Monday, June 1, 2015


Planned, Plotted, and Polished by--
Roy Thomas, Author/Editor & Gil Kane, Artist
Inker: Dick Giordano | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: L.P. Gregory

You are Iron Fist. You stand tensely -- too tensely -- aware of their eyes on you: Yu-Ti, the Hooded One, and his four Dragon-Kings

And, facing you, four others edge closer, searching for an opening -- a moment of weakness -- the careless flickering of an eyelid.

For, this is your day of destiny, Iron Fist. Today you will eat of the fruit of the tree of immortality -- or else drink deep of the elixir of death--!

The Plot: Observed by Yu-Ti, the August Personage of Jade, Iron Fist spars with four men and defeats them all, completing the Challenge of Many. He then flashes back to a day ten years earlier, when he -- young Danny Rand – along with his parents and his father’s business partner, Harold Meachum, searched the Himalayas for the mystical city of K’un L’un. But their quest was cut short when Meachum killed Danny’s father, sending him plummeting into a crevasse. Danny and his mother fled.

Back in the present day, Iron Fist next faces the Challenge of the One, battling an unstoppable masked fighter called Shu-Hu. When Shu-Hu gets him on the ropes, Iron Fist flashes back again and recalls that his mother was mauled to death by wolves just as they discovered K’un L’un. The city’s defenders saved Danny from the wolves and took him in.

The memories spur Iron Fist to victory and he defeats Shu-Hu, which turns out to be a robot. Yu-Ti congratulates Iron Fist on his victory and offers him the choice between immortality or death.

Continuity Notes: Obviously this issue marks the first appearance of Danny “Iron Fist” Rand, as well as his parents, Wendell and Heather, and Wendell’s traitorous partner, Harold Meachum. The duo’s company, Rand-Meachum, is mentioned as well.
Also making their debuts here are the city of K’un L’un, fashioned after the legend of Shangri-La, and its ruler, Yu-Ti.

It's noted that Danny was nine years old when his parents died, and present-day narration states that the tragedy happened almost ten years earlier, so I suppose that makes Iron Fist eighteen or nineteen at this point. Which is way younger than I've ever imagined him. I've never understood the appeal of teenage heroes. Why can't he be twenty-something?

My Thoughts: Well, it turns out “decompression” existed even back in the seventies. Don't get me wrong: the issue covers a good deal of ground – but by the time it ends, the story has not advanced one whit. Iron Fist is still standing exactly where he was on page one, still faced with the choice between life and death that he mentioned just after finishing the Challenge of Many. The second fight, with Shu-Hu, serves absolutely no story purpose. It does introduce Iron Fist’s signature ability – the power to make his fist “like unto a thing of iron” – but that could've just as easily been demonstrated during the first fight.
Speaking of “things of iron” -- I do love that particular turn of phrase, but overall this story is just horrifically overwritten by Roy Thomas. I have to admit that I've never been a fan of Thomas’s scripting, finding it far too wordy most of the time, but not in a good way. Here, he dedicates copious caption boxes to describing exactly what's happening in their panels, and not all the poetic prose in the world (which I generally don't like anyway) can make the redundancy worth it.

Words. Words words words words words.
Words. Words. Words words words.
I like the second-person narration style, though. It's not something I'd want from every superhero comic, but as a gimmick for one particular character, it's pretty cool. I know Tom DeFalco used the technique years later on SPIDER-GIRL, but otherwise I'm unaware of any other such uses, so the uniqueness of the concept helps sell it.

Regardless of the writing, though, the artwork from Gil Kane -- inked with an unexpectedly light hand from Dick Giordano -- is beautiful. Kane is one of my favorites for his Spider-Man work. I haven't read much else from him, but his effort here is fantastic. He imbues Iron Fist with all the grace you'd expect of a martial artist, and his angles and facial expressions are as outstanding as ever.

It's slow-paced and overwritten, but at least this issue is done. Next time, if we're lucky, Iron Fist might actually set foot out of the arena where he spent this entire story!


  1. I'd call myself a moderate Iron Fist fan, in that I like the character and have read a few notable runs of his (I really, really love the most recent Fraction series, and wish it had lasted longer), but my reading has been in no way comprehensive. To wit, I've never read this issue.

    And boy, does it sound horribly decompressed. Just reading your plot summary, I'm thinking "man, it doesn't sound like much is happening...". Also, I had no idea that Gil Kane drew Fist's first appearance, which is pretty neat, nor that the Meachum in Rand-Meachum betrayed and murdered Danny's father, which makes his name being on the business kind of a fun long-term burn.

    overall this story is just horrifically overwritten by Roy Thomas. I have to admit that I've never been a fan of Thomas’s scripting, finding it far too wordy most of the time, but not in a good way.

    Ditto. Great plot/idea man, love his affection for comics history, but man, did he adopt some of Stan Lee's worst tendencies. Obviously, his STAR WARS work is freshest for me right now, and he overwrites the hell out of it. Like, let the art do SOME of the work telling the story, Roy.

    Which is way younger than I've ever imagined him.

    Ditto. I always pegged him as more late 20s, even 30s in the present day.

    I wonder if Marvel in the 70s was afraid of non-teen heroes for fear of making themselves more stuffy, like DC? I've always read the Silver Age Superman, Batman, Flash, GL, etc. as more 40s-ish "dad type" characters, whereas Peter Parker and the Marvel heroes seemed like an effort to target a younger audience with heroes closer in age to them (so less "dad" and more "cool older brother" to young readers).

    I mean, I've never read the Claremont/Byrne X-Men as anything other than twenty-somethings (other than notable "youngest of the group" Colossus in his late teens), but technically, I think Marvel tried to tell us that Cyclops, Phoenix and Nightcrawler (at least for awhile) were still late teens, which never seemed right.

  2. PS How far are you planning on sticking w/Iron Fist reviews? Just curious.

    1. Thanks for the comments! I plan to follow Iron Fist through all his solo adventures and end with his teaming up with Luke Cage in POWER MAN #50. I'm starting at the beginning, though for my money the series doesn't get really good until young Chris Claremont becomes the regular writer (joined soon after by John Byrne on pencils).

      I still remember my first exposure to Roy Thomas: It was "The Kree-Skrull War". I had heard about this thing for years, and it was considered a classic by one and all. Marvel published a trade of it in the late nineties, I would guess around the time of AVENGERS FOREVER, and I picked it up, eager to finally see what the fuss was about. I found it pretty much unreadable. The Neal Adams artwork was great (though he didn't draw nearly as much of the story as I'd assumed), but I couldn't take Thomas's scripting.

      My main objection to him, though, is his narration. I think his dialogue is just fine. But his captions are so overwritten and ubiquitous that I just can't take it.

      I still need to catch up on your STAR WARS stuff. I may just wind up reading the full adaptation in one sitting and then go back and read all the posts at once. Here I thought I could manage one issue a week, but my life has not been so generous for the past month or so! But I definitely need to get my act together by the time you move into the ongoing original stories.

    2. I think his dialogue is just fine. But his captions are so overwritten and ubiquitous that I just can't take it.

      Definitely. Narrative captions have their place. Thomas tends to think that place is "nearly everywhere".

      I still need to catch up on your STAR WARS stuff.

      Eh, no worries. I thought I could keep up with your Titans reviews, but clearly that hasn't happened.

      The nice thing about the internet, at least, is they're always there. :)