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
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.
(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.
(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.