The World’s Smartest story-arc continues as we get to see Lunella team up with none other than Riri Williams, the Invincible Ironheart! All from the creative team of Amy Reeder, Brendan Montclare, Natacha Bustos, and Tamra Bonvillain.
The story begins with Lunella attacked in her school by a series of robotic tentacles. Lunella wasn’t expecting such an attack and is ill prepared to handle them; her teacher and classmates can only watch on in horror. Lunella uses her communicator to send out an all-heroes SOS and fends off the menacing mechanicals as best she can.
The day is saved when Ironheart swoops in to blast the robotic tentacles with her repulser beams. She had heard Lunella’s SOS and came as fast as she could.
Lunella quickly fixes her backpack helicopter and she and Ironheart fly off, tracking the signal that had been controlling these terrible tentacles.
Their chase brings them to a small alleyway between buildings that only Lunella’s small frame can fit through. The ally leads to an alcove where Lunella finds herself face to face with Doctor Doom. Or rather it is a hologram of Doom, but one that issues an ominous warning to her. She has been identified as the world’s smartest and Doom is intent on taking her down so to prove himself the supreme intellect. And with that the villain disappears.
Lunella and Riri retire to Lunella’s secret lab to pool their smarts and try to figure this whole thing out. Riri is a bit suspicious over what Lunella claims to have seen. It’s not outside of reason for Victor Von Doom to menace a nine-year-old, yet it is not quite in sync with what Doom has been up to as of late.
It is hard for Lunella to explain, but who she saw doesn’t resemble The Doctor Doom so much as ADoctor Doom… perhaps a pretender or a version of Doom from he past. Riri doesn’t understand and continues to questions the validity of what Lunella claims to have seen.
Lunella doesn’t take kindly to having what she saw questioned in this way. She doesn’t feel like she is being taken seriously and it very much hurts her feelings.
Riri can see this and apologizes. She can very much relate to Lunella and how frustrating it can be to untrusted, to be told that older people are always right simply because they’re older. “My whole life has been older people telling me what I can’t do,” Riri says, added “now I’m doing it…” She goes on to say that Lunella has earned the right to be trusted to make the right choices. It’s a very touching scene.
They get back to work and Lunella is eventually able to isolate the signal that had controlled the robotic tentacles. The reason why they hadn’t been able to find it before is that it entails an element that completely defies science: magic. She now knows what to look for, but not how to find it and doing so is going to require an expertise beyond her and Riri’s purview.
Oh, and Devil Dinosaur finally shows up. It turns out that he had spent the day at the Jersey boardwalk trying to win a stuffed animal for Lunella. It’s a poor excuse for why he wasn’t there when Lunella needed him, but at least he did win the teddy bear and Lunella appears happy to receive the gift :).
Ironheart heads off, saying that she’ll be available if ever she’s needed and Lunella heads home. Lunella’s mom is clearly not happy about her daughter’s insistence on being a superhero, but there is little she can do to stand in her way. As sort of a conciliation to help Mrs. Lafayette at least feel like she is still a mother in-control, she insists on doing Lunella’s hair.
Later that evening, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur are back on the streets. Lunella knows that the magical elements of the signal she’s tracking are beyond her abilities to hunt down; but she knows just who to ask to aide her.
On their way to Greenwich Village, Devil Dinosaur accidentally bumps a power line. It sends a quick jolt of electricity through the dinosaur and into Lunella riding on his back. The charge stuns Lunella and she can feel that it has triggered the mind switch whereby her consciousness gets transported into Devil D’s body and his into hers. Lunella has not yet learned to control this power and it’s all too often led to embarrassing mayhem. Lunella tries to hold off the switch as long as she can. They have arrived at where they were heading and Lunella struggles to maintain control of her body just a bit longer, knocking on the door of Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum!
Doctor Stephen Strange answers the door to find Lunella lying on the ground, calling out ‘is there a doctor in the house?!?’ And it is with this cliffhanger that the issue comes to a close with the promise of continuation with the next installment.
Another fantastic ride! As hard as it is to believe, this comic just keeps getting better and better. There is something particularly special about this issue, something quite rare and really important. It’s really one of the only times I’ve seen two young, Black, female heroes share the page in a truly mutual and supportive fashion. It’s sort of like the fabled ‘Bechdel test,’ only with an added extra layer. This test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. It seems like an easy thing to accomplish, but it’s often surprising just how many comics, TV shows and movies actually fail to pass. This issue passes the test, but with the extra layer of it being two Black female characters discussing something other than a man. Something that is even more rare!
As a white man, it can be easy for me to overlook just how important and empowering a scene like this can be. I’m used to seeing people who look like me presented as smart and capable and heroic… I take it for granted. Such presentations featuring female characters, and characters who are people of color have been much more rare… and that rareness can enforce the erroneous notion that girls simply aren’t good at such things, that they aren’t scientifically savvy, and supportive and cool. It’s even more rare for such a scene to feature female charters who are people of color and this even further compounds the erroneous and negative notion.
Scene like this, along with movies like Hidden Figures, acts to erode that erroneous notion… it offers an alternative, something that is supportive and inspiring. And it’s extremely important and necessary.
I’ve seen both Lunella and Riri Williams get some flack from fellow longtime comic book fans. This is usually occurs on message boards, chat rooms and anonymous asks, where people feel emboldened by animosity to say pretty nasty things. Some appear to feel threatened by this notion that a little Black girl could be identified as being smarter than Reed Richards; or that a character who looks like Riri Williams could possess the same acumen as Tony Stark. These commenters often hide their racism and sexism behind hackneyed idioms, calling the character such things as ‘Mary Sue(s).’
I don’t think such people fully appreciate the rarity of characters like Lunella and Riri. They don’t know how much it hurts, how discouraging it is that young Black female characters are almost never portrayed as savants in the realm of science and technology. And it doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts all of us. We are facing dire times and we need all hands on deck. There are many challenges in the future and we can no longer afford to hold up the barriers of exclusivity. There’s an even chance that the doctor who discovers a cure for cancer will be a Black woman; that the physicist who gets mankind to Mars will be a Black woman; that the scientist who helps combat climate change will be a Black woman. We can no longer afford to leave anybody out; doing so could very well prove disastrous to us all.
And once more I feel a vicarious sense of pride that The Inhumans are in some way involved in such crucial and needed thing.
Bustos’ art and Bonvillain’s colors are once again immaculate. I could look at their art all day long. My only complaint is a minor one and has to do with the opening scene. I found it a little bit in poor taste to see Lunella attacked in her classroom. The specter of violence in school has become all too real and this scene may prove a bit too frightening for younger readers. It would have been better if the attack had occurred elsewhere.
It’s a minor screw up, but in no way undermines how much I enjoyed this extremely fun and extremely important issue.