Published by Marvel Comics
I have already written of my love for that special combination of Kung-Fu and comics and how much awesome I believe is crammed into the Immortal Iron Fist by Brubaker, Fraction, Aja and company. And like a posse cut on a hip-hop track they use also guest artists to pop in, drop a verse, and add colour, flow and depth to the book, (don’t blame me for always associating kung-fu and hip-hop, blame the Wu-Tang).
At the end of the first volume Danny Rand, our Immortal Iron Fist was called away by his teacher, (is there a better name for a legendary teacher of the martial arts than Lei-Kung the Thunderer?), to fight in a mystical tournament between him and six other Immortal Weapons. It turns out there are other mystical cities besides K’un L’un, they each have a deadly champion of the Martial Arts and thankfully they must resolve their differences with kung-fu. These new characters are some of the best additions to the Marvel Universe in recent memory. Danny’s first opponent is Fat Cobra, who is far faster than his bulk implies, but there is also the Bride of Nine Spiders, Dog Brother #1, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, The Prince of Orphans and Danny’s old foe Davos the Steel Serpent.
So yeah, it’s Mortal Combat in the Marvel Universe. To further butcher the video game comparisons it’s so Street Fighter II, that as each battle in the tournament begins, I can’t help but hear, “Round one. Fight!”
The story flashes from the present day back into the past, changing artists as it goes. David Aja draws the present day framing sequences, with other artists taking care of the flash backs. Kano and Zonjic do a good job on their side, but it is really Aja’s book.
He has taken his kung-fu art to the next level here, perhaps because he gets the chance to display it in such a traditional fighting format, the tournament. The movement he imparts to his characters and the highlighted spots of impact as a foot connects to face are magnificent. He draws a beautifully lean yet muscled Iron Fist, and Fat Cobra has an immense weight and power to him. He also gets the best lines, with repeated calls for wenches after a victory or in one case even during a pause in the action. “Bring me my wenches of waiting!”
I don’t have the words to do Aja’s art justice. He does interesting work with panels and how the characters move through them, and he draws the hell out of a fight scene. All the moves get cool kung-fu names and each Immortal Weapon has a unique visual and martial style.
Although this starts out as being the tale of a martial arts tournament it deepens and becomes the story of revolution and legacy. The battles in the Arena are fantastically fun but the story is not as straightforward as it first seems.
The Iron Fist annual included in this volume fills in some back-story with a rollicking pulp action adventure. Drawn by Howard Chaykin with flashbacks beautifully painted by Dan Bereton, it provides a fun change of pace. I loved this story. It follow Danny’s predecessor, Orson Randall and his allies, the Confederates of the Curious as they battle the Lightning Lords of Nepal, Hydra goons and the Nine-Fold Daughters of Xao. Yes it is as great as it sounds.
Should I buy it? No doubt. It is one of the purest expressions of everything I love in a comic book. It’s an inter-dimensional kung-fu extravaganza, with sharp dialogue, vivid characters and amazing art. Fraction and Aja have recently joined forces again at Marvel to relaunch the bow wielding Avenger Hawkeye. Look out for that review once it is collected.
Next Week: Brandon Graham brings sci-fi and fun back to comics with the surprising Prophet.