Friday, October 14, 2011

Duel of Iron: Iron Fist 1


Iron Fist #1 (Nov. 1975)
"A Duel of Iron!"
Chris Claremont -writer
John Byrne - artist
Al McWilliams -inker

Karen:We've had a lot of discussions about how much an inker can affect an artist's work, for better or worse. I think this issue provides an interesting example of that. Although drawn by John Byrne, Al McWilliams' inks are so over-powering that folks used to seeing Byrne inked by Terry Austin or himself might have a hard time recognizing his work here.

Karen: Iron Fist had been appearing in Marvel Premiere for some time prior to getting his own title. During the 70s it seemed like Marvel loved to feature another, already established character in first issues and this one is no exception. The 'other' Iron hero, Iron Man, makes a major appearance in this book.

Karen: Claremont follows the same narrative pattern here that he began in Marvel Premiere, with captions that read, "You are Iron Fist -and tonight you are breaking the law" or "Iron Man's attack is blindingly fast -but you are a fraction faster." It's an interesting idea, although I found it a bit tiresome at times. It does have the effect of removing any need for thought balloons for Iron Fist, since we are being told the story from his perspective any way.

Kare
n: Iron Fist's friend, Colleen Wing, has been kidnapped, and the evidence points to a plot coming from - Stark Industries? Grade B villain Angar the Screamer gives up this info before he escapes. Iron Fist breaks into Stark's corporate HQ and runs straight into Misty Knight, who is sporting a really goofy pseudo-super-hero look here (complete with an 'MK' belt buckle!). Misty has a contact inside Stark and has come to meet with him, but they find the man, Don Cauley, dead.

Karen: While they are having their fun running around and breaking into the computer room, the security systems alert the big man, Tony Stark. Stark gets out of bed and sees the image of the dead man and then Iron Fist and concludes that IF has killed him. He then goes for his handy-dandy briefcase and pops it open, revealing the Iron Man armor. Just as an aside: the idea of Stark lugging around his armor in a standard size briefcase just seems so ridiculous now, doesn't it? At least they made it work in the Iron Man 2 movies, although that case was considerably larger, and the suit was not his standard suit.

Karen: Next up, an interlude, where we see Colleen Wing trying to escape her kidnappers at an airport. She manages to get away from them but runs into a h
uge man who stops her. She claws at him and tears his shirt, and sees something that startles her. He knocks her out and hands her over to her captors, who decide not to mess with him. Moments later we see our mystery man on the phone to Ward Meachum, who was the partner of Iron Fist's father. The final panel reveals that our mystery man has a serpent tattoo on his chest, one very similar to our hero's. And he wants to find Iron Fist.

Karen: As Misty continues to hack the Stark computer, Iron Fist searches the premises for the Cauley's killer. Of course, he runs into a very pissed off Iron Man. In the fine tradition of Marvel comics, the two have at each other. Now you might think that Fist should have no chance against IM (I would), but it is his book, so of course he puts on a good show. Iron Man lands a solid punch to the face and tells Fist "You're playing in the big leagues now, mister!" He then uses his image inducer (?) to make multiple images of himself to confuse fist. OK, did Iron Man ever do this before? It's certainly not a standard part of his repertoire. Claremont would have Nightcrawler over in the X-Men use Stark's image inducer too, at least initially, to hide his demonic appearance. Being the trained fighter he is, Fist has no problem locating the real IM and giving him a whack.

Karen: But it looks like Fist really isn't being able to take down IM. IM tries to get him to give himself up but of course he won't. As they get ready to go after each other again, there is a huge explosion from the computer center, where Misty was working. Presuming her dead, Fist grows furious and basically takes a cheap
shot on IM, kicking him in the back! Not very honorable. He follows up with blow after blow, finally unleashing the power of his iron fist, in a nicely drawn full page shot.

Karen: Iron Man rises from the debris of the lab and tells IF he's had enough, cutting loose with his repulsor beams. Just as Fist is about to get a REAL iron fist to the face, who should show up but Misty Knight and -Don Cauley? Yup, looks like Misty's friend was not only not dead, but working for the bad guys. The whole meeting was a set-up, to try to get Misty and possibly Iron Fist as well.

Karen: With this revealed, IF and IM
shake and bury the hatchet. Oddly enough, IM says he'd like to help find Colleen but he has more urgent matters to deal with! I guess you have to explain why he wouldn't help some way, other than just 'we can't have Iron Man running around in the book'.

Karen: This was such a typical Marvel "two heroes meet -two heroes fight" story. Because it is so centered on battles, there's little of the trademark Clare
mont character development here. Byrne's art seemed to be still evolving here, based on his layouts. Honestly, the McWilliams' inks make it very difficult to really see Byrne's style. All in all, an enjoyable little story, although certainly not the best from the original Iron Fist series. That was yet to come.



9 comments:

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for the review.

I hadn't read this until about 10 years ago and I had the same reaction to the art. There was a time when I tried to get every issue "drawn" by Byrne, I stopped when I saw a few too many ink jobs like this one.
I liked the art in later issues, but this series was always a mixed bag. My favorite story would be the 2-part battle with Chaka, from IF #8-9. I prefer Iron Fist when he co-stars with Luke Cage.

I'm surprised we haven't gotten a Power Man & Iron Fist movie. I know they're not nearly as well known as Spider-Man or the X-men, but they don't need to be. PM&IF is an "Action Franchise" waiting to happen.
For that matter, I think the Daughters of the Dragon could carry a movie. Look at 'Kill Bill'.

Andy said...

I remember Marvel was talking about doing B-movies with some of their characters they felt weren't quite marketable enough for a major blockbuster and PM&IF would be ideal for this, I think, since martial arts films can be cheaply made yet still very good. I've been thinking Marvel should get Michael Jai White for Luke and Scott Adkins for Danny, and hire a solid but respected director who knows how to film good fight scenes, like Isaac Florentine or Ben Ramsey.

