Monday, June 15, 2015

MARVEL PREMIERE #19

”DEATH-CULT!”
Writer: Doug Moench | Artist: Larry Hama | Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Jan Brunner | Letterer: Ray Holloway | Editor: Roy Thomas

Vengeance was yours, Iron Fist -- as certain as the power you wield and yet you have refused it!

But Harold Meachum is dead, slain by one whose motive was invisible -- unlike your former glaring lust for vengeance!


The Plot: Iron Fist leaves the Meachum Building to be greeted outside by a woman named Colleen Wing. She invites him to join her for a cab ride to Columbia University to meet her father. Meanwhile, Harold Meachum’s daughter, Joy, calls her Uncle Ward to enlist his aid in gaining vengeance on Iron Fist.

Outside Columbia, two assassins attempt to kill Iron Fist and Colleen, but Iron Fist sends them packing before Colleen even notices their presence. Within the school, Iron Fist meets Colleen’s father, the university’s Professor of Oriental Studies. Professor Wing explains that he has studied K’un L’un and knows of Iron Fist’s past. He urges Iron Fist to make peace with the Meachums. Iron Fist calls Joy, who asks to meet him at a Times Square arcade.

But Joy has her uncle send assassins to greet Iron Fist instead. As he fights off the first wave, a second group waits in the shadows, but they're defeated by the mystery ninja. Once all the killers are down, the ninja departs, but not before handing Iron Fist a newspaper which declares him to be a suspect in the slaying of Harold Meachum.

Continuity Notes: There are a boatload of firsts in this issue. Joy Meachum, who cameoed last time, is named here. She will go on to antagonize Iron Fist for decades to come. Her Uncle Ward, as well, will remain a thorn in our hero’s side for some years, though not as often as Joy.


We also see the debut of Colleen Wing, who will become a fixture of Iron Fist’s supporting cast, transitioning with him into POWER MAN AND IRON FIST some years from now. I've already covered a couple of Colleen’s later adventures on this site, here and here.

Colleen’s father, unnamed here but eventually known as Lee, makes his first appearance as well. Professor Wing will also remain an Iron Fist cast member, but not with anywhere near as high a profile as his daughter.


Wing reveals that he learned of K’un L’un when he unearthed a book on the subject in India. His discovery drew the attention of the Cult of Kara-Kai, an organization which wants to see K’un L’un destroyed. Later, during a trek across the Himalayas, Wing met a dying monk -- the same one who visited K’un L’un on the day Danny Rand arrived -- and it was with his final breaths that the monk filled Wing in on young Danny’s training and possible destiny. All of this enabled Wing to send his daughter to meet Iron Fist outside the Meachum Building on the day he arrived in New York City.

My Thoughts: Okay, now we're talkin’. Look at all those wonderful words up above! Plots! Sub-plots! Mysteries! It's an honest-to-goodness Bronze Age comic book, not another pointless installment of the Neverending Origin!

Unfortunately, Iron Fist is about to lose his third writer, as this is Doug Moench’s last issue. I have no idea why Moench left the series. Roy Thomas says he departed to concentrate on editorial duties and writing team books, which were his preference. I assume Len Wein was just there to fill in until a permanent writer could be found, since his issue was co-plotted by Thomas. But Moench showed up, stuck it out through an awful issue and an acceptable one, and then gave us this: Iron Fist’s strongest issue to date. And then, after turning in an excellent effort filled with ideas and seeds for the future, he, too, suddenly departs just as he's hit his stride.


But on the plus side, Moench has set up a number of ideas for the next writer: Iron Fist now has a pair of “mastermind” type antagonists in Joy and Ward Meachum. He has a small but interesting supporting cast in the Wings. He even has an opportunity for a civilian life, as Professor Wing has asked him to join the Oriental Studies department as a research assistant. And then there's that ninja who keeps following him around, as well as the Cult of Kara-Kai, which wants to see his adopted homeland destroyed for unknown reasons. This is good stuff; the sort of stuff which has always drawn me to comics in the first place. Hopefully incoming writer Tony Isabella will keep it all going.


We should also note that this is the final issue for both penciler Larry Hama and inker Dick Giordano, the longest-serving members of the creative team. Hama drew four installments, while Giordano has been around for a whopping five issues! Following the template set by Gil Kane in issue 1, Hama and Giordano are responsible for much of Iron Fist’s visual style. They gave us the people of K’un L’un, the extended Meachum family, and the Wings. Though they weren't with Iron arist for long overall, their contributions can't be ignored.

Things are finally looking up for Iron Fist, as Doug Moench has injected the series with some much needed intrigue and a supporting cast to boot. Let's hope Tony Isabella doesn't squander these ideas.

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