Monday, July 6, 2015


Writer: Chris Claremont | Artist: John Byrne | Inker: Al McWilliams
Letterer: Karen Mantlo | Colorist: Michele Wolfman | Editor: Len Wein

You are Iron Fist and this man is trying to kill you.

His name is Khumbala Bey and, until three days ago, he served as bodyguard to the princess Azir of Halwan, serving her as his family had served the Lion Throne of Halwan for over a thousand years.

And then, a stolen robotic nightmare called a Monstroid soared out of the Central Park sky and tried to take Azir’s life… and Khumbala Bey was nowhere to be found.

Azir would have died that afternoon, Iron First--had you not saved her. And, by saving her, shamed Khumbala Bey beyond redemption.

He would kill you for that now.

The Plot: At the Halwan embassy, Iron Fist is attacked by Princess Azir’s disgraced ex-bodyguard, Khumbala Bey. Their fight stops when Azir orders Bey to leave Iron Fist alone. She expresses her hope to see the Living Weapon again, then he departs the embassy with Lt. Rafael Scarfe. The duo drives to the Wing residence, where they find Professor Wing roughed up and hallucinating, babbling that Colleen is in danger.

Iron Fist and Scarfe travel to the office shared by Colleen and Misty, where they find two men posing as police abducting her. Fist and Scarfe pursue the kidnappers into a blind alley, where they run into Angar the Screamer, whose screams create vivid illusions. Iron Fist battles several illusory foes and unmasks the last one as Khumbala Bey. This allows him to break from Angar’s altered reality, but by the time he and Scarfe recover their senses, the kidnappers and Collen are gone.

Iron Fist prepares to kill Angar, but Scarfe stops him and reveals a clue: Angar’s ID card from Stark International.

Continuity Notes: Narration on page 2 recaps all the enemies Iron Fist has encountered to date, with a footnote pointing to the past ten issues.

As Iron Fist and Scarfe enter the Wings’ home, they're observed by two men working for “the Fat Man”. Their employer will be revealed a few issues from now.

When Colleen doesn't answer her phone, Lt. Scarfe suggests that perhaps she and Misty are “on a case,” our first hint at their shared profession.

Angar (real name: David Angar, if you can believe it) last appeared in DAREDEVIL #107.

My Thoughts: All right, now we're talkin’! John Byrne has arrived, and this series suddenly looks better than ever. I'm not saying all of Iron Fist’s prior artists were bad, because they weren't. Gil Kane, for Pete’s sake, is a comic book art god. But, in my humble opinion, John Byrne -- even at age twenty-five -- blows them all away.

I've often looked at Marvel comics from this era and found them severely overdrawn, filled with unnecessary detail lines and excessive rendering. That's just not the case with Byrne. Put his work from 1975 next to that of Kane or Hama or Jones or even Dave Cockrum or Sal Buscema. Some of those guys are good, very good. But all their work looks scratchy and unfinished next to Byrne’s smooth, clean illustrations. Byrne’s art, especially at this period in his career, is polished and shiny and clean, making it far more attractive to my eye than even artists who are technically superior to him. And whenever he comes onto a series in the seventies, it's like a burst of regenerative energy is pumped into the book.

Such is the case here, though I suspect it's coincidence. Claremont began his Halwan story last issue, but that was still a one-off adventure to set it up. This installment, however, features Claremont’s first genuine cliffhanger on IRON FