Wednesday, June 17, 2015

MARVEL PREMIERE #20

”BATROC AND OTHER ASSASSINS”
Introducing: Writer: Tony Isabella | Artist: Arvell Jones | Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: John Drake | Letterer: Ray Holloway |Editor: Roy Thomas

You are Iron Fist -- and this is the second time in as many days that you have faced the killers of the Cult of Kara-Kai!

Their methods have grown less subtle. But a spinning whip kick deprives your attackers of both breath and ceremonial dagger.

And while you prepare to meet his fellows, you momentarily wonder what kind of fanatics would go to these lengths -- risk so much bloodshed -- for a book.


The Plot: Iron Fist fights off agents of the Cult of Kara-Kai before they can kill Professor Wing. When the fight concludes, Iron Fist leaves for Meachum Tower to make peace with Joy Meachum. But she wants nothing to do with his overture and calls her Uncle Ward into the room. Ward summons Batroc the Leaper, who attacks Iron Fist and finds their skills matched. To gain the upper hand, Batroc summons his Brigade, a couple dozen fighters, into the room.

The ninja appears to aid Iron Fist against the brigade. Together they win, and immediatley afterward Iron Fist confronts the ninja about his murder of Harold Meachum. The ninja uses a mystical cloud to teleport Iron Fist and himself out of the Meachum building, then teleports away. He reappears elsewhere before Professor Wing’s ancient book, and then metamorphoses into Wing himself.

Continuity Notes: A week has passed since last issue and Iron Fist has accepted a Professor Wing’s offer to become his research assistant and bodyguard. It's noted that the Kara-Kai cultists have attacked Wing forty-five times in the nine years since he unearthed the book which holds the secret of K’un L’un’s destruction. We also learn that Wing has kept all these assassination attempts secret from his daughter, Colleen.

Colleen mentions her business partner, Misty, though does not state what their business is. This is, of course, Misty Knight, who we’ll meet soon and see plenty of in the near future.

Flashbacks remind us of Professor Wing’s unearthing the ancient book and the ninja’s murder of Harold Meachum, though the only footnote to a previous issue comes when Joy mentions the trap she set for Iron Fist last time.

There is one more footnote in the issue, which informs us that Captain America is Batroc's “foremost Marvel foe”. Glad that's cleared up, because I always thought Batman was Batroc’s foremost Marvel foe. (Seriously, why is the word “Marvel” in this sentence?”)


My Thoughts: “Batroc and Other Assassins”? Is that, like, a reference to something? Because it's a really weird/awkward title. But then, when Colleen is heard to say, “Misty can run hers and my business alone for a while,” I guess maybe I should realize awkward parsing will be the norm from Tony Isabella’s typewriter.

It's not that bad, though. In general Isabella has a fine grasp on the English language. He continues the series’ trademark second-person narration, and his captions are about on par with Moench’s. He also picks up on pretty much all of Moench’s plot points from last issue, which is always a welcome practice for an incoming writer. Whether you like the previous regime’s ideas or not, it is your job as a participant in an ongoing serial to address them -- even if that means bringing them to a premature end so you can move on to other things.

But that's not what Isabella does here. He actually builds on all of Moench’s ideas. Certainly the development about Professor Wing being the ninja was probably not Moench’s original plan, but it's a pretty cool twist and answers a question set up by Iron Fist early in the issue: how the heck did Wing survive forty-five attempts on his life over the past several years?


The fights go on perhaps a bit too long here, giving an impression of treading water through the middle of the issue, but presumably Isabella is getting accustomed to the title, so that's excusable. It's not as bad as Moench’s horrible first issue, after all.

So if there's a legitimate weak link here, it's the artwork from Arvell Jones. This is the second step down in art quality since the series started. Gil Kane to Larry Hama was jarring, but Hama had Dick Giordano on inks to maintain some artistic continuity, at least. Plus, Hama did some good design work and his figures and faces generally looked fine. He suffered simply from not being Gil Kane.

Jones, on the other hand, suffers from being Arvell Jones. His work is not good. It looks sloppy and simplistic, and the scratchy inks from Dan Green (the same problem I would have with him a decade later over John Romita, Jr. on X-MEN) do him no favors. But Hama improved drastically from issue to issue; perhaps we can expect the same from Jones. At any rate, I can't be too hard on the guy: Wikipedia says this was his very first professionally published comic.

So the art’s not great, but Isabella has maintained Moench’s momentum even while taking the story in his own direction. For now, at least on the writing front, Iron Fist looks to be in capable hands.

2 comments:

  1. I love Batroc ze Leaper.

    Also, I had no idea Dan Green was around in the 70s. I always kind of pictured him as a young up-and-comer when he started on UNCANNY, but clearly not.

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    1. Yeah, I always thought Green was a young guy too in the eighties. Wikipedia has no birth year listed for him, but says he started working in the early seventies. I had no idea!

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