When the billionaire superhero Tony Stark discovered a young genius named Riri Williams who said she wanted to be just like him, he tried to do what he thought was right. He ensured that her lab wanted for nothing, got every prominent superhero team to offer her a spot on their roster so she could gain experience, and even arranged for her to always have a few allies nearby when she fought villains so they could discretely ensure that her early superhero career wouldn't be marred by embarrassing defeats. But then things went wrong. Buoyed by a string of victories over powerful enemies and an endless stream of praise from those who asked her to fight at their side, she charged into a battle far above her weight-class without support. In the ensuing battle she was beaten to within an inch of her life, disabling her for years and permanently ending her superhero career.
Years later, Riri is mostly forgotten and Tony is dealing with his own problems. In what seems like an endless run of bad luck, everything he has is destroyed, from his vast wealth to his multinational company. Even his reputation is ruined when Riri reappears to accuse him of raping her. She eventually retracts her accusations citing confusion from her injuries, but the damage is done. In a short time Tony has nothing to his name and not a friend in the world; all he can do is hole up in a fleabag motel and wait for his failing heart to finally give out.
Then the television turns on and he sees a smirking face. It's Riri Williams, the girl he tried to help all those years ago...
And that's where the story begins.
Project Riribirth is a Deconstruction of Legacy Characters. It explores what it means to be a Legacy, what responsibilities mentors have for their charges (and what responsibilities the charges have to themselves), and how heroes and villains alike react to losing everything they care about.
The project is currently in progress. Content released so far includes:
- The main comic written by DiversityAndComics and drawn by various artists. Its chapters include:
- A prequel audio drama written and performed by VKTROfficial. Its chapters include:
- Ironheart is Broken, which depicts Riri's final battle as Ironheart.
- Descent Into Darkness, which depicts Tony's reaction to Riri's injuries, and then skips ahead to show Riri's life two years after her loss.
- Ironman's Greatest Enemies, which depicts two of Tony Stark's foes forming an alliance.
- Ironman Versus the Apex Predator, which depicts Tony's battle against a powerful enemy.
- Battle of Wits, in which Tony Stark and Riri Williams have... well, a battle of wits.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Riri does this against Gridlock in the audio drama, observing that his enhancements aren't uniform and he is more vulnerable to damage in the areas that aren't enhanced. She's able to deal him some damage this way, though because Gridlock has a Healing Factor it ultimately doesn't matter.
- Body Horror: When Gridlock is hit by Heavy Metal's disruptor cannon, pieces of his body literally blast apart from each other.
- Both Sides Have a Point: The story acknowledges that both Riri and Tony are responsible for what happened. On the one hand, Tony was absolutely negligent as a mentor, but on the other, Riri personally chose to do all the evil things she did.
- Career-Ending Injury: Riri receives one of these in her final fight.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: When Riri orders her AI to kill itself, the AI continues to chirp that Riri is awesome even as it prepares to self-destruct.
- Evil Is Petty: Tony is implicitly criticized for overlooking Riri's pettiness and spite instead of seeing how they could lead her astray. A scene from Invincible Ironman in which Riri badgered a teacher into telling her she couldn't be a hero, then tried to become one just to spite that teacher, is used as an example.
- False Rape Accusation: Riri made one against Tony in the backstory.
- Healing Factor: Gridlock has one. Riri manages to cut off his hand, but it just regenerates in moments.
- Hypocrite: Riri castigates Tony for endlessly praising her instead of giving her a more realistic assessment of her abilities, but after she stops talking to him and turns to her AI, it begins praising her as well. Since Riri programmed the AI, it's apparent that Riri still wants a steady diet of praise even though she condemns Tony for giving her exactly that.
- Icarus Allusion: Riri is explicitly compared to Icarus in the audio drama.
- Instant Expert: Tony accidentally convinced Riri she was this. As Riri points out, she was a kid and didn't know that she really shouldn't be winning the fights she was winning.
- Involuntary Suicide Mechanism: The mook that attacks Tony's storage facility has one of these in his armor; once Tony catches him, Riri triggers the armor to electrocute him so he can't talk.
- Killed Off for Real: Riri mentions that Squirrel Girl—who was also given a steady diet of praise and affirmations until she too had no idea of her real limits—was killed in a battle against Morgana Le Fay.
- Legacy Character: Riri is one of these to Tony.
- Mission Control: The audio drama shows that Riri was using Pepper Potts as this. However, Riri chose to disregard Pepper's advice not to face a particularly challenging enemy. Turns out she should have listened.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Riri's motivation. Ironically, Riri's claim is that Tony treated her too nicely—if he'd been more honest about her abilities, she would have known she couldn't win her final fight.
- Narcissist: Riri is one. She even programmed her AI to shower her with endless praise.
- Never My Fault: Riri blames all her problems on Tony Stark.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The audio drama depicts Gridlock giving Riri a long and brutal one. Gridlock ultimately breaks Riri's arms and spine over the course of the battle.
- No Name Given: The monster that defeats Riri is left unnamed in the first audio drama. The third audio chapter eventually reveals his name to be Gridlock.
- Nominal Hero: The story points out that even back when Riri was ostensibly a hero, she wasn't exactly heroic, but people kept treating her like one. Riri references the time when she overthrew the Latverian government and installed herself as its queen as an example; what she did could have destabilized the country, but none of the heroes (or government agencies like SHIELD) seemed to care.
- No-Tell Motel: Tony's location at the start of the story.
- Revenge: What Riri wants against Tony.
- Tears of Blood: Riri, as depicted in the cover of the second audio drama chapter.
- Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Gridlock does this in the audio drama. After realizing that Tony isn't actually present at the fight, and after wrongly concluding that Tony sent Riri to fight in his stead, he demands that Tony come fight him in person.