This is the Iron Fist series released to coincide with the disappointing Iron Fist TV show. Forget about that, because this hits the spot. Ed Brisson starts by having Iron First turn up at a rough location in Bulgaria, slap down a canvas bag containing a million dollars to join the no-holds barred fights, and proceed to beat up everyone in the joint. That’s just on martial arts skills alone, you understand. Mike Perkins gives the location a suitably scuzzy look, and draws hard people you wouldn’t want to meet in the supermarket, never mind an otherwise empty industrial site. It’s over in six pages, including a title page, but it’s a great opening statement, although revisited.

The reason for Iron Fist testing himself is that the power of the iron fist is growing weaker, and without it he’s questioning his own purpose and falling into a bottle. His possible salvation comes via a kung-fu tournament held on a small island between the representatives of seven temples. Brisson shares details not known to Iron Fist, indications that not all is harmonious on the island and their ultimate plan is to replace K’un-Lun as a Heavenly City.

Perkins is known for the naturalistic grace of his art, and that applies well to gloomy scenes on a barren island punctuated by bursts of frenetic martial arts. The combat scenes are generally brief, but exhilarating, and Perkins puts a lot of effort into them, as seen by the small silhouette sequence on the decorative sample art, which goes beyond the call of duty.

Also shown on the sample art are the inventively faked names Brisson applies to kung-fu moves. By the time that page is reached it’s obvious he’s being creative, but without it being pointed out, people may be fooled by earlier examples.

At the rate Iron Fist goes through the early trials, it may be wondered how combat with seven individuals will fit into this slim paperback, but Brisson picks up the pace midway, and he exploits the back story of K’un-Lun well. However, unlike many who work for Marvel now, he also puts the extra effort in, creating new characters, intriguingly designed by Perkins, about whom not all is revealed. Several will surely be back at some stage.

It’s a thrilling opener that re-establishes Iron First and increases the anticipation for a next volume titled Round Two: Sabretooth.