Essential Iron Fist: A Collection Like a Thing Unto Iron… Whatever That Means.

January 7th, 2008 by | Tags: , , ,

I used to feel kind of sorry for Iron Fist, despite not having read many of his comics. It’s stupid to feel that way for a fictional character you know little about, but I did. Everyone always thought highly of Luke Cage, but nobody ever cared for Iron Fist. Did Iron Fist get shoved back into center stage by Brian Michael Bendis? Did Iron Fist ever review old Twinkie ads with Doctor Doom and a talking fish? Have you ever heard anyone wax poetic about that awesome comic where Iron Fist beat up Doom? No, not really. All he got was a bunch of jokes about his name and costume, all while being referred to as Power Man’s sidekick.

Even Bendis didn’t seem to give him much love. If you look at Iron Fist’s appearances in Daredevil under Bendis’ pen, it feels as if he writes him out of necessity. In every appearance he makes, he’s standing firmly in Cage’s shadow. All he ever does is help out Cage. He’s the supporting character of a supporting character. Granted, Bendis did give him that awesome scene in the Pulse where Danny got all tense and insinuated that Jessica Jones is a whore. I like Jessica and all, but that was flat out hilarious.

His facial expression after that just says, “Whoa, that may have been a bit over the line… but really.”

It was Bendis’ lax treatment that made Ed Brubaker’s reveal that Danny Rand was filling in for Daredevil one of the all-time best revelations in comics. It worked out so well. It didn’t come out of nowhere, but Iron Fist was so low profile in his background actions that it wasn’t obvious. Then it succeeded to both push Iron Fist out of Luke’s shadow and give him a new lease on life by giving him his own critically acclaimed series and a spot on the Cage-led New Avengers.

Considering I was reading through the first two volumes of Cage’s Essential collections, I just had to read through the beginnings of Iron Fist. There isn’t much of a choice but to compare Iron Fist’s 70’s exploits with Luke Cage’s 70’s blaxploits, so while Luke Cage had more of a fun factor, Iron Fist had a better story quality.

It starts off in Marvel Premiere #15, written by Roy Thomas with penciler Gil Kane. Iron Fist takes part in his final proving ritual, where the August Personage in Jade (the dude that looks like Cobra Commander) tells him to think back to what led him here. We see ten years ago, where Danny is on an expedition to the hidden city of K’un Lun. He’s with his parents and his father’s business partner Harold Meachum. Meachum double-crosses the family and has Danny’s father killed. Rather than join with Harold, Danny’s mother tosses rocks at him and makes him leave them to die.

Snapping out of his flashback, Iron Fist then proceeds to fight a giant martial artist named Shu-Hu. Iron Fist gets his ass handed to him until realizing why Shu-Hu lacks any human weaknesses. For the first time in comic form, Iron Fist’s hand glows and he punches the giant. Shu-Hu explodes into a pile of metal. K’un-Lun has robots. Who knew?

From the rest of the flashback, we see that although Danny and his mother found K’un-Lun, his mother had to sacrifice herself to some wolves so Danny could escape. The August Personage in Jade took Danny in, had Thunderer teach him to fight and the rest is history. K’un-Lun only opens itself once every ten years and the day after Iron Fist’s robot-punching exercise, it’s going to open again. He has the chance to gain immortality by staying, but he’s too eaten up by revenge.

He goes back to New York City for the first time in a decade, now a stranger in a strange land. Assassins are hired to keep him occupied, including a really bizarre guy by the name of Triple Iron, but none could stop him from reaching Harold Meachum. This right here is the moment that hooked me in.

Storming into Meachum’s office, Iron Fist’s rage is shattered when he finds a legless old man in a wheelchair. As it turns out, when Meachum left the Rands to die ten years ago, he got lost and passed out in the snow. He was taken in by some locals, but due to frostbite, his legs needed to be amputated. He heard word of a man who visited K’un-Lun and saw the vengeful boy who he claimed would one day be Iron Fist. Meachum realized the shit he was in and lived a decade of panic.

“So you see, Iron Fist, I knew why you were obsessed with a will to excel… And I knew you would come after me when that city next appeared ten years later. And that’s why I was obsessed – with an overwhelming fear of death – driven to the brink of insanity with gut-sick worry and tension – paranoia – every cancerous neurosis you can imagine. And so I spent a fortune designing those traps and hiring assassins to stop you – because I just couldn’t believe you would be unconquerable. But I was wrong – wrong about you… And wrong to try and stop my death. I seen now… that I deserve it.”

And so the story truly begins.

It doesn’t take long for Iron Fist to meet up with his supporting cast. Colleen Wing and her father, Professor Lee Wing, show up immediately. His love interest Misty Knight appears sometime later, as does his initially shady lawyer Jeryn Hogarth and a guilt-ridden former terrorist by the name of Alan Cavenaugh. Alan himself was a very interesting supporting character who unfortunately never appeared after Iron Fist’s series was cancelled. I’d like to see Brubaker and Fraction bring him back.

