Review by Karl Verhoven
During their run writing Iron Fist in 2006-2007 Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction introduced the idea of there being more than one city of immortals with an ancient tradition and a protector. Indeed, The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven built on this by introducing a tournament in which Iron Fist battled the champions of these other cities.
Over six chapters an equal number of champions are spotlighted, but as seen through the eyes of others, with the creative team shifting with each chapter, several times in the case of Fat Cobra.
His is the opening chapter, cleverly played by Jason Aaron, who starts by constructing a figure of ridicule from the overweight warrior, then switches into another mood altogether. “I can do this. I’m Fat Cobra. I’m a Kung-Fu badass. I’ve mastered the Sumo Thunderstomp and the Unwelcome Touch of the Eigh Extremities. I’m Fat Cobra”, is the incantation applied when Fat Cobra heads toward destiny in one of several surprising revelations in the biography he’s commissioned. Mico Suayan’s art for the present day framing sequences is the most striking, his Fat Cobra barely contained by the panel borders. Stefano Gaudiano, Roberto De La Torre, Khari Evans, and Arturo Lozzi all contribute, with Lozzi (sample art) very good on David Lapham’s later story of the Prince of Orphans, but Michael Lark’s three pages of combat as foreplay is the best of a talented assembly.
It’s a rare trip back into comics for Dan Brereton illustrating Cullen Bunn’s exploration of the Bride of Nine Spiders, but it’s not his best work, somewhat stiff, and he seems rushed by the conclusion. The title character barely appears, the tale being more about her influence and attitude, as a conflict erupts when she needs to retrieve something left behind fifty years earlier. Bunn neglects to explain why she waited so long.
It’s two Cantonese street children who venerate Dog Brother #1, the protector of the underdog, relating his exploits as their lives become ever harder. Tim Green II’s art is a mixture of extraordinary pages steeped in ancient Chinese style, and some work as sloppy as the other pages are decorative. Rick Spears provides a serviceable story, if predictable until the final page.
The art of Khari Evans is from relatively early in a career that’s flourished, and has a beautiful delicacy about it in places, while lacking some basics in others. Duane Swierczynski’s origin for Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter is slightly derivative without really touching too far on what makes her one of the immortals. Prince of Orphans is viewed by Iron Fist, aloof, conscientious and extraordinarily capable, even when dealing with the dead.
Swierczynski’s concluding Iron Fist tale is about Danny Rand concerned about letting down a student in his martial arts class. It’s proceeding nicely with the gloomy mood Travel Foreman institutes, when after two chapters there’s a switch of artist. The darkness becomes light, realistic art becomes stylised and supporting character Jada ages by several years under Hatuey Diaz. It’s a decent story overall, but if two artists were required couldn’t they at least have had similar styles?
Anyone who enjoyed these characters during their Iron Fist appearance ought to enjoy discovering more about them here, although information is sometimes swathed in mist.