I took martial arts for several years while growing up and it fostered a love for the art that has never faded. I could hardly get enough of martial arts movies as a kid, especially those that focused on kung fu. I found myself drawn to characters in the martial arts world, such as the legendary Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris and Jet Li.
From the moment I picked up my first Iron Fist book, I’ve loved the character Danny Rand. I’ve always seen Iron Fist as a hybrid character of Bruce Lee’s prodigious skill combined with Jackie Chan’s humor/talent and Tony Stark’s status, prestige and money.
My first introduction to Iron Fist spoiled me on the character. I was lucky enough to take my journey into Danny Rand’s world under the guiding hands of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, in The Immortal Iron Fist. Now Canadian writer Ed Brisson, known for his self-published crime series Murder Book and his run with Image on the book Comeback, has taken the reins and I can’t say how excited I am to see what how does with it.
It’s an exciting time to be an Iron Fist fan. The Marvel/Netflix partnership has given the world the Iron Fist on TV for the first time and in a few short months we’ll get to see him again in The Defenders. But enough about Iron Fist on TV, let’s focus on the comic. The question remains, is it good?
Iron Fist #1 (Marvel Comics)
Marvel’s synopsis reads:
“THE GAUNTLET STARTS HERE! K’un Lun is in ruins. The chi fueling Danny’s fists is wavering. Is there a future for the Iron Fist? Danny Rand pushes himself to the breaking point, finding fights to prove his worth. But a bigger fight than he can handle may have found him…”
Iron Fist #1 opens at a bleak place for our hero. K’un-lun was attacked and destroyed, severing Danny’s connection to K’un-Lun’s chi and his powers. The aftermath of this event has left Danny wandering the globe in an alcohol fueled depression, trying to fill the void his ruined home has left him with.
We see a flashback to what appears to be K’un-Lun in ruins. For months Danny has felt his tether, his connection to Shou-Lao the Undying–the dragon who he defeated to gain his powers–slipping away. Is that related to the destruction of K’un-Lun? Almost definitely. But it’s possible it’s tied to the emotional and mental barrier Danny has constructed around himself in reaction to the destruction of his home.
Danny is clearly struggling with depression and an identity crisis. Since he was 9 he lived in K’un-Lun and at 19 he defeated the dragon Shou-Lao to become the Iron Fist. His entire adult life has been devoted to the duty of protecting K’un-Lun, carrying the mantle of the Iron Fist and all that comes with it. Where does that leave Danny now that both are gone?
I know of no better way to cure depression and fill a void then going from fight club to fight club, with trusty sidekick Mr. Whiskey, beating countless opponents to a pulp. Oddly enough that’s exactly where we find Danny. Trying and failing to push himself to the limit, as all the fights he pursues are ultimately not a challenge for his kung fu is overwhelmingly powerful.
The appearance of the mysterious character Choshin has the potential to change all of that. After a rather physical introduction, Choshin invites Danny to participate in a tournament of skilled fighters on the island of Liu-Shi, where kung fu is regarded above all else. The title of this run is "The Seven Masters." Did someone say Enter the Dragon?
My first introduction to artist Mike Perkins was through Dark Horse’s comic publication of Stephen King’s The Stand. I was impressed with Perkins’ work on then and thus far he’s kept that standard going with Iron Fist.
Perkins’ work on facial expressions is what stands out the most to me throughout the issue. With Danny’s arrival at a Bulgarian fight club he’s shown to go from serious, to considerate, to cocky all in one panel and I can confidently say Perkins’ work here provides a story readers could understand even if the dialogue was absent.
The fight scenes are all utterly fantastic. Perkins manages to split between equal parts of stunning and gruesome. The flow of combat allows the reader to enjoy the detail of the moves on display and nicely transitions into straight up brutality. Nothing about the art feels over the top, which you often see in the first issues of reboots.
This comic is a bit formulaic and cookie cutter in its attempt to establish a setup, however–sad, down on his luck hero, turns to the bottle, fighting and avoidance in response to a great loss. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! I enjoyed the story Brisson built for me. Choshin is a new character to the Iron Fist universe, immediately piquing my interest when he demonstrates his knowledge of Danny’s state of power atrophy and sets up the next issue nicely with his tournament invitation.
Iron Fist looks like it’s shaping up to be an old fashioned kung fu story, which I quite simply love.