Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In Review Of: The Immortal Iron Fist by Brubaker, Faction and Aja

The wonderful thing about the retcon is that when it happens, it can happen spectacularly well, or spectacularly badly, since, unlike a regular launch, there is the character and a whole drawer full of baggage to deal with. Sometimes it all works out well, and sometimes it’s a huge truckload full of asbestos overturning on the freeway near a nursery school and massive evacuations. The standard that we’re shooting for here is Moore on Swamp Thing, and while I doubt we’ll ever get it, still a comics fan can dream. Happily, the Immortal Iron Fist relaunch and retcon is enjoyable, well done, and a damn fun read.

Hail Hydra! Oops, sorry, that slipped out. I bring up the Moore/Swamp Thing connection since there is an element there that is echoed in the Iron Fist collection: that of not dumping the past wholesale, as many of the relaunches do, but bringing up that the history we know is only the tip of the iceberg, and so including all the prior elements into the new backstory. Don’t throw those old Marvel Premieres out yet folks.

Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker do a solid job of bringing us along to the present day of Danny Rand, which is fine, since I doubt that I know what dojo the character has been hiding in for the last 20 years, but take a couple issues to move the story from the average retcon into something special. David Aja does a nice job with the art, stylish but not completely reliant on photoref to the point where the art stands still. His design sense is his greatest strength, one that takes him out of the jae lee school of “how much splatter can I get away with”. Yes, Jae, we know, you weren’t fooling anyone. There was a time or two on the double page splashes that I got lost in reading across on some panels but not on others. A small knitpick, but man, I should never get lost on the reading flow. Seriously.

Cut off one limb and… oops sorry. Immortal Iron Fist is, once again, a triumph of the trades I have to say. The book collects the first 6 issues and I finally found myself really caught up in the story by the last two issues. The dialog breakdown is fairly typical Brubaker, after following Criminal religiously, its not hard to see his patterns. I do always wonder where the seam is on two writers working on the same book. What does Ed do, and what does Matt do?

The series, while being a decidedly current superhero comic is also chock full of chewy Marvel goodness. Do I really want a postmodern angsty Hydra? No, not really, although its good some comic relief. The Hydra I want is the evil criminal organization that sends 10 million green jumpsuited bad guys to kill my hero with a bunch of badass guns. I want a tough mofo Luke Cage to come in and kick some butt as well. I want a Marvel Comic that reads like a Marvel Comic. And here, without making Lost Girls or Persepolis or Maus or Love and Rockets or Criminal or Sandman, is a fun read. If you like kung fu with superheroes, evil organizations, extradimensional dragons and Chi that looks like a great special effect not from the ‘70’s that is.

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