The combo of Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins has been unmistakably excellent from their very start. Brisson gives Danny Rand the right amount of pep and average guy demeanor while Perkins hammers you with the kung-fu moves and detailed musculature a fight comic deserves. Adding Sabretooth to the mix seems like a smart idea and so they join forces for a monster story here.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The punches and kicks fly as the man with the Iron Fist teams up with Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu! But what brings these two heroes with the deadly hands together? Oh, nothing much – only a murder cult trying to kill Danny! But that’s easier said than done… It’s an all-out martial arts extravaganza you won’t want to miss, as Iron Fist’s journey of self-discovery and self-determination continues!
Can I jump in easily?
It’s not too bad at all. This collects seven issues of the series opener with a quick two-parter and then dives into the five part Sabretooth story. You might need a general idea of who these characters are, but it’s rather easy to enjoy.
Reason 1: Three stories for the price of one.
This issue opens with a two-part story, teaming up Iron Fist and Shang-Chi aka Kung-Fu (the greatest fighter ever). This opening involves zombie magic and the enjoyable argument of who is the greatest fighter ever. I reviewed the second part a few months back.
The second story involves a magical book from K’un-Lun that’s snatched out of Iron Fist’s hands. Danny was supposed to guard it, but now it’s on him that an army is on its way to take over K’un-Lun. Nice job Danny. It has an interesting tie-in to a previous Iron Fist with a cult-like following.
The third story involves Constrictor and his ties to Sabretooth. Early on we’re lead to believe Constrictor is back from the dead and Sabretooth is not too pleased. This gives Sabretooth a reason to fight and allows Brisson to pair him with Iron Fist for some excellent riffing off each other.
Reason 2: High stakes.
K’un-Lun is at stake! As the story progresses an ancient plague villain is running amok, a dragon in Iron Fist’s care is used, and the city of K’un-Lun is in danger. The main story has the stakes a movie should have and I kept thinking this while reading. Brisson and Perkins keep you interested every page of the way and it’s in part due to the stakes, both small and large. From a barroom fight between Sabretooth and Iron Fist (the bartender is pissed!) to K’un-Lun being overwhelmed by an army, there’s always a reason to keep reading.
Reason 3: That art though!
Perkins draws an excellent fight scene. The fight-move captions add a certain flair to the art, as if Perkins is drawing something important to be remembered. The musculature on Iron Fist and others is excellent and never looks off. The tight mask also has a level of realism that’s unmistakable. You have to wonder if Perkins draws from kung-fu movies or he’s just that good, because there’s a cinematic quality to framing the characters that are excellent. There are also delightful layouts that enhance the action, reminding us a fight scene isn’t just one punch, but many.
The layers here are unreal.
Reasons to be wary?
I’m not in love with how dark this book can be. Perkins uses heavy inks and, truth be told, much of the book takes place at night. It has a dramatic feel throughout, but it’s also never bright or open. Shadows are everywhere which suits some stories, but it’d be nice if it wasn’t so muddy. It can make the book slightly difficult to dive into.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I had my doubts going in since the story seems to heavily rely on a guest character to work. Thankfully, this is just good comics — you are nearly constantly driven to turn the pages. The characters are well written and there’s plenty for them to do with multiple plots in play. The art is hard to beat too if you dig fight comics.