Fun and heartwarming.
After the critically acclaimed Immortal Iron Fist ended in 2009, the next installment in the Iron Fist mythos was a twelve issue limited series written and illustrated by Kaare Andrews entitled Iron Fist: The Living Weapon. This series introduced a little girl named Pei, who grew up in K’un-Lun and possesses the power of the Iron Fist. She gets stuck in our world at the end of that series and hasn’t been addressed again, until now. Immortal Iron Fists was a Comixology exclusive series that only now is in print under Marvel’s new premier graphic novel format (not to be confused with the other format of the same name that was hardcovers of single volumes and is not being produced anymore.) It follows Pei, who’s now a teen, as she tries to live a normal life in NYC public schools, as well as Danny’s attempts to care for her and stop the impending apocalypse at the same time.
While this is a chronological successor to Living Weapon, it doesn’t have a similar tone at all. That makes sense as this is more Pei’s story than Danny’s, and she’s a teenage girl, not a full grown man. Afu Chan’s art mirrors this; it’s considerably less serious and far more cartoony than even Andrews’ art is. Some people voiced that they disliked the art from this series, but as someone who reads comics with all different types of art, I really liked it. It’s highly stylized and exaggerates certain things to form a cohesive experience from panel to panel. Half the story is about Pei in high school so the art, which is very similar to current animation, worked. If this had been a straight Iron Fist story it would have clashed, but this series definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it was a welcome difference.
I found myself very endeared to this series. The mix of high school story tropes and the kung fu excitement made it a well-rounded story. All the characters, especially Pei, Danny, and Pei’s two friends, are charmingly written, and the dialogue is clever and cute. Some of the story’s twists I could call from a mile away, while others genuinely surprised me. However, the section at the end where Pei gets stuck in another dimension was very out of place. A little reworking to the story could have helped this feel less weird. Heavy reliance on tropes you would see in a Disney Channel original movie might annoy some people, but you don’t really read a whole lot of superhero series that pull stuff like that, so I was okay with it. Danny trying to be a good father was especially fun to read. He has always been a bit of a manchild, so seeing him try to take care of an actual child was enjoyable. Pei was a little blandly characterized, but a lot of new superhero characters who have only been in two or three books don’t have much of a personality, so it’s not a problem exclusive to this book.
This was a really fun series. It plays with the less serious aspects of superhero stories without feeling like it’s making fun of them. Being a fan of The Living Weapon or Immortal Iron Fist doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like this, as Immortal Iron Fists is basically nothing like either of those. But, it stands alone well, despite a few references to Living Weapon (like Brenda showing up at the end), and would be a great addition to a YA library. Enjoyable and unique, Immortal Iron Fists does a good job of positioning Pei where she needs to be to be used by different writers in the future. More of a prequel to what’s to come, this volume was fun and heartwarming.