For the remainder of the Marvel Premiere run, Iron Fist deals with a generic black ninja named, simply, Ninja. After that, he tries to get used to his new life in New York as Danny Rand. He also tries to get used to the country’s women. The idea of women like Colleen and Misty fighting is so beyond what K’un-Lun has taught him that Danny has trouble adjusting. By issue #25, a Daredevil villain by the name of Angar the Screamer has driven Lee Wing insane (a state he remains in for the remainder of the volume) and has kidnapped Colleen. Iron Fist follows his first clue, which leads him right to Stark Industries.

That brings us to the beginning of Iron Fist’s very own comic series, which would go on for fifteen issues. The first seven issues are based on Danny’s search to find Colleen. Without a doubt, this arc is the highlight of the book. Iron Fist didn’t immediately decide to be a superhero. For a while he was just a pretty nice guy who looked out for his friends and wore a flashy outfit. His superhero mindset comes into play during this story, especially when in England. A supervillain Ravager causes his plane to crash, killing various innocents. He and Misty get in a huge argument, as even though Danny wants to search for Colleen, he finds himself urged on to go track down this villain and make him pay.

Great thing with this is that even then, Iron Fist doesn’t refer to himself as a superhero. It isn’t until Alan Cavenaugh asks if he’s a superhero that he says, “No. I mean… I… I mean, he… that is, Scimitar, he… wow. I never thought about it before. A superhero… I guess I am.”

As I alluded to earlier, there is an Iron Fist vs. Iron Man fight. It isn’t Iron Fist’s first crossover with a Marvel character (that would be Batroc of all people), but it is the first time we see Danny get absolutely owned in a fight. Between Iron Man and the Wrecking Crew, Claremont isn’t afraid to show Iron Fist outclassed. Iron Man was the first character to really shrug off the glowing “Iron Fist” chi punch. Up until that point, it had a ridiculous Voltron sword aspect to it. Iron Fist would always use his super punch to finish off his enemies with no problem, but it made you wonder why he waited so long all the time.

It’s later mentioned that it would take a lot out of him, even though more experience with his powers leads to better endurance. Much like in his current series, Danny can use his chi-powered fist for other skills, such as healing himself or even a rather dramatic power that he uses on Colleen at one point. I won’t spoil it, but it leads to some interesting, if underused, ramifications.

As for the villains, Iron Fist’s rogues gallery lacks the wackiness of Cage’s. A lot of the guys who show up are obscure, but basic villains taken from older comics. A handful of villains are the kind of lazy concepts who specialize in a single weapon and name themselves after that weapon, such as Scythe, Scimitar and Boomerang. Then there’s Khumbala Bey, an uninteresting henchman type whose defining characteristics are that he’s fat and speaks in third person. Then we have Master Khan, who is basically the main villain for the first half of the volume, being behind nearly everything that Iron Fist finds himself up against. He would later become a recurring Heroes for Hire villain before plaguing Namor in the 90’s.

By the way, with the Boomerang issue, they essentially just take a fairly well-known moment from DC’s Captain Boomerang, alter it slightly and serve it back to us.

There are two villains here worth really talking about. First is Sabretooth, making his first appearance in Iron Fist #14. By the time we meet him, he’s a renowned criminal, which would actually pay off for once. I still laugh at the time they introduced a D-rate villain in Booster Gold’s old comic and tried to sell him off by making him so infamous that even Vice President Bush knew his name and shat his pants at the mere mention.

Claremont did a great job introducing the character because reading it now, you could tell that he had plans for him. Sabretooth may not have debuted as an X-Men villain, but you knew that Claremont intended for him to be the Anti-Wolverine from the very beginning. In the issue following the debut, Iron Fist would fight Wolverine and make a side remark about how his animalistic fighting style is very similar to Sabretooth’s. Then there’s this bit.

Cool thing is that this all takes place long before both Sabretooth and Wolverine became overpowered. In both fights, Iron Fist wins decisively despite a handicap. With the Wolverine fight, Iron Fist then goes on to kick the asses of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Banshee until Storm steps in.

Of course, you can’t talk about Iron Fist’s rogues without talking about his current pain in the ass Davos, otherwise known as the Steel Serpent. Davos shows up towards the end of the Marvel Premiere run and continues to have a prominent role for the entirety of the Iron Fist comic. He starts off as almost an anti-hero, working as a bodyguard for Harold Meachum’s vengeful daughter Joy. He protects her from another villain’s henchmen and even humiliates Joy’s corrupt uncle, while showing that although he has powers like Iron Fist, he’s more than willing to kill.

Once Davos makes his move as a villain, he has a real old school Venom vibe to him. For several issues, he’d just show up and smack around Iron Fist like nobody’s business, all while Iron Fist whines about how he never saw it coming. By the time Davos decides to seriously fight Iron Fist rather than humiliate him, we find out his backstory. Davos really hates Iron Fist for reasons that aren’t even Danny’s fault, pushed by the realization that Danny doesn’t even know who this guy is. For a while, he just figures he’s his mentor, the Thunderer, out to get him.

