In case one had any lingering doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has suffered a massive drop in quality over the last few years, look no further than their recently unveiled design for the fully upgraded Ironheart armor worn by Riri Williams in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Source: Ironheart Vol. 1 #4 (2019), Marvel Comics. Cover art by Amy Reeder.

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Ironheart’s final form, though previously leaked courtesy of the film’s Marvel Legends outings, was officially unveiled to the public on November 8th, courtesy of a new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever teaser uploaded by Marvel Studios Hong Kong.

Composed almost entirely of new footage not shown in previous trailers, the teaser gave fans their first glimpses at such plot beats as a motorcycle car chase involving Shuri:

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

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A clash between M’Baku and Namor upon the latter’s invasion of Wakandan soil:

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

And a mysterious character, clad in a seemingly Wakandan-themed suit of azure Iron Man-type armor and wielding what appears to be M’Baku’s club, careening through the skies over the ocean:

(Given the figure’s slim build, it’s possible that this is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who trailers have yet to show ‘leaping into action’ like her allies.)

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

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However, most notably, interspersed among these flashes of the film’s greater Wakandan-Talokanian conflict were the first proper, in-action shots of Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) in both incarnations of her Ironheart armor.

In the early moments of the teaser, Riri can be seen showing off the first version of her suit – ostensibly the Ironheart armor Mk. I – for Shuri and Okoye.

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

Boasting two anime-esque flight boosters and looking about as slapshod as one would expect of any amateur DIY project, Riri’s Mk. I armor is less a ‘suit’ and more of a harness, with the young heroine’s body being mostly exposed to the elements when she steps into its pilot seat.

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

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Finally, as the brief marketing montage comes to an end, the Marvel NOW! recruit can be seen landing on a battlefield. However, rather than arriving to fight in her cobbled-together suit, Riri drops from the sky in a more sleek and CGI heavy offering – the Ironheart Mk. II.

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

Still featuring two shoulder-mounted flight boosters, the second Ironheart armor trades in the loose-wiring and googles for an appearance more-akin to that of her ‘predecessor/inspiration’ Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits, replete with a full face covering and a red aesthetic.

Source: Iron Man (2006), Marvel Entertainment

While it’s clear that Marvel was attempting to translate Riri’s current comic book equipment for her Mk. II armor, it’s also apparent that someone at the studio’s design department fell asleep at the wheel.

Rather than communicating a sense that the armor was inspired by Tony’s work and made personal by Riri’s own personality, the Ironheart Mk. II instead comes off as noisy mash-up of artistic directions.

Source: 2020 Ironheart Vol. 1 #1 (2020), Marvel Comics. Cover art by Jung-Geun Yoon.

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For example, anime clearly played a part in the design of her shoulder jets, while her more ‘stocky’ boots call to mind the more utilitarian designs of such grounded sci-fi as the Avatar film or Bethesda’s upcoming Starfield video game.

Meanwhile, the stylized ‘heart’ incorporated into her armor’s design harkens back to classic, emblem-emphasizing super hero costumes – but thanks to the ‘plating’ style of her armor, it insteads come off as a video game-esque highlighting of a weak point.

Source: Marvel Legends Ironheart, Hasbro

Admittedly, it is possible to expertly weave together multiple points of inspiration into one cohesive design.

But in Ironheart’s case, it almost seems as if each part of her armor were individually conceived according to a single solitary aesthetic and then slapped together at the last second.

Source: Ironheart Vol. 1 #1 (2019), Marvel Comics. Variant cover by Jen Bartel.

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(As a particularly baffling aside, it should be noted that Riri’s Mk. II helmet appears to have been built to allow space for her cornrows while suited up.

Perhaps Marvel wanted to make damn sure audiences knew she was black?)

Source: Ironheart Vol. 1 #9 (2019), Marvel Comics. Cover art by Stefano Caselli and Matt Milla.

Audiences can catch Riri’s awkward armored debut when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11th.

Source: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Marvel Entertainment

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