Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 1: The Last Iron Fist Story Review (Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction)


I’m a huge fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s multi-Eisner Award-winning Hawkeye series so when I saw an earlier book they’d done together - with Ed Brubaker, no less! - I jumped at it. That said, having read Immortal Iron Fist Vol 1 just a couple of days ago, I’m really struggling to remember what the book was about - and I’m not sure I had such a great handle on it while I was reading it in the first place! 

This might be partly because I have no history with the Iron Fist character. His hands flame, he knows kung-fu, and he’s the sometime partner of Luke Cage - that’s about it. I don’t know what his powers mean so maybe picking up a book entitled “The Last Iron Fist Story” wasn’t the best place to start, but whatever. Also, while I like Fraction’s latest output, I haven’t always been the guy’s champion - his early stuff at Marvel really stinks, and Brubaker sometimes doesn’t bring his A-game to everything he writes, and I think that’s why Immortal Iron First Vol 1 made little impression on me. 

So Danny Rand, an American, is the Iron Fist. Right away I’m thinking, why can’t there be an Asian superhero? Even if it’s the stereotypical martial artist hero-type, why are there so many damn American superheroes in the Marvel Universe?! The plot, as near as I can make out, is that Rand’s company (because every superhero’s alter-ego is a billionaire industrialist!) is being taken over by a Chinese company secretly run by HYDRA, a group who made the Nazis look liberal. 

There are several flashbacks to the past where we see other Iron Fists - Iron Fist is a title, ok got it - throughout the ages, fighting (presumably) bad guys, and for some reason Danny meets the Iron Fist from the First World War who somehow looks about 40. They team up to fight someone called Davos the Steel Serpent who’s basically Iron Fist but bulkier. 

That was the finale to the book - a dull boss fight. How many Marvel stories have we seen where the hero fights a version of themselves only bigger? How about the Iron Man and 2008 Incredible Hulk movies for a start! Not very imaginative, chaps, tres formulaic! 

David Aja’s art was the real surprise here. I love his artwork in Hawkeye and thought it’d be interesting to see how his early comics looked - and what do I see? I see almost exactly the same kind of art style being used in Iron Fist - a series from 2006 - that’s used in Hawkeye from 2012! 

There’s a scene where Danny Rand is being patched up and I swear Danny Rand IS Clint Barton - not even a similarity, they are the exact same character design! Even the cover to #4 is recognisably Hawkeye-ish with the same purple, black and white colour scheme being used. That’s not a big surprise given that Matt Hollingsworth, the Hawkeye colourist, worked on this series too. 

Well… damn. I suppose it’s good to get more of that great art but wow, I guess I’m seeing the limitations of Aja which makes his work on Hawkeye seem a bit less impressive as a result. Iron Fist really was this creative team’s warm-up for Hawkeye. 

Even as a Brubaker/Fraction/Aja fan, I’m shocked to say that I came away from Immortal Iron Fist disappointed at its quality. It’s a very forgettable and poorly written first volume that didn’t enlighten me very much on the character or why I should care about him. 

Hawkeye is an amazing title - Iron Fist very simply isn’t.

Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Volume 1

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