Review by Frank Plowright
Marvel has two primary martial arts heroes, Iron Fist and Shang Chi, yet for all that meetings between them have been relatively scarce. It’s a treat, then, to see them in action together in the opening story, and of course, there’s the question of which of them is the superior combatant. For fans of martial arts comics this is Thor vs. the Hulk, and it’s atmospherically drawn by Mike Perkins, while questions that might occur over the opening half are given definitive answers in the second by Ed Brisson.
So why is this Sabretooth: Round Two? Well, the round two doesn’t apply to Sabretooth, but to the contest Iron Fist won in Trial of the Seven Masters. Not everyone was happy with the outcome, and at the start the disgruntled are heading to New York. Sabretooth has a role, though, and there’s a refreshing introduction where Danny searches him out and provokes him, not the way people normally behave with Sabretooth. To those who don’t know the background, Brisson doesn’t adequately explain why Sabretooth should be so worked up at seeing a photo (it’s of his former working partner, now dead), but it’s about the only error in another thriller.
This is far more action oriented than the previous volume, with Brisson piling on the threats from the beginning, and piling them on in numbers, giving Perkins a lot of work. Despite this, Perkins doesn’t resort to shortcuts. He includes pages where the figures are seen from distance, surrounded by the city in considerable detail, he convinces when an army needs to be seen, and the action scenes have life and energy. However, the work is only half the joy, as the composition is expansive and elegant. Perkins doesn’t just tell the story, he sets it in stone.
Consider how often you’re left wondering why Spider-Man or Batman turned up. That’s not the case here. Brisson plots tightly, and everyone introduced has a good purpose. It’s never stated, but a nice aspect of Brisson’s entire story over two volumes is hubris. Had Danny Rand been left to drink his bottle of whisky at the start of Trial of the Seven Masters the villain of the piece could have carried out his plan and it might have succeeded. Instead he chose to involve Iron Fist, and ultimately it fails. The journey, though, is thrilling and twisting, although the alleged cliffhanger to the penultimate chapter is unconvincingly sold. It has a nice payoff, mind.
Despite being a character whose runs have been sporadic over the years, Iron Fist’s series have a generally high quality rating, and with Sabretooth: Round Two, Brisson and Perkins have added their name to the roll of honour. From here Iron Fist’s continuity leads into Doctor Strange: Damnation.