'Iron Man 4' news: Riri Williams' Ironheart may be the key to keep RDJ reprising Tony Stark/Iron Man role

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The stage is seemingly set for Tony Stark’s imminent retirement from being somewhat of a field superhero, at least in the comic book iteration of the character. With Riri Williams stepping up to the plate as Stark’s protg, she now has an alter ego of her own and contrary to popular belief, it is not Iron Woman.

Creator Brian Michael Bendis officially introduced Ironheart to the world when he recently sat down with Wired. Confirming the name that would most likely be the closest fans will get to a new Iron Man, the new title reeks of interconnectedness but with a feel of independence as well.

“Ironheart, coined by [Marvel chief creative officer] Joe Quesada, after I told him my planned story for Riri, speaks not only to the soul of the character but to the Iron Man franchise as a whole,” Bendis explained. “Tony first put on the armor to save his heart. Riri puts it on for different reasons altogether but still heart-related. When people see her story, you’ll be amazed at how simple and brilliant Joe’s suggestion was.”

Since the introduction of Stark’s apprentice, there have been rumblings that the arc will eventually tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And while critics may not see it as a feasible transfer to the big screen as Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ) may just be too tough of an act to follow for anyone, “Invincible Iron Man Vol 2” editor Tom Brevoort shared that it may actually be a possible scenario.

“Regardless of where he might be physically,” said the editor, referring to Stark, “he’ll be soaring along with her spiritually.” He will be so involved that Riri’s in-armor A.I. assistant will be patterned to Stark’s personality.

This new relationship can take cues from Hank Pym and Scott Lang’s bond in “Ant-Man.” Played by Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd, respectively, the former was the original wearer of the shrinking suit until he decided to retire from going out on missions. He then tracked down the latter who has since taken over the mantle. And despite holding his own in a couple of battles, Pym’s presence in Scott’s continued adventures still makes the narrative a lot more interesting.

The MCU taking this route would actually make sense. It allows RDJ to continue appearing in MCU films even if he has already decided to hang up his own suit. It also cancels the question of his age, which has been one of the reasons for a supposedly rushed “Iron Man 4” as he is not much being demanded in performing action stunts. Fans know that the 51-year-old actor can make a mentor role work as evidenced by his iconic character recruiting Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Should an “Iron Man 4” movie really be in the works, it may not see the light of day just yet with Marvel moving to release three movies annually starting next year. Nevertheless, RDJ’s Stark has been confirmed to appear in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” out on July 7, 2017, and “Avengers: Infinity War” on May 4, 2018. He is also rumored to have a cameo in this year’s “Doctor Strange” which will hit theaters on Nov 4.