Propaganda – “Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting…”

Published On December 7, 2007 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

This is Propaganda, I’m Richard Bruton and this is what I’ve been reading lately…

The Immortal Iron Fist: the Last Iron Fist
Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction,
Art by David Aja, Russ Heath, John Severin and Sal Buscema

Ed Brubaker David Aja Immortal Iron Fist.jpg

I know what Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker are trying to achieve in Iron Fist. They’re trying to do what Bendis and Brubaker himself did (and, in Brubaker’s case, is still doing) on Daredevil (see here for the Propaganda special on Daredevil). Unfortunately it’s too similar, too close and because of that it fails. But in failing it still manages to be so much better than almost every other Marvel comic I’ve read in a long time. So it might be a failure, but it’s a glorious one nonetheless.

My own exposure to Iron Fist is limited to his time as half of Power Man and Iron Fist, a classic bit of 80s Marvel history (or at least it was when I read it as a child). So this current version of Iron Fist, although still the same man, is very different to the one I remember as the Hutch to Power Man’s Starsky. For a start I never really realised how rich Rand is, owning quite a lot of New York real estate – which, as Rand points out, is something that comes in handy for a man who spends a lot of time jumping from roof to roof. It seems this Iron Fist is merely the current iteration of the Iron Fist, a power that is passed down through the ages. It seems there have been Iron Fists for centuries – 67 in all, trained and empowered in the mystical city of K’un-Lun to be champions and protectors and Daniel Rand is just the latest in a long line of Iron Fists.

last iron fist1.jpg

(always outnumbered… A scene from the Last Iron Fist, art by David Aja, (c) Marvel)

The Last Iron Fist Story (which I’d be willing to bet this isn’t) pursues two parallel stories; one of the previous Iron Fists reappears to reveal the secret history of the Iron Fist and to inform him that the whole “power of the dragon” thing may have far reaching ramifications that so far he’s had no idea about. The other story concerns the hostile takeover of Daniel Rand’s corporation by the corporate arm of HYDRA, Marvel’s catch all super terrorist organisation with a fondness for a good acronym.

And this is where all the similarities with Daredevil start becoming a little too much. Obviously there’s going to be connections, not the least of which is Iron Fist’s recent decision to prance around New York doing his best DD impression whilst Matt Murdoch was out of the country. But the storyline simply feels too similar to recent events in Daredevil to work properly. Somewhere in here is a bloody good story trying to get out, but all I’m reading is a Daredevil clone and it’s spoiling the fun I’m afraid.

One very important thing about the book is the artwork. David Aja is the main artist, filling his pages with dark, expressive artwork, very reminiscent of the work of Alex Maleev on Daredevil. He handles the action particularly well, capturing the balletic grace essential to the character. But he also has a visual knack of capturing perfect expressions. Danny Rand’s face on realising he’s surrounded by Hydra is perfect, as is the body language later on in the book where both Iron Fists are completely exhausted and fit to drop as they take a lift up to yet another battle against unbeatable numbers.

last iron fist2.jpg
(even superheroes use the elevator; a scene from The Last Iron Fist, art by David Aja, (c) Marvel)

David Aja is ably assisted by a trio of classic comic artists; John Severin, Russ Heath and Sal Buscema – a veritable who’s who of classic Marvel artists. These old boys are drafted in to do the flashback sequences of previous Iron Fists that are dropped into each issue. It’s a credit to the writing and the artists themselves that the integration of the different art styles is practically seamless. It seems that David Aja knew he wasn’t fast enough to produce a monthly book, so this solution – get other artists in to cover the flashbacks – was introduced. A great bit of lateral thinking and a book that’s on time. Clever.

I kept being told by those that knew these things that this was the Marvel book to be reading at the moment, and although it’s a really good book, it’s not as great as I’d been told and it certainly isn’t up there with Daredevil, no matter how hard it tries to imitate it. Somewhere in here is a bloody good story trying to get out, but all I’m reading is a Daredevil clone and it’s spoiling the fun a little bit I’m afraid.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

4 Responses to Propaganda – “Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting…”

  1. Shawn Clark says:

    Um … ?

    So, if this book fails (as you say), how? For those of us that don’t read Daredevil, comparing it to that book does nothing in terms of explanation. I get that you like Daredevil … but how does that make IF a failure. If you’re going to make a claim, back it up, please, at least for the sake of those of us reading your review to find out if the book it actually good.

    And, having not read the book, even I got that “The Last Iron Fist Story” didn’t mean “the final Iron Fist story.” It meant “the story of the previous Iron Fist,” the same way that “last Thursday” means “the previous Thursday,” not “the last Thursday ever.” Get it?

  2. Richard Bruton Richard says:

    point taken, but I tend to review Superheroes secure in the knowledge that anyone interested in Iron Fist will have some knowledge of Daredevil. It’s ivariably the case and if the assumption was wrong in this case, my apologies.
    When I review mainstream stuff like Black Diamond or Suburban Glamour I don’t make the same assumptions.
    Sorry it didn’t work for you.

    Like I said, it’s a good book for a Marvel superhero title. Compared with Ultimates Volume 3 – it’s a work of fine literature, compared with Brubaker’s Daredevil, not so great.
    So if you really fancy a great bit of superheroics you’d be a lot better off picking up Brubaker’s Daredevil to see where the current high water mark in superhero comics is.

    But I’ll take issue with your last point, there’s a long history of “the last (insert superhero name here) story” being an end of saga type thing – a bit like the recent X-Men and Spider-Man The End series.

  3. Joe says:

    Regarding ‘the end’ I tend to go with Angel – the end doesn’t really mean the end, not for people like us…

  4. Joey says:

    If I understood well, you’re saying Immortal Iron Fist is good, but not as good as Bendis and Brubaker’s Daredevil since they are practically the same type of heroes but Immortal Iron Fist is less achieved ?
    Then I think your mistake is to believe they look like each other. Daredevil is nothing like a Kung Fu hero -although he is a bit of ninja.
    The Iron Fist comic books has always contained much more humour and levity than Daredevil. And I think that’s why you found Immortal Iron Fist not as good as Bendis & Brubaker’s Daredevil. Because Immortal Iron Fist has not the same darkness ;Brubaker kept the humour and the levity which always were in this series.
    (I hope you’ll understand what I tried to say because I don’t speak english very well I’m french).
    Very good critic anyway,