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The Immortal Iron Fist #6-7
posted August 6, 2007
 

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Creators: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Russ Heath, Matt Hollingsworth, Travel Foreman, Leandro Fernandez, Khari Evans, Derek Fridolfs, Francisco Paronzini, Leandro Fernandez, Victor Olazaba, Dan Brown
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic books, 32 pages each, 2007, $2.99 each
Ordering Numbers:

I don't know that writers Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker have really nailed down the tone they want on their take on the 1970s oddball blend of martial arts and Lost Horizon, Iron Fist. Except for one funny bit of business regarding poisoned cups in issue #6, the comedic interjections feel a bit precious coming from the narrators and forced coming from the characters themselves. As I've probably mentioned before, I always wonder at the intended audience, too. My guess is that one of the reasons the crossovers hit with the mainstream companies' audience is that they're the most superhero-y of all the publications out there. You pick up something like World War Hulk, you have various costumed characters beating the pee from each other while verbally poking at their reasons for doing so. Iron Fist is pretty squarely a Legacy Warrior fantasy, and while the mutt category we call superhero can encompass multiple genre and sub-genres within its generously empty suits, I'm never quite certain how well they assimilate such material, how well they're likely to really make something special of it.

One thing Brubaker and Fraction have done well is re-solidify the base of a wobbly character, goosing his power -- which makes story sense in that if a magical city is going to invest its ability to change the world into a single champion, that champion should be able to accomplish things the applied resources of that entire city cannot -- and broadening the base of a lost city and legacy that not only felt wafer thin in the original series, it felt like it was stocked with generic characters pulled from magazines and books that happened to be sitting around the Marvel offices (I seem to remember mean, sentient trees). Iron Fist is a lot sturdier now, with an in-story reason for not getting his ass kicked early in the next crossover's big fight scene. As much as these series are ways for Marvel to bring new creators to reinvigorate properties, these two issues a part of a solid performance.

One for one, I actually preferred the more continuity-heavy, fight-filled issue #6 to the stand-alone story of a past holder of the Iron Fist title in #7. David Aja does a nice modern fight scene, with a jumble of panels and white space and tableaux trading off with single-action panels in a cramped, chaotic fashion. Russ Heath's atmospheric pencils breathe a lot of life into some staid flashbacks. There's even an intense story moment of the kind that drives modern comics and most of cinema, a small set piece that sounds as good when you talk about it (it involves a character's heart) as it does when you look at it unfold on the page. The first arc of the series ends with an event that has weight and a hint of the next story that follows out of this arc's events in a natural way that provides a great deal of anticipation. The Legacy Warrior motif now established, we're on to a legendary martial arts tournament story.

In contrast, issue #7 features a tumble of artists, none of whom are working in a very distinct style let alone with the kind of clear conceptual breaks that might allow each to unfurl their wings a bit. The story features early Iron Fist Wu Ao-Shi, a woman who won the mantle more quickly than anyone, male or female, had before. Unfortunately, nothing in her story develops as much as we're told it happens. Most of what is shown is a banal love story -- did it have to be a love story? -- that's no less fundamentally limp for the writers' arch attitude towards its absurd elements. Like many of Marvel's characters, I think I preferred Wu Ao-Shi in smaller doses with a hint of greater things behind her. Maybe someday someone will do for her what Fraction, Brubaker and Aja are doing for her modern descendant.