Monday, January 23, 2012

Dude, Get Your Hands Off My Chi... Marvel Team-Up 63

Marvel Team-Up #63 (November 1977)
"Night of the Dragon!"
Chris Claremont-John Byrne/Dave Hunt

Doug: We're heading into the second half of our month-long look at the Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Ups with an Iron Fist 2-parter. This one, friends, has some kung fu mayhem and really requires a little Danny Rand history for it to totally make sense. It's been well-documented in these parts that my partner has an infinitely larger background in the non-superhero books, so I'm going to lean heavily on Karen in terms of tying this together. Shall we?

Karen: Iron Fist was a favorite of mine back in the 70's. I probably had about half of the Marvel Premiere issues featuring him, and all of his own title. But not a super-hero title? He has tights on!

Doug: Fair enough on the tights, and I only had a couple of appearances of his. I guess my comment was slanted more toward the B&W magazines, where Mr. Rand also appeared.

Doug: What a great splash page! I'm sure I've commented somewhere along the lines that the elongated figurework that would become a staple of John Byrne's post-Bronze Age output was not always to my liking. Here, early on (somewhat) we see Byrne's superheroes a bit more filled out, almost Romita-like. It's unmistakably Byrne, especially facially, but I think I like his style here a bit more than on, for example, his second run on Fantastic Four. Anyway, Iron Fist is shown in his gym. Seems he's lost a bit of his edge and is concerned that he'll need it if a life-and-death situation crops up. Ah, foreshadowing. While he pushes himself, who should soon appear at his door but one Peter Parker, on assignment for the Daily Bugle. Pete's supposed to photograph Danny Rand's townhome -- must have been for the Bugle's Sunday magazine section. Pete hands Danny a rolled up note that was stuck in the door; however, as soon as Danny reads it we know there isn't going to be a shoot today!

Karen: I like how Peter thinks to himself that Rand's living room is bigger than his whole apartment! Poor Pete.

Doug: Of course Pete's brushed off, and as he exits the building he scales the wall and changes into his Spidey gear. Looking over the roof, Spidey sees Danny Rand enter a taxi -- a well-placed Spider-tracer should take care of finding Rand's future location. Seems that as Danny had read the note from his door, he recognized it as a challenge from an old acquaintance.

Karen: Peter's being a bit of a detective here, noticing not only Rand's sudden distress, but that he "moves like a trained athlete, and his hands - they're rough and calloused, like a fighter's."

Doug: Junior Batman, that's our Pete! We then cut to a huge yacht off the Jersey coast, where Misty Knight (operating as a spy) is doing her best Pam Grier impersonation while cuddling up to a hood named Bushmaster. Our baddie has just been alerted that a hit will go down that very evening, a hit on Iron Fist! Misty, upon hearing that the object of her affection is in danger, tears into Bushmaster and his body guards. This is one bad mama! I was unaware that Misty had a "bionic right arm", but she uses it just as well as Jamie Sommers ever did! Misty commandeers a motor boat and speeds away from the yacht, her cover blown. She hopes to reach Iron Fist in time!

Karen: The Iron Fist book was in the middle of a major storyline when it was canceled. Serendipitously, Claremont was writing MTU at the time, and what better place to tie up those loose ends? I have to wonder though if this story made much sense to the uninitiated. As for Misty, I agree, the whole sequence here made me think of Pam Grier or Teresa Graves (Anyone remember Get Christie Love?). I always thought her bionic arm was a little too gimmicky but it was the 70's after all.

Doug: Spidey lost the cab in traffic, but upon catching up to the signal gets the drop on Iron Fist's location. We move ahead a bit and find Iron Fist moving through the woods of a large city park, when he's suddenly confronted by the Steel Serpent, a mysterious figure claiming to be from before Iron Fist's past! With no chance to back out, Iron Fist instead confronts his bigger, stronger nemesis. What follows is a couple of pages of kung fu fighting, and I have to ask -- how did Byrne do with the choreography? I've seen some Paul Gulacy Master of Kung Fu, and I guess for me this is not that.

Karen: I love Steel Serpent's costume; the blue-green-white color scheme and the wide sash just look great. I think Byrne does good work with the fight scene. But Claremont has Iron Fist giving a mental play by play of what moves are being used that is just flat-out ridiculous. These two expert fighters are moving at lightning speed and Fist is thinking, "I just did this, now he's countering with that, but I'll do this..." I get the feeling Claremont wanted to show the readers how much research he had done, and it just fails miserably.

Doug: Perhaps it was indeed the words I found distracting -- maybe my questioning of the pictures is misplaced. But something did feel off about the battle scenes. It's interesting that we can see the Steel Serpent's eyes in his mask, while Iron Fist, whose costume is basically the same, has the "Spider-Man" eyes.

Doug: Well, this is after all Marvel Team-Up, so despite the fact that Iron Fist probably knew what he was doing, Spider-Man decides to intervene on his behalf -- after setting up his remote camera, natch! Steel Serpent is having none of it, however, and spider-strength, -speed, and -agility don't seem to amount to a hill of beans in this fracas. Spider-man is taken out immediately, and in the distraction Iron Fist loses his focus (something he'd been lamenting as our story began) and allows Steel Serpent to get into close quarters. Pressing his own serpent tattoo against Danny's dragon tattoo, the chi, or life energy, is drained from Iron Fist and into Steel Serpent. In a blinding flash of light, Iron Fist lies defeated at the feet of his conqueror.

Karen: I thought the full-page drawing here was very effective, with Serpent bristling with energy and Fist falling away like a rag doll.

Doug: Misty arrives just as this goes down, and she's not happy. Brandishing a ray gun, she threatens Steel Serpent and tells him to put Iron Fist down and back away. Content that his mission is accomplished, Steel Serpent obliges, and fades away into the forest. Spider-Man, recovered, approaches Iron Fist's lifeless body. He's suddenly brushed aside by a frantic Misty Knight, who kneels and cradles Iron Fist in a pose reminiscent of The Pieta of Michelangelo. As they say, to be continued!


Anonymous said...

That reportage thing they do to explain action that is too fast-moving to draw never works, for exactly the reason you say, Karen. It has been OK a few times, but it’s far better if you can draw it and ‘show don’t tell’, as they say in literary circles. And there are a few artists who can draw complex sequences of kung-fu style fighting very well...Gulacy,as you say, Doug, but Miller too. Probably Steranko would have been good too.

Actually, somewhere the interior-monologue-exposition failed, but I still have a really soft spot for it, is Stan’s early monologuing on Daredevil (e.g. Daredevil #1 , “ I will throw my billy club at his head.. because I can tell from his unbroken footfalls that there is no one between us”)*. It was rubbish, but you could see that Stan was really thinking hard about the realities of a blind man in a fight, so I still liked it, despite it being ridiculous exposition and an interior monologue that was insanely calm and measured in the middle of a mad melee.


*(Notice how I cunningly slipped in that I have DD#1 there without actually boasting about it).

starfoxxx said...

Misty is currently appearing in Abnett/Lanning's Heroes/Villains for Hire series'. So far they have been fun to read, and featuring a bunch of my 70s-80s favorites such as Paladin and Tiger-Shark. Misty has moved on from a relationship with Iron Fist, and is in a romance with Paladin. Worth a look, and cheap as they get (nowadays) at $2.99.

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