Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tales From the Library! The Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story

Next up for the month is a return to the character of Iron Fist. Last year, I covered an issue of Spider-Man where he made a guest appearance. Danny Rand’s not a character I’ve ever been too keen on. I don’t know what it is. I doubt it’s his background which now is apparently offensive to some. I didn’t know a white dude knowing kung fu could tick folk off. Maybe it’s the costume which isn’t bad but not exactly great either. I never really started to run into him until Brian Michael Bendis’s run on New Avengers. Back in 2007, Marvel got both Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction to write a title called The Immortal Iron Fist.

A few years ago (maybe 2012), I ran across the first few volumes to the series in the library. I was kind of in a Brubaker mode at that time, so I decided to give the first volume a try. Besides, it’s had kung fu in it! Since were in that month and we have a TV show with the guy coming up, I’m gonna talk about this. The trade has the first six issues of the run and a small 8-page side story that tied into Civil War. If you’re wondering why Danny was posing as Daredevil at the time, you’ll find out there. As I said before, Brubaker and Fraction share writing duties. David Aja, a penciller who had worked with Brubaker before, is the main penciller and cover artist. Travel Forman and other artists help with the art duties.

The Immortal Iron Fist: the Last Iron Fist Story
Writers: Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction
Pencils: David Aja, Travel Forman, Russ Heath, and Sal Buscema
Inks: Derek Fridolfs and Matt Palmer,
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Dave Lanphear and Chris Eliopoulos

We start out with Iron Fist getting attacked by everyone’s favorite group, HYDRA. We find out that Danny backed out of a 10.6 billion dollar deal with Wai-Go Industries, a Chinese company, earlier in the day. To make it up to his company’s CEO and friend, Jeryn Hogarth, Danny got in his costume and decided to see if this Wai-Go was on the up and up. Instead, he finds HYDRA. He’s able to fend off HYDRA but they pull out a MechaGorgon that takes him down. We then switch bases to Bangkok where someone (revealed to be a man named Davos) has sent two swan assassins (yes, they turn into swans) to find Orson Randall. It’s revealed that Randall himself is also an Iron Fist… cue shock music!
I think this is what everyone is fearing for the TV show.

Meanwhile, Danny escapes HYDRA injured but is able to hook up with Luke Cage (a friend and former ally) to get patched up. While he and Luke are hanging out, he finds out that the Heroes for Hire (led by Danny’s former girlfriend, Misty Knight) has gotten registered under the Superhuman Registration Act. Later, he’s at apartment training when Jeryn tells him that Wai-Go Industries is trying to buy up Rand Corp. Before he can really react to the news, Danny falls over and has a seizure. It turns out someone is using the power of the Iron Fist and that’s screwing with him. What’s actually happening is that Orson has come to New York and has gotten attacked by HYDRA as well.

After Danny heals from his seizure, he heads out into the city to see who used his power. He heads to the crime scene and doesn’t find much. Luckily, Randall is looking for him as well. Danny finds him at Rand Corp. and the two fight.  Danny not only finds out that Randall knew his father but he also trained him. We also catch up with Davos, also known as the Steel Serpent. He was also one who was to be an Iron Fist but he believes that Danny took that from him. He is also in league with HYDRA and is basically doing all he can to find both Iron Fists.
Okay... Orson Randall has more or less stolen the show for me.

Danny and Orson suit up and head out. We find out how Orson became the Iron Fist in the early 20th century and that there were 66 other Iron Fists before him. He ended up getting involved in World War 1. For some reason, backed out on the title and went into seclusion until Davos found him. Danny and Orson head underground to an old hidden train station that Orson’s father created. Before they do anything, HYDRA attacks them. Meanwhile, Davos has HYDRA give him a little practice for his battle with the Fists. After he beats a couple of legions and a Mechgorgon, he calls upon the Crane Mother to send him more swan assassins. He also tells her that he’s ready to take on the Iron Fists.
So, I guess those limbs of HYDRA won't grow back, eh?