Unfortunately, Iron Fist vs. Steel Serpent wouldn’t get resolved in Iron Fist’s comic before cancellation. To tie up loose ends, Claremont and Byrne returned for a two-issue story in Marvel Team-Up, which included Iron Fist’s second alliance with Spider-Man. It’s still a very good climax.

The final three issues of the collection deal with Iron Fist’s origins as Luke Cage’s partner. I discussed that back with the review of Essential Cage Volume 2, though here we at least get an extra issue. The last issue here is Power Man and Iron Fist #50, where the two take on Cage villains Stiletto and Discus. During this fight, Iron Fist shows us that he truly is The One.


The best part of the series would have to be Iron Fist #7. The entire issue is just fantastic. In it, Iron Fist confronts Master Khan for their big climactic fight. It shouldn’t be all that interesting, since Khan is a pretty lacking villain, but the way they include the August Personage in Jade into the scene makes for a great, epic way to end this entire arc, while giving the following stories plenty of exciting potential. The issue also features Colleen Wing stepping up against Angar the Screamer, the man who both drove her father mad and tortured her for weeks in an attempt to break her and make her kill Iron Fist.

As cool as this is, a few issues later, she’d rant about how she wishes she really killed him instead of just giving him a simple wound. Lame.

The worst part of Essential Iron Fist? Hm. While none of the stories were horrible, there was one thing that became almost a running gag. For some reason, Iron Fist is always being accused for murder. If he’s standing next to a guy sleeping on a park bench, the police will probably see this, get the wrong idea and chase him down. Some examples:

1) After Iron Fist leaves Harold Meachum to live in his own personal Hell, the Ninja pops in and impales Meachum with a sword. Harold’s daughter Joy comes in, gets a load of the scene and vows revenge on Iron Fist.

2) Iron Fist visits the Wings, only to find that Colleen and Lee are missing and the place is destroyed. Misty Knight, meeting Iron Fist for the first time, attacks him and calls him a killer.

3) During the search for Colleen, Misty and Iron Fist go to see a contact of Misty’s, who works for Tony Stark. When they get there, they find that he’s been murdered. Stark watches this on a monitor, gets the wrong idea and Iron Man goes to deal with that murderer with the sweet-ass chest tattoo.

4) This one is a bit bizarre, but here it goes. Iron Fist has made enemies with Chaka, a martial artist crime boss in a tiger mask. Chaka drugs Iron Fist and challenges him to a final battle for the antidote. He then drugs his own brother, makes him wear the Chaka costume and forces him to fight Iron Fist. At the end of the fight, Chaka seemingly murders his brother and sneaks off, making it seem to both Iron Fist and the authorities that Iron Fist himself murdered an innocent man in a Chaka costume. Follow that?

5) Iron Fist is blackmailed into sneaking into the Avengers Mansion. Captain America had heard about Iron Fist being seen with the Wrecking Crew, so he uses 1970’s Marvel Google to research the guy. He remembers hearing something about Iron Man fighting him once and sees several headlines about how he’s apparently a murderer, ignoring all the retraction headlines. Cap storms off, only to find Iron Fist standing over Jarvis. Jarvis, coincidentally, had been startled, tried to run and fell over. Truly Danny Rand is the prototype Jack Tripper.

It’s fitting that I just finished this, now that Essential Power Man and Iron Fist has just hit the market. Reading through Essential Iron Fist, it hits you as how great a dynamic they have. Luke Cage is a poor black man and is, of course, a minority. Then you have Danny Rand who, despite being a rich white guy, is even more of a minority. He’s either the white outsider in K’un Lun or the martial arts weirdo in New York. Can’t wait to work my way through those issues, even though they cut out the Rom: Spaceknight crossover.

Essential Iron Fist is definitely worth picking up. It’s certainly the best work of Claremont I can recall reading.

Now come on, Brubaker and Fraction. Bring back Triple Iron already.

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5 comments to “Essential Iron Fist: A Collection Like a Thing Unto Iron… Whatever That Means.”

  1. It’s interesting to see how much of the Iron Fist backstory Brubaker and Fraction are incorporating into their story. Did Danny’s dad appear in this as an actual character or is he all Frubaker’s work? What about Orson?

    And man, Davos used to look pretty goofy.

  2. Wow, I hated that bit of characterization from Bendis. It came out of nowhere and was cruel and seemed only to be just another cross for Jessica to bear. She should have told him to get bent.

  3. Hoatzin: We didn’t get all that much of Danny’s dad other than the origin and a couple flashbacks later on. We did later learn that he is from K’un Lun and that the August Personage in Jade is his brother. Orson is a completely new character.

    That scene from the current series where Davos gets beaten during the tournament and refuses to yield is shown during the Marvel Team-Up arc. It’s worth noting that the August Personage in Jade that called for the match to end was not the current one, but Danny’s grandfather. That adds to Davos’ sting, I suppose.

    Also, here’s an image that amused me, but I couldn’t find a spot for it in the review:

  4. “And man, Davos used to look pretty goofy.”

    No goofier than Danny-boy.

  5. You guys notice that Marvel used to have original art created for the covers of the Essentials, now they just have recoloured splash or cover art from one of the books contained within?