Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MARVEL PREMIERE #22

You are Iron Fist -- and, far beneath the streets of New York, you face the ultimate test of your martial arts prowess.

If you fail, you must then accept the fact that for you, at least…


”DEATH IS A NINJA”
Writer: Tony Isabella | Artist: Arvell Jones | Inker: A. Bradford
Letterer: Karen Mantlo | Colorist: George Roussos | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Iron Fist and the ninja duel, but their fight is interrupted first by the Cultists of Kara-Kai, then by the NYPD. In the chaos, Shaya and Ushus escape. The ninja then confesses to Harold Meachum’s murder and grabs Iron Fist, teleporting them both to another dimension, where the ninja seemingly kills Iron Fist.

His foe vanquished, the ninja soliloquizes his origin: He was once a samurai in feudal Japan who was drummed out of the service. Adopted by the devious Master Khan, the ninja discovered the Book of Many Things, later to be known as the Sacred Volume of Kali. The ninja used the book to invade K’un L’un for Master Khan, but was defeated by Lei Kung the Thunderer. Yu-Ti then mystically imprisoned the ninja in the book.

The book was eventually stolen from K’un L’un and the ninja used it to possess its holder. It spent time with the Cult of Kara-Kai, but was lost and later found by Professor Wing. The ninja, sensing Wing could free him from the book, safeguarded his new keeper until Iron Fist came into his life, ultimately leading to the book’s destruction and the ninja’s freedom.

His monologue over, the ninja is startled by the reappearance of Iron Fist. The Living Weapon fights and defeats the ninja, his enemy’s demise returning him to the real world. There, Colleen and Professor Wing tell Iron Fist he's been cleared for Harold Meachum’s murder.

Continuity Notes: A footnote directs readers to last issue for the ninja’s return to the corporeal realm. We're also reminded via footnote that Yu-Ti is also known as the August Personage of Jade.


Master Kahn, it seems, is meant to be a character by the same name who had appeared in a one-off story from STRANGE TALES #77, fifteen years earlier.

Iron Fist removes his mask for the first time on-page since the series started. And it shows, too: his hair is sweat-plastered to his head.


My Thoughts: Hmm. Well, the ninja’s done with. I can't imagine this was what Doug Moench intended when he introduced the character a few issues back, but in the end it doesn't really matter. Isabella has done an admirable job of cleaning up all the loose ends that had been dangling since Iron Fist’s debut. Our hero is cleared of Harold Meachum’s murder, the mysterious ninja’s story is finished, and, as of the final page, Iron Fist has accepted that his mission of vengeance was futile and has affirmed his life in New York, unable as he is to return to K’un L’un for ten more years.


I don't know if Isabella knew when he came on the title that he'd only be around for three issues, so I'm unsure whether he had an edict -- his own or editorially mandated -- to clean all this up, but I'm glad he did. Iron Fist’s story was thus far kind of choppy and incoherent. The succession of writers all did a very nice job of maintaining the tone set by Roy Thomas in the first issue, but each of them ran storylines in their own directions, leading to a schizophrenic feel to the proceedings.

But, on his way out, Isabella has tied everything up in a nice bow, and Iron Fist is ready for the man who will shepherd him through the next twenty-plus issues: Chris Claremont.

This is, it should be noted, also the final issue for Arvell Jones. I wish I could be as complimentary of Jones as I was for Isabella, but the truth is that he just wasn't ready for professional work at this point. I don't doubt that Jones was turning in the best work of which he was capable, but unfortunately, at this stage in his career, that wasn't enough. He really shouldn't have been green-lit for the series.


In the end, though, Iron Fist’s haphazard opening chapters have come to an end. Thomas, Wein, Moench, Isabella, Kane, Hama, and Jones -- four writers, three pencilers, eight issues. On one ongoing series, that's a pretty remarkable feat (though not in a good way). But Iron Fist survived all of them and somehow avoided cancellation. And now the good stuff starts.

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