Danny and Orson take on HYDRA and barely escape. It turns out that Orson was after a Chinese book he left down there. It contains secrets on the Immortal Weapons which The Iron Fist is a part of. It turns out all of this is happening because Orson ended up killing one of the Immortal Weapons and Crane Mother was peeved. He tells Danny that he’ll have to one day face the other Immortal Weapons in a tournament.  Unfortunately, when they make it back to Rand Corp., they find Davos and HYDRA waiting for them. Meanwhile, Luke Cage and the Heroes for Hire (Misty Knight and Colleen Wing) come to Rand Corp. at the behest of Jeryn. It turns out Wai-Go has his mother and they’re coercing him to seal the deal. Before those three can do anything about it, they are also attacked by HYDRA.

The heroes do what they can against a powered up Davos and HYDRA. Luke and friends try to save Jeryn but lose him during the chaos to HYDRA. Orson realizes that Danny will need an upper hand to stop Davos so he sacrifices himself. Before he dies, he bestows his chi to Danny which makes him more powerful. Danny and Davos go at it and cause a big explosion. In typical bad-guy fashion, Davos teleports out of there and tells him that they will meet again in K’un Lun. Before Danny tries to find out where Jeryn is, Danny’s teachers (Lei-Kung the Thunderer and Yu-Ti) teleports in and tells him to follow them so he can prepare for the tournament. The story ends with Danny doing so.
So, in other words... "I'll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!" (Meeeoooww!!)

I thought this was a fine read when revisiting it now. I don’t know where this ends up on the best Iron Fist stories though. I did think that the story was pretty interesting. It’s kind of a reinvention of Danny’s world from what I can tell. Now there are more Iron Fists and some sort of weird tournament in another dimension? You know I had to find out what happened next after this. We also get a bunch of flashbacks here and that is needed especially if you don’t know who Iron Fist is. Not only did we get a look at our heroes’ backstory, but we also got a look at Davos’ history. We even got a small peek at some of the previous Iron Fists.

I liked the character of Orson Randall. He was basically the older, much more downtrodden version of Danny. I especially liked his flashbacks to the early 20th century. Danny himself came out fine but I’m still not the biggest Iron Fist fan. I guess I’ll have to see what Vol. 2 went again. I also though it was cool that we got to see some of Danny’s friends like Luke Cage and Misty Knight.

Oh the whole, the artwork was really good. The fight scenes had a pretty cool look to them. Aja did his best to show how someone who knows how hurt folk worked. I liked Danny’s new look. It had the colors and the mask but it all just got updated. I don’t think chest-baring shirts are in these days anyway. I do miss the disco collar though. Orson’s costume also looked pretty good. 
If someone brings guns to a kung fu fight, make sure you have guns of your own.

Even though there are a variety of art styles here, it all works. Aja pretty much handles all of the current, ground-level stuff while the other guys handle the flashbacks. He also drew the 8-page back-up which was okay. Travel Forman’s stuff involving the previous Iron Fists was cool. He also brought the weird aspects as well. We even got some more traditional artwork with longtime artist Sal Buscema. 

There is little I don’t like about the trade. Some dialogue didn’t work for me. I also think that the story can get a little too weird at points. I think the scenes of the Crane Mother was definitely a moment where it was weird. Also, the subplot of Danny’s company being snatched by Wai-Go was okay but there really wasn’t much to it. The story tries to cover so much and some things do get left out. It’s probably for later though. The story also ends on a cliffhanger but that’s more of a nitpick since more does come.
I guess they stumbled over 2016 in that last panel!

Overall, I thought this was nice. It is definitely an introduction to Iron Fist if you don’t know anything about the character. I don’t know what Netflix’s Iron Fist is going to bring to the table. I doubt it’ll go way over-the-top like this does though. As for the actor, the only issue I got with that is that I wish they got someone who knew martial arts. I know they need someone who can act well, so I hope Finn Jones does well and makes me actually care about Danny Rand. Well, I’m outta here. Next time will be a long-awaited return to IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and just chill, folks. Chill…


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