Thursday, August 16, 2007

Iron Fist - Essential Volume #1

It only took me about 3 or 4 months to actually read the entire volume, but it was well worth it. As any readers of this blog knows I read a lot of new comics on an ongoing basis and I read books without pictures, so with my "real" job and other things going on it is difficult to get to read some 500 plus pages of an old comic series. But this was well worth it and I'm convinced more then ever Marvel needs to do this material as a two volume set of Masterworks.

Roy Thomas and Gil Kane are the two creators who started the series. It was pretty generic stuff and definitely created due to the popularity of the martial arts movement of the time. Roy gave it a nice fantasy background of being trained in a time lost city and added a "super power" with his Iron Fist and Gil Kane did a fantastic job of bringing the character to life. The costume design was never the best, but the dragon brand on his chest was ahead of its time.

The next issue Len Wein and Larry Hama came onboard and this was Larry Hama's introduction as a penciler. Doug Moench came on as writer for three issues after Len's one issue and Larry Hama stuck it out as artist for those three issues. Those first few issues show Iron Fist coming back into the world from K'un-lun and seeking vengeance for his father's death and found it to be a hollow pursuit. Larry's art was solid, not great but solid.

Next up was Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones. This three issues were important as Colleen Wing and Misty Knight were introduced into the cast of Iron Fist. The story was a bizarre thing about a Ninja and a book and other fun, but lame stuff. It is at the end of this issue that Iron Fist realizes that he (as Danny Rand) has to find a place in the world. At this point the book is not Iron Fist, but Marvel Premier. While entertaining the book now lacked a direction, as the initial story line that had started the series was over. Arvell Jones' art was pretty weak, but still conveyed the story well enough.

Enter Chris Claremont and for two issues Pat Broderick as artist and then John Byrne as artist. Chris and John would shepperd the book for Marvel Premier #25, all 15 issues of Iron Fist, the two issues of Marvel Team-Up and the three issues of Power Man, which becomes Power Man & Iron Fist after the third issue that Iron Fist is in the book.

This was early Claremont and Byrne. There were issues were the story faltered and get off track and I'm guessing that was when Marvel decided to pull the plug, but once these guys started hitting their stride it was a very good book. Danny and Misty Knight as an inter-racial couple was very radical at that time, Iron Fist fighting Captain America, the Steel Serpent, the way they continued the series using Marvel Team-Up and then managed to make Power Man and Iron Fist a team was all well done. Pat Broderick's art looked very good and Byrne was really growing as artist and his work was fluid and detailed, fantastic stuff for a young artist and still stands today as great work. Claremont did a wonderful job making the characters come to life and his penchant for strong woman characters was evident with his writing of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight.

I have to say that I have a real soft spot for this material because I was teaching a January term course in college with a friend of mine that we called Comic Books in America. I called Marvel and talked to Chris Claremont on the phone and he sent out copies of penciled pages, inked paged and scripts for us to use in the course and one book was Iron Fist #4. He was such a nice guy and helped me out in giving us material so we could understand what we were trying to teach. Thanks Chris (a lot of years later).

The style at the time was a much denser in as far as how much was spoken by the characters and thought balloons were the norm. I think that there is a middle ground between the limited verbage of most of today's books and the over abundance of text in the older stories.

Bottom line a very solid book that spawned enough ideas that we still have these characters populating the Marvel Universe 30 years later. For $17 you can't go wrong, but I hope to see this as a two issue Masterwork run in the next couple of years.


  1. Great review Jim and congratulations on actually finishing one of your many trades/HCs! I finally finished Jack Kirby 4th World Vol 1 and really enjoyed it and Vol 2 comes out next week (I think). I have all the issues from MP #25 up and have always liked them. I seem to remember No. 8 or 7 having a really cool storytelling style or something (they're buried too far in the closet to check). It'd be interesting to check out the earlier issues - probably with the success of the new IF series, maybe they will make a Masterworks or better yet an Omnibus (they tend to only give us those when movies come out though). I've heard rave reviews for the new series and read issue 1, but I was disappointed in how the action was portrayed versus Byrne's style. How do you think they compare (old vs. new).

  2. I like the new style just fine, but I think this was Byrne when he was new and pouring all his energy into these pages and stand up to any of his other work. Beautiful stuff.

    THE JK Omnibus Volume 2 has been pushed back to the first or second week of September.