Get the best primer there is on Iron Fist here.
Marvel Comics has released the perfect starting point for Iron Fist fans right in time for second season of the Netflix TV show. This collection not only contains the first appearances of Danny Rand and K’un-Lun, but also his first time meeting many major Marvel heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. This collection contains comics that originally released in 1974 through 1977 with great art and stories from masters like John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Roy Thomas.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A Himalayan expedition to find the mystical city of K’un-Lun left nine-year-old Daniel Rand’s parents dead. But Daniel found the path to K’un-Lun, and spent a decade there training under its immortal inhabitants – where he became an unmatched master of martial arts and spiritual control! Armed with the shattering power of the iron fist, Daniel left immortality behind to return to the Western world and avenge his parents’ deaths! In tales packed with wall-to-wall kung fu action, Iron Fist runs a gauntlet through the death cult, ninja adversaries and mystic dimensions – joined by Misty Knight and Colleen Wing! Iron Fist’s skill in both mind and body will be tested -culminating with his final showdown with the Steel Serpent!
Can I jump in easily?
Most definitely you can, since this collection starts with Iron Fist’s first appearance and collects all of his appearances from 1974 to 1977. If you knew nothing about this character you’ll want to start here. This book collects Marvel Premiere #15 through #25, the entire original Iron Fist run from issue #1 to #15 as well as the Marvel Team-Up #63 and #64.
Reason 1: Contains the origin story and key features of his personality as the book goes on.
It’s easy to forget how brutal Danny Rand’s origin story is, but this book helps fill in the gaps. We all know his parents died in an airplane accident — or did they? In this collection we learn Danny watched his dad fall to his death off a mountaintop (pushed by his “friend”) and the sight is described as if his father was a rag doll. Brutal. Then later we learn he watched his mother be torn to shreds by wolves. After you read this book you’ll have a new appreciation for how easy Batman had it! All this works towards explaining how a rich white kid could turn into such a honed and perfected fighter, especially since he grew up in K’un-Lun. Later on in the collection Danny goes back home and reminisces on his childhood. It’s drawn very well by John Byrne, using translucent imagery to show the memories dancing around Danny’s room. The attention given to the character over the course of this trade is very good.
As the story progresses we get a taste for the 70s Danny Rand with some surprises to be sure. One that caught me off guard was learning how he and Misty Knight had a relationship. Claremont does a great job writing this character as she’s a whole person and well developed. Heck, she even saves Danny Rand from getting his butt kicked by Iron Man at one point.
Reason 2: Danny Rand’s integration with other Marvel characters is not so easy and also exciting.
In the Marvel Presents issues Iron Fist fights whole gangs of bad guys and a few semi supervillain types. It’s not until writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne took over with Iron Fist #1, however, that things got truly super. In this first issue Iron Man tussles with Iron Fist. It’s of course a situation where there was a misunderstanding and all is forgiven. This setup is used a few times in this book including in Iron Fist #15 which has Danny fighting the X-Men. This story is excellent, especially if you like your comics fun and zany as they were in the 70s. We’ve got Cyclops complaining about his munchies getting ruined, Storm whining about getting a potato salad in the face, and Wolverine acting like a maniac. It’s quintessential comics of that era. You’ve also got a Spider-Man appearance (a requirement in those days) as well as a great fight scene with Captain America.
This collection also has the famous Sabretooth first appearance, which is expertly done. John Byrne was a master at not only designing character costumes, but also choreographing fight scenes. This issue is alone makes the collection a keeper.
Reason 3: Lots of kung-fu fighting.
There is no doubt this character was created in response to the kung-fu genre’s resurgence in the 70s. That is made more obvious when you notice how many fight scenes populate this series in the early stages. Featured in Marvel Premiere #15 through #25, every issue has Iron Fist going up against a crowd of bad guys and each move comes complete with Iron Fist shouting what he’s slamming down on their heads. There’s so much fighting in this collection one could argue there is too much, especially in these Marvel Premiere issues. That said, it’s quite fun to see how the artists tackle such fight scenes either by changing the layout structure or simply figuring out how to stick four bad guys around Iron Fist as they all get wholloped. The fighting changes quite a bit in the last half of this book since Iron Fist goes up against tougher supervillain foes and heroes too. The fight scene with Captain America is particularly great.
Reasons to be wary?
As always when it comes to reprints you’ll notice how wordy and old school the writing can be. Claremont had a way of digging into relationships, which makes the dialogue easier to enjoy, but the first half of this book has moments where the pace can be quite slow. Shockingly it’s how the action is focused on in these earlier chapters that can make things feel unimportant and boring. They seemed to reuse the same formula of Iron Fist getting into a fight with multiple characters and then letting the art do the talking. It gets repetitive and will make you yearn for a love interest. That comes later, thankfully.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
Though it has a slow start this collection is quite great, especially if you like reading older comics where things are a bit hokey, but always fun. Danny Rand is a fascinating character and this collection captures that and more in the early days of his creation. Read this and you’ll be rewarded with an interesting character that has only gone on to do greater things in future Marvel Comics.