Monday, January 30, 2012
Pistol-packin', Sword-hackin' Mamas! Marvel Team-Up 64
Marvel Team-Up #64 (December 1977)
"If Death Be My Destiny..."
Chris Claremont-John Byrne/Dave Hunt
Karen: Our story opens just twenty minutes after the end of last issue. Iron Fist is resting in bed at his friend Colleen Wing's apartment, with his former lover Misty Knight by his side. Colleen and Spider-Man step out of the room to discuss his condition with a doctor sent over by Iron Fist's lawyer. She says that Iron Fist should be "up and around in no time." But Colleen says that what's affecting him is of a spiritual, not physical nature. One thing that puzzled me: as the doctor leaves, she says Iron Fist should be in a hospital. I thought he was going to be fine?
Doug: First, Misty's still channeling her inner Pam Grier with that dress! Second, with the hairstyles on the lovely ladies in the foreground, I can't decide if I'm watching Charlie's Angels or Saturday Night Fever -- I loved the '70's! As to the contradiction, it's almost like Claremont started writing the captions, left and went to dinner and a movie, and then came back to it without reading what he'd done prior. Like you, I don't get it. And does Spider-Man just seem like a fifth wheel so far?
Karen: In a way, he does, because these two issues really should have been issues of Iron Fist. But the story needed to end somewhere, so MTU was as good a place as any! As she looks down on the unconscious Iron Fist, Misty spills her guts, saying that she hated to be forced to choose between IF and her principles. It really behooves the reader to be familiar with Iron Fist's previous series! She professes her love for him, and Danny (Iron Fist) awakes and tells her he loves her too. Awww.
Doug: I've been digging through what remains of my memory since I read this story last week -- do you (or any of our readers) know if this is the first interracial relationship at Marvel or DC? I'm thinking I must be missing something obvious? Certainly by 1978 this was not uncharted territory in pop culture, but darned if I can recall anything from comic books. At any rate, it is a touching scene -- I'm sure we've all seen similar play-outs on film and television.
Karen: It seems like it could be the first interracial comics relationship. Well, unless you count some of the Legion relationships, but since green and blue skinned people don't exist on Earth, I think we can disregard those. I think the first interracial relationship I can recall was in the Killraven series in Amazing Adventures, which preceded Iron Fist by a couple of years. Supporting characters M'Shulla and Carmilla Frost were an interracial couple. Of course, that series was outside mainstream Marvel, so Misty and Danny carry more weight. Back in our story, Spidey tells Colleen exactly what put IF in such bad shape -basically he recaps last issue's climactic battle with Steel Serpent. Just as he finishes talking, Misty enters the room in a skintight black outfit including a huge pistol. She says that IF has had his chi -essentially his soul -stolen from him, and will die if they don't get it back. She and Colleen prepare to go after Steel Serpent when Spidey comes to a realization: Steel Serpent will come to them to kill IF and make certain he can never reclaim his power. It's nice to see Spidey's experience in the super-hero game demonstrated so well.
Karen: Spidey was correct: Steel Serpent is on his way. He reminisces about his past and we learn who this villain truly is. He's Davos, the son of IF's martial arts instructor, Lei Kung the Thunderer. This is why IF was so puzzled by his foe - at first he thought Serpent was Lei Kung. It seems that back in the city of K'Un-Lun, Davos had battled IF's father for the right to face the dragon Shou Lou and had lost. Boy, this probably doesn't make a lick of sense if you haven't read Iron Fist! Anyway, after his defeat, Davos had gone off to face the dragon, to try to claim his power, but failed. Disgraced, he was exiled from K'Un-Lun and has spent the twenty-plus years since then planning his vengeance.
Doug: Count me among those readers who may have felt like they were on the outside of the fence peeking through a knothole! Man... I was glad Claremont included all of the backstory (a total of 2 1/4 pages), but I remained a bit confused afterward anyway.
Karen: I really wondered how confusing this story was to people who had no prior experience with Iron Fist. He has a pretty complicated back story. Before Steel Serpent can get to Iron Fist, Spidey spots him on a nearby rooftop and engages him. Spidey gets tossed around and realizes that he's holding back because Serpent is not super-powered. But his martial arts ability -and the iron fist -make him a real threat. The Daughters of the Dragon -Misty and Colleen -show up and have the Serpent on the ropes briefly, but Spider-Man accidentally gets in the way and the Serpent busts free.
Doug: Again, Spider-Man is a complete doofus in his own book. And therein lies the danger of a team-up book. In order to make it interesting, both the star (in this case Spidey, but it could be the Thing or Batman) and the guest-star must by necessity decrease their star power, or at least adapt it to the presence of the other. You can't tell me that Spider-Man couldn't have taken down Steel Serpent by himself in his own mag. Did you think this guy was more of a threat than Doc Ock, or the Kingpin in a close-quarters fight?
Karen: No, and I didn't think Equinox should have given Spidey such a hard time either. I don't know if I am over-estimating Spidey or under-estimating these villains. Spidey pursues Steel Serpent, but gets cornered in a backstop on a playground -yes, a backstop.
Doug: How would one "smash the whole thing down" when said "thing" is made of chain-link fencing? Personally, I'd have liked to have seen Spidey grab the backstop and encase Steel Serpent in it. I guess I don't see that possession of the "iron fist" translates to super strength on Serpent's part.
Karen: I always felt the iron fist was a little nebulous in description -much like Thor's hammer, it seemed to develop convenient abilities at times! Just as it seems Spidey's about to get pulverized by the Serpent's two glowing fists, the real Iron Fist makes the scene. Danny's in bad shape, but it doesn't matter, as Davos has lost control of both himself and the iron fist power. The glowing energy begins to burn up the length of his arms, eventually setting him afire. Iron Fist sees his chance and grabs Davos, trying to reabsorb the iron fist. There's a huge, blinding explosion, and Misty fears for her love. But emerging from the scorched ground is Iron Fist, a bit worse for wear, but back in possession of his chi and his power. Davos, it seems, was completely disintegrated! As the heroes walk off into the night, Spidey asks Misty where he's met her before. She says he and a "dude in a flyin' bathtub" saved her a few Christmas eves ago from some muggers. This was a reference to Marvel Team-Up #1, where Spidey and the Torch rescue a woman -Claremont just retroactively made that woman Misty!
Doug: The climactic battle in this issue played better for me than the fight in the previous issue. The Kirby Krackle was very cool, and I thought we got some real pay-off -- there was some excitement building here that I felt was lacking the previous month.
Karen:Don't you dig how Byrne depicts energy and fire effects? I think he did a great job with that. In a post-script, we see the city of K'Un-Lun, high up in snowy mountains. Lei Kung the thunderer sits before a huge green crystal, where he has seen the events that have transpired, and mourns for his son. For Iron Fist fans, this was a nice way to wrap up not only this two part story but the unresolved plots from his recently-cancelled title. I thought this two-parter was very enjoyable in both story and art.
Doug: Personally, I've liked our Havok/Thor and Yellowjacket/Wasp look-ins better. But, as I said at the top of last week's review, I knew going into this story that you were going to like it better than I. And that's not a knock on the story necessarily -- I wouldn't say Claremont was totally off his game, and I'll agree that Byrne's art is very, very solid (hey, a kudo to inker Dave Hunt, too). But not being an Iron Fist fan from way back, I sort of felt like I was late to the party.
Karen: I enjoyed re-reading these issues, but I can see just how completely stupefying they might be to somebody not familiar with Iron Fist. I really hope when the second volume of Iron Fist Marvel Masterworks comes out, they think to include these two issues.