Friday, April 18, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading: Immortal Iron Fist

This one was iffy for me. Not because it's not good - the insane kung-fu exploitation style action meshes so well with the super-hero genre it continually amazes me that we don't see more of it - but because, unlike Criminal and Blue Beetle, and some of the books I'm going to talk about in upcoming segments, it's not on the verge of cancellation. Still, hovering on 30,000 readers and not coming out monthly, it's still not exactly a high-profile book, and the sheer awesome it contains compels me to compel you to read it. So, we're going to have a little talk.

The Immortal Iron Fist is very much a product of cheesy 70s martial arts films. Daniel Rand is a rich white kid, owner of an enormous corporation. One might be tempted, in fact, to call him a millionaire playboy. But, in truth, Danny isn't a playboy. He doesn't have the heart for Bruce's lie. Danny is, really, a pretty sweet, optimistic guy. He's also a guy who plunged his fist into the still-beating heart of Shou-Lao the Undying in one of the Seven Cities of Heaven, and emerged with the powers, and responsibilities, of The Immortal Iron Fist.

Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker work together here to do more than just turn Danny into one of the best pulp action heroes in the Marvel Universe. They're also greatly adding to the mythos. Almost every issue of the first arc, titled "The Last Iron Fist Story", opens with a 1-3 page intro to a past iron fist, some of which have even gotten entire awesome issues, and some of whom have become fan-favorite characters in their own rights. Like, meet this Iron Fist of the past...

The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay was one of the more popular single-issue stories, both for its action, but also because it's a genuinely sweet love story, in a way. And the entire first arc of Immortal Iron Fist deals with Danny meeting the Iron Fist from WW II, Orson Randall. The two are confronted by the Hordes of Hydra, led by the Steel Serpent, an old nemesis of the Iron Fist legacy due to a bad past. The action comes heavy, but the story and dialogue are never sacrificed to make room for action scenes. Lots of fun.

Finally, I want you all to remember, I was talking about madcap exploitation action? Well, Iron Fist is joined by an excellent supporting cast. First off, there's Orson Randall, introduced above. Then, there's the Old Guard, Danny's friends that have always been there. As much as Bendis wants me to love Luke Cage in every book he writes, Brubaker is the one who got me to like him. Luke and Danny, along with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, the old Heroes for Hire. Here they are, together again despite the fact that they're on opposite sides of the Registration Act.

Immortal Iron Fist is probably the best action comic on the market. David Aja, the artist, seems to have immense fun drawing the martial arts action, and I've never seen an artist with a better sense of how to do it. The book is crazy and keeps up its sense of fun. The plot is great, the one-shots are gorgeous and bizarre, and the book is just pretty. Go pick it up.

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