Review by Karl Verhoven
Iron Fist starred in a memorable but brief run of comics under Chris Claremont and John Byrne in the mid-1970s before the offbeat, but, as it turned out, inspired idea of teaming him with Luke Cage. This began well, but gradually slipped down the quality scale. This material can be found as Essential Iron Fist (one volume) and Essential Power Man and Iron Fist (three volumes). As the 1980s wound down Iron Fist’s appearances diminished in both quality and frequency, and there appeared little place at 21st century Marvel for a kung-fu hero whose fist became “like unto a thing of iron”.
Which only goes to show it’s not the character that’s the problem, it’s the approach, because over three books writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, and primary artist David Aja wove an attractive story, decoratively illustrated.
Brubaker began this rehabilitation by an intriguing use of Iron Fist within the Daredevil material he wrote, and here the writers make the first decent use of a plot element established in Iron Fist’s earliest appearances: the post of Iron Fist is a dynasty. They’ve existed for hundreds of years, and we drop in on a few of them drawn by guest pencillers, most frequently Travel Foreman, but also Sal Buscema, Russ Heath and John Severin. It’s Aja’s flowing style that characterises the series, though, his balletic action sequences stunning, and accentuated by the informed gloomy colouring of Matt Hollingsworth.
Fraction and Brubaker extend the myth and legend of Iron Fist throughout, adding to it by confronting him first with his inadequacies, then revealing just what it is he ought to be capable of. “There’s an evil up ahead that’s waited decades to destroy us”, he’s informed at one stage, “you’ll have to learn to do more than parlour tricks if we’re to survive.” These are some timely lessons, as among them is that his skills have a specific purpose, and the time for that purpose has arrived. This is further explored in the next volume The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven.
Iron Fist’s testing times begin with a two-pronged attack on both his identities, as a superhero from the forces of terrorist organisation Hydra, and as as businessman Danny Rand, with his company targeted. He then meets one of his predecessors as Iron Fist, and learns much of what has been kept hidden from him.
In the UK this book is also available collected with Iron Fist’s début story as the Iron Fist edition of Hachette’s Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes partwork. This content is also available in the now exceedingly rare Immortal Iron Fist Omnibus collecting all six books of the series, and in volume one of the Complete Collection.