The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection, Vol.1
Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction
Artists: David Aja, Travel Foreman, and others
Karen: Sometimes we actually do read modern comics here at the BAB. Usually it happens when there is some great celestial event, an alignment of the planets, a comet passing through our orbit for the first time in a hundred years -you know, one of the those moments of significance. So it was when I decided to pick up The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection a few weeks ago. This hefty trade paperback collects Immortal Iron Fist #1-16, and Annual #1, as well as Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death #1, and parts of Immortal Iron Fist: The Origin of Danny Rand #1 and Civil War: Choosing Sides #1. Whew! It's a whole lot of reading, but it all flows pretty well.It's written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, but there are a bunch of different artists; the main one is David Aja, who I was unfamiliar with prior to reading this book.
Karen: If you have been coming around these parts for any length of time, you know I am a fan of Bruce Lee, TV's Kung Fu series, and martial arts movies from the 70s in general. I'm also an Iron Fist fan. Because of the choppy distribution back in the day, I never got all of the Marvel Premiere and Iron Fist issues as they hit the stands; I got enough to understand who the character was and to develop an interest in him, but it would take years to fill in all the gaps. One of the most appealing aspects of Iron Fist was his background, with the mystical, mysterious city of K'un Lun where he received his training, and his powers. In Iron Fist's original series, through flashbacks we saw glimpses of this place, of how young orphaned Daniel Rand grew to become a living weapon. But the reveals of Iron Fist's history were, for the most part, unsatisfying and even incongruous. Like many books back in the mid-70s, Iron Fist was plagued, at least early on, by an inconsistent creative team. In Marvel Premiere alone, five different writers pieced together the story of Danny Rand's rebirth.
Karen: Things improved when he got his own title and Chris Claremont took over the writing reins regularly. But while Claremont slightly expanded on the Iron Fist's origin, the book mostly focused on pedestrian super-hero action. Right before it got cancelled, in issue 14, we got our first taste of what was to be the best Iron Fist story so far -the Steel Serpent saga. It would play out in Marvel Team-Up #s 63 and 64, of all places. Iron Fist would face Davos, the son of his teacher, Lei Kung the Thunderer, who wanted to steal the power of the Iron Fist from him. Finally we got some real sense of what it meant to be Iron Fist. More than just being another super-hero, being Iron Fist was something Danny Rand had earned, and came with both power and costs.
Karen: This might sound like there is a lot going on, and there is. But since it all plays out over 16 -
plus issues, it doesn't feel over-crowded. I will say that I didn't quite get the connections with the train sub-plot until near the end, and the revolution sub-plot seemed a little under-developed. But these are minor complaints. All in all, this was a compelling read. Brubaker and Fraction weave together a tale that feels very pulpy, at home with Doc Savage (indeed, the standalone Orson Randall story is clearly an homage to Doc) more than super-heroes, even though this storyline takes place during the Civil War event (which is mentioned but plays no real role). Danny Rand is given more depth, and learning of the long line (66!) of previous Iron Fists gives him a certain heft that makes him more than just another costumed hero.
Karen: Another pleasure of this collection are some of the guest artists who pop up to illustrate some of the segments. We get our pal Sal Buscema (with Tom Palmer) doing two pages of Davos' backstory, and Tom Severin and Russ Health both illustrating parts of Orson Randall's history. There were a lot of artists spread throughout this collection. Not all of the art appealed to me; but most of it was very good. David Aja has a very realistic style that grew on me. The book also contains character sketches and a story outline and script excerpts.
Karen: I devoured this book over the course of about four days. Every spare moment I would go back to it. It renewed my interest in Iron Fist, and kept me entertained. I couldn't ask for much more from a comic.