Monday, June 29, 2015

MARVEL PREMIERE #23

Your name is Iron Fist, and for the first time in many weeks, the night air is quiet and filled with peace. No vendettas haunt your dreams, no old wrongs cry out for vengeance

No killer cults -- and no ninjas -- seek your life

Tonight, there is only you. And the girl, Colleen Wing, one of the few… friends you have in this strange, pulsing vibrant, frantic… alien city -- New York. A city you used to call home.

And now must call “home” again.

If you live that long.


”THE NAME IS… WARHAWK”
Author: Chris Claremont | Artist: Pat Broderick | Inker: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Karen Mantlo | Colorist: Michele Wolfman | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: As Danny Rand and Colleen Wing stroll through Riverside Park, a sniper opens fire, killing all the civilians nearby except a small boy. Danny rescues the child then runs across the street after the sniper. Colleen follows and both come face-to-face with a metal-skinned mercenary named Warhawk. Warhawk defeats Danny and kidnaps Colleen.

Danny awakens and, after a brief flashback to K’un L’un, changes to Iron Fist and tracks Warhawk t a waterfront warehouse. Warhawk, suffering from PTSD, believes Colleen is his Vietnamese wife, and fights Iron Fist to defend her. Iron Fist is victorious in the end, knocking Warhawk into the river. But when Iron Fist attempts to rescue the drowning vet, Warhawk chooses death over capture and allows himself to be washed away.

Continuity Notes: We're told via footnote that Iron Fist was unable to kill Harold Meachum in issue 18, and that he turned down immortality in K’un L’un in #16.

In the park, Colleen notes that Danny will soon be rich, presumably due to an inheritance from his long dead father. Later in the issue, reacting to Colleen’s kidnapping, Professor Wing says that Colleen’s mother was “killed”, a wording that implies, to me, at least, that she died of more than natural causes or an accident.


This issue features two debuts of note: first is Lieutenant Rafael Scarfe of the NYPD, who will go on to become a regular fixture in Iron Fist’s life through most of his ongoing adventures. Scarfe here is introduced as an old friend of Professor Wing’s and a Vietnam vet who identifies the villain of the piece…

…Warhawk. The steel-skinned (and, apparently, steel-boned) soldier worked special ops in Vietnam and now suffers from PTSD, believing he's still “in country”. Claremont would use Warhawk again in UNCANNY X-MEN #110, and the character will remain in very, very blink-and-you'll-miss-him minor league circulation around the Marvel Universe for years to come.


My Thoughts: Three cheers for Chris Claremont! After suffering through eight meandering issues of lackluster stories and muddled continuity, Claremont comes in and jump-starts things as only he can. The Claremont of the seventies is my favorite version of the writer. Some of his trademark tics are in evidence, but they haven't yet become as overblown as they later will. He writes in the same over-dramatic, bombastic style of other Marvel scribes of the era, but the quality of his scripting is a few notches above most of his contemporaries.

And all of that is on display here. Warhawk looks like a supervillain, but he's presented as a sympathetic antagonist. He murders a score of civilians in the opening scene and he smacks his “wife” Colleen a couple times for talking back to him, but he's clearly suffering a nervous breakdown and we can't help wondering if he could be redeemed with the right help. This is the sort of thing Claremont excels at: three-dimensional antagonists. Villains who aren't exactly evil, just misunderstood or troubled. There's no clean answer for Warhawk, and that's what makes him so compelling.


The artwork from Pat Broderick is great too. Broderick is only twenty-two years old at this point, but his work stands far above that of young Arvell Jones and, for that matter, Larry Hama. Though the always lush inks of the great Bob McLeod don't hurt in that regard either. Were Broderick to remain Iron Fist’s regular ongoing artist, I think the series would've been in fine hands (if he could just figure out not to draw his "collar" as surrounding his head rather than standing up flat behind it like it's supposed to). But, as it happens, he's just another in the parade of short-lived artists this book has seen. Broderick has one issue left, then another creative change is in order, to finally set Iron Fist up with his definitive writer-artist combo.

But, for now, “The Name is… Warhawk!” marks a superb arrival for Chris Claremont as, at long last, IRON FIST becomes the superhero action/adventure series it had the potential to be from day one.


Note: While we all remember Chris Claremont best for his multi-year run scripting Iron Fist’s adventures, it may be noteworthy to the trivia historians out there to realize that the exact same month he assumed writing duties on MARVEL PREMIERE, August 1975, Claremont also took over a low-selling series called X-MEN with issue #94. I seem to recall he hung around that title for a few years, too.

3 comments:

  1. I think Claremont actually made Warhawk a hero and a member of the X-Men team, I remember seeing a pic of them somewhere, but he was wearing a bit different, yellowish uniform in it. Really stupid color for a hero, yellow, but I understand you can't flaunt those knives either on a hero uniform so I guess some hack of an artist cooked it up in a spur.

    I don't think that comic actually lasted that long though, I can't find any X-MEN issues past about #140 in any listings online. Most likely got cancelled, the markets were quite saturated at the time with awesome stuff like the DEFENDERS.

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    1. No, wait, I messed it up, it was this pic I've seen, it was red-white after all: http://marvel.wikia.com/File:X-Men_Vol_1_124.jpg

      It was that other guy who was wearing yellow. And, by the looks of it Claremont made some sort of recurring thing of his PTSD amnesia. Can't really say I'm too into the idea of having a snapping-prone maniac on a team.

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  2. Huh. I either never knew or forgot that Warhawk appeared in Claremont's very first Iron Fist issue. I knew Claremont ported him over from his IF work, but I didn't realize he was the first villain he had Iron Fist face. Neat.

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