Welcome to Comical Musings, we hope that it is not too hot wherever you are. I have been getting some great deals at Half Price Books recently and grabbing some older stuff that I had missed for low, low prices. The other day, I had about $16 to spend on comics and I walked into Half Price with a hankering for something substantial. I dug into a shelf filled with Hulk books (no one holds onto those), Fables, X-Men, Crazy Dark Horse titles that I have never heard of and other things as I hunted for my mark. $4.99 for Ultimate X-Men Volume 11 was enticing as it was written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Stuart Immonen. I had already read it years ago, but was surprised by the creative team. “No wonder it’s so freaking good,” I thought, “that’s an all-star creative team!” As I continued to put together an almost full run of Ultimate X-Men trades, I was startled by the names of creative teams that came up on the book. Ultimate X-Men had a substantial run penned by Brian K. Vaughan and followed up by Robert Kirkman! Huge names! In the middle of what some consider a disappointing run. Craziness. Anyways, it’s been very enjoyable to look into things that I have heard were good, but have not yet experienced and chase creative team. One such comic book that I had heard of, but never read was “The Immortal Iron Fist.” It hit on EVERYTHING that I was looking for that day. It had a character that I know little of. All that I have really seen with Iron Fist has been a somewhat awkward plot point in AVX. Next, it was $7.49. That left me enough room in the budget to grab the aforementioned Ultimate X-Men Volume 11. The last thing, and this really surprised me, was the creative team. The Immortal Iron Fist is co-written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker with art provided by David Aja. That is surely shocking! Fraction and Aja are tearing up the awards circuit for their work together on “Hawkeye” as we speak and putting out something truly unique and incredible. Finding “The Immortal Iron Fist,” I thought, would be like when I found Sky Sailing, Adam Young’s first solo project before Owl City, after he had already been famous. The “lost works-type” of find that was sure to please. However, what I found in volume 1 of “The Immortal Iron Fist” might surprise you as it surely did me.
“The Immortal Iron Fist” is the modern tale of a magic kung fu power, born of dragons, and the young man who wields it. Danny Rand is simultaneously impetuous, powerfully gifted, and rounds out to a very likable character. He is taking steps into destiny as the warrior protector of the hidden city of K’un-Lun and into manhood as the leader of the Rand corporation. This all sounds similar to other Marvel stories, but the kung fu and history of the ancient Iron Fist power mix together to make a story that feels different enough. There are huge set pieces, mystical forces, lovable rogues and enough action to choke a mythical bird-woman of K’un-Zi. The fight scenes are involved and Aja’s eye for drawing shots of fists making contact with flesh turn violence into art…a martial art…if you will. It is all very satisfying to look at. I was always expecting to enjoy the art in the book, but what I wasn’t expecting was how much it looked like “Hawkeye.”
There are images that I initially saw in “Hawkeye” that astounded me and showed me a different perspective than I had previously seen before in comic books, but I guess that I would have seen some of it if I had read “The Immortal Iron Fist” first. The scenes with bandaged Danny look like they were almost traced into “Hawkeye.” They look like almost the same character. Now, granted, I am not saying that Aja did trace Danny Rand into “Hawkeye,” but I am saying that there are many noticeable similarities that took away both from “The Immortal Iron Fist” and “Hawkeye.” Danny doesn’t look exactly like a carbon copy Clint, but the similar images sort of give the impression that this image is just “what Aja does.” I still like “Hawkeye” better because Aja’s drawing a cleaner and more simple comic book. “Hawkeye” is more with less and it doesn’t look as much like a stereotypical comic book. Aja’s art in this still wasn’t bad, but did take me out of my amazement at the emotion evoked by Aja’s art as “beat up Clint” seemed like it may have been more formulaic than innovative.
Other than my surprised gripes about “one good thing looking like another good thing,” volume 1 of “The Immortal Iron Fist” was entertaining and certainly worth $7.49. The Iron Fist costume is simple, but in Aja’s hands it becomes aggressive and feels strong. The work that Fraction, Brubaker, and Aja put into fleshing out and establishing the historical legacy of the Iron Fist was supremely well done. They really bring each of the legendary Iron Fist wielders to life and make them see relevant as supporting characters, simply because they wielded the power. I would read a solo book with Wu Ao-Shi, Bei Bang-Wen, or especially Orson Randall. World War 2 Iron Fist was killer. For a C-List Marvel character, “The Immortal Iron Fist” certainly compelled me to care for the character and you can tell that the creators loved working with him. That’s why I also disliked how abruptly the first trade ended. The cliffhanger was epic and left me wanting more…maybe a little too much. That’s my favorite thing about Fraction and Aja’s “Hawkeye.” The stories are contained and read well by themselves. “The Immortal Iron Fist” volume 1 just dropped me before the big tournament. I don’t know, I guess “wanting more” is a good complaint to have and I can grab all of “The Immortal Iron Fist” trades at Instocktrades at competitive prices. Altogether, “The Immortal Iron Fist” volume 1 was good, but not overwhelming. It was impressive, but all that was surprising for me was how it cheapened my other favorite book. If I had to do 1-10 scale, I give it 7 stars and if you can get it for less than $10 it is well worth it.
~ Scott Deaux ~