Sunday, April 30, 2017

Like Unto a Thing of Iron, Part One: Essential Iron Fist, Vol. 1

 Another binge-read?? So soon???

 This one won't be as long, trust me.

 I was raiding the stacks of unread comics, and I settled on  ESSENTIAL POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, VOL. 1, so I figured why not dig out ESSENTIAL IRON FIST, VOL. 1 and make a party out of it?

 This was MUCH better than I was expecting. As with most 1970's Marvel books, it is incredibly wordy, but it wasn't a deal-breaker here, since some very talented writers are on board for this collection: Len Wein, Doug Moench, Tony Isabella, and Chris Claremont. Even Roy Thomas, my reading Kryptonite, does a stellar job launching the character in the debut issue.

 ESSENTIAL IRON FIST, VOL. 1 collects MARVEL PREMIERE #'s 15-25, IRON FIST #'s 1-15, MARVEL TEAM-UP #'s 63-64, POWER MAN #'s 48-49, and POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #50. 36 issues makes for a HUGE essential volume...this book is long out of print, but it was quite a bargain for the $16.99 cover price. If you could deal with the lack of color, the Essential line gave you a lot of bang for your buck.

 Iron Fist has one of the more high-concept Marvel origins: Young Daniel Rand is left orphaned after his parents are killed while searching for the mystical city of K'un-Lun in the Himalayas. He is taken in by the martial-arts masters of the fabled lost city, and trained in their fighting skills. After training for a decade and winning a tournament that finds him defeating the best that the city has to offer, Danny is given the opportunity to face Shou-Lao, The Undying...a massive dragon who holds the secret of The Iron Fist, a mystical power that enables the wielder to channel all of his might into his hand. Naturally, Danny overcomes the dragon, takes possession of the power of The Iron Fist, and decides the unthinkable: He will leave the paradise of K'un-Lun, which only appears on Earth once every ten years, and return to New York City to seek vengeance on the man who killed his father....

 What struck me most about this collection was the overall clarity of vision that the writers shared....before we really get through Iron Fist's origin and first story arc, the series has gone through five writers. Yet they all stay on target and move the story forward with laser-like precision....There are very few meaningless detours, few digressions from the main thrust of the story. I also appreciated how much work must have gone into this series, from writers AND artists, as far as the martial-arts research is concerned. This must have been a beast with a monthly deadline, and pre-internet, no less. As a kid, I loved the way that Marvel always found a way to wrap up storylines from canceled books, and that happens here, as Chris Claremont and John Byrne use two issues of Marvel-team up to continue the aborted storyline from IRON FIST, giving the title some much-needed closure.

 The artists all deliver phenomenal work....Gil Kane, Larry Hama, Dick Giordano, Arvell Jones, Dan Green, Pat Broderick, Dave Cockrum, and the legendary John Byrne, who teams with Chris Claremont here for a run that is every bit as much fun as their classic UNCANNY X-MEN issues were. We even get the first appearance of Sabretooth, and an Iron Fist/X-Men throwdown in Misty Knight and Jean Grey's apartment.

 The collection really kicks into high gear in the last three issues, which sets up the iconic team of Power man and Iron Fist. The pair have an epic battle, which leads to an action-packed team-up, and the book ends with the two deciding to go into business together. POWER MAN AND IRON FIST was a real favorite of mine growing up, and I can't wait to revisit it and see how it holds up.

 The only extra is an Iron Fist OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE page, but considering how packed this book is, one can hardly complain.

 ESSENTIAL IRON FIST, VOL. 1 earns seven out of ten Iron Fists:

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