About the comic, I like it but second-person narration in comics always irks me. It's okay, I'm not really Iron Fist so you can stop insisting that I am.

William said...

Hi Karen, nice review. Bronze Age Iron Fist is one of my favorite comic series, and Byrne is my all-time favorite artist. So this one is right up my alley. I will agree that #1 is definitely not the best issue of the series. Sadly, the best issues came along at the end of it's way too short 15 issue run. Iron Fist was just starting to really pick up steam when it was suddenly cancelled. At least the creators were kind enough to wrap up some loose story threads later on in Marvel Team-Up, so we weren't left completely hanging.

But back to the issue in review. I agree that Byrne's fine artwork was greatly diminished by the inker. (Which is probably a good indication of why I didn't recognize his name). Plus I hated the Iron Man with a "nose" era. It just looked weird to me. Glad they eventually got rid of that little feature.

Another thing I found strange about this "first" Issue was the fact that the story was continued from the Iron Fist feature in Marvel Premiere. I always felt that they should have at least started IF's first issue with a completely new plot thread. A new reader would probably be confused that he/she bought a #1 and was dropped into the middle of a previously existing storyline.

Aside from that, there is one thing you brought up that I would like to expand on a little. You said…

"Just as an aside: the idea of Stark lugging around his armor in a standard size briefcase just seems so ridiculous now, doesn't it?"

This is a phenomenon that I've always found a bit curious. The fact that some comic readers find certain things to be too "far-fetched", (such as a suit of collapsible armor fitting into a brief-case), but don't find the idea of the high-tech suit of armor itself to be too "far-fetched"

Is it also ridiculous that Flash's costume fits in his ring, but perfectly O.K. that he can run at the speed of light? Or is it ludicrous that Clark Kent can disguise his Superman identity merely with a pair of glasses, but the fact that he can fly and is strong enough to move to move a planet perfectly reasonable?

I'm not trying to be snarky or anything, I'm just trying to open a debate about what is "acceptable" in a fantasy world to some readers and what isn't.

Myself, I pretty much accept most "illogical" and "far out" scenarios that are presented to me in a comic-book. I find that a strong suspension of disbelief greatly enhances my reading pleasure and allows me to freely accept things like, cosmic cubes, unstable molecules, adamantium and teen-agers gaining "spider-powers" simply by being bitten by a radioactive spider, etc.

So I don't really find it all that hard to accept that a man who could invent a suit of form-fitting armor, that basically makes him "invincible", could also figure out a way to make it fit into his brief-case.

Andy said...

Considering advances in miniaturization of technology, it's probably more plausible for Stark to fit his armor in a briefcase now than it was when they first came up with the idea :)

Fred W. Hill said...

BTW, that image duplicator doohickey was used by Iron Man during his first fight with Whiplash late in the Tales of Suspense run although I read it in a Marvel Double Feature reprint in the mid-70s. I.M. might have used it previously or since in his own mag but I can't verify that.
Anyhow, I missed Iron Fist's number one, but I did get some of the later issues, by which time Byrne & Claremont had proven themselves as major talents, although that wasn't enough to save Iron Fist from cancellation. At least they quickly found him a new home as Luke Cage's unlikely new partner for what would become a pretty good run.

dbutler16 said...

This looks like a nice little story, but didn't anyone at Marvel ever think that superhero fighting superhero through misunderstanding got a little old Sort of like Three's Company.

Edo Bosnar said...

This keeps reminding me that one day I'll have to get those Iron Fist Essentials. I'm also a big fan of Byrne's art, and honestly, while overpowering, I don't think the inking here diminishes his pencils much.
As for the superhero mash-up in the story, I think having two heroes pounding on each other is one of the mainstays of the genre, esp. at Marvel. And I think as far as this one goes, Claremont and whoever his editor was probably figured readers would be clamoring for an "Iron Fist meets Iron Man" story sooner or later, so they probably just wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible...

Matthew Bradley said...

Iron Fist's short-lived solo book debuted when I was right on the cusp between getting Marvel Comics irregularly and becoming an automatic buyer of most of their super-hero strips. As a result, I had only a couple of issues from Danny's run in MARVEL PREMIERE, but picked up every issue of IRON FIST itself. And I quixotically bought POWER MAN AND IRON FIST for years, even though I thought it was a pale shadow of the solo book.

The Claremont/Byrne team that began its historic run on X-MEN around the same time came to the IF strip late in its PREMIERE run, so they were still finding their feet when his book debuted, but they found them fast. I wasn't especially interested in martial arts, and never bought MASTER OF KUNG FU, but something about IF made me stick with it, especially under Claremont and Byrne. Even though they did the first issue or two of PM/IF, I knew it was too good to be true, and sure enough, they were off it in no time.

As for this issue, it's the usual double-edged sword when it comes to these guest stars who are supposed to beef up the sales of first issues. On the one hand, you're usually glad to see them, but on the other hand, the mechanics of making them duke it out with heroes who should be on the same side can be a little tiresome. Fortunately, the raw talent on display here carried the day with no trouble whatsoever.

Matthew Bradley said...

A few corrections:

Claremont did not initiate the "You are Iron Fist..." routine, which dates back to Roy's introduction of the character in MARVEL PREMIERE #15.

The partner (and killer) of Danny's father was Harold Meachum, on whom IF sought vengeance for his first several issues. Ward is Harold's brother.

And the image-inducer was, indeed, a regular part of IM's repertoire. I was going to cite its use against Whiplash back in SUSPENSE (which I believe was one of many), but I see Fred Hill beat me to it.

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