG readout. Images of this figure leaking out were our first look at the movie's Ironheart, with the general impression being that she looks like a Gundam or something.

When the film was in development, the Ironheart armor was originally going to be more of an orange, coppery color, but it was changed to better homage Tony Stark. Comparing the toy to promotional stills from the movie, it looks like the parts that are gold here should be more silver (or "vibranium," if we're using that as an adjective rather than a noun), and her shoulder pauldrons should be black instead of red, but overall this is very true to the film effects. And unlike the comic toy, this one doesn't skimp on paint on the back!

Concept artist Phil saunders aimed to think like Riri when he designed the suit: after all, creators shape their creations to themselves, so how would an armor built by a black teen girl differ from one built by an old white guy? Well, one thing we can say is that she admires long legs, because the lower half of this suit is about 25% bigger than you'd expect it to be. That makes sense, if there are rocket boosters in there, but it's not like Tony ever looks like he was wearing lifts (even if he should have). The pauldrons in front of the air intakes for her jetpack look like the puffy sleeves on a trendy shirt or dress. The feet are narrow, and have separate toes and heels to provide support, and her helmet was designed with vanes on top that mimic (or maybe make room for?) her cornrows.

The jet boosters are packaged separately, but she never operates the suit without them, so we wouldn't really count those as "removable" - it's just done for convenience's sake. You get your choice of fists or open hands, and the angled gauntlet on her left arm can be swapped out for what looks like a rail gun with a power cord that plugs into her backpack. She gets the tiny repulsor blasts and weirdo dust clouds the 616 character introduced, though you can only have her firing them from her hands if you take the gauntlets off (which I'm not sure she can do in the movie). There are also two small translucent blue jet plumes that can plug into the booster pack. We need flight stands, Hasbro!

And then there's the unmasked head. Like so many Iron Men, Riri doesn't remove her entire helmet, just the faceplate. But that's kind of boring for a toy, so instead we get a fully exposed Dominique Thorne head. As mentioned, she's got her hair braided, and while thos ebraids usually fall down to the small of her back, that wouldn't work too well with a helmet, so she's got them twisted into two buns at the base of her scalp - still not great for a helmet, but better. The likeness is great, with a smile of easy confidence and Photo Real printing for the eyes.

Most of the articulation is what you'd expect: head, neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, chest, hips, thighs, knees, ankles. But because of the way the feet are designed, the toes on each foot and the heels on each foot swivel independently. So they'll still stay flat in wide poses, but you'll have to move two joints to do it instead of just one. The gauntlets are just held on by the hands, so they can turn around as needed, and the repulsor blasts can fit into either the palms or the feet.

The MCU Ironheart is a better design than the 616 Marvel Legend we already had, and makes for a better toy. The only flaws are the lack of a flight stand and the fact the hose on her arm-gun is stiff enough that it will want to pop out of place if you're not careful about moving her. And the big price tag, of course.

-- 12/05/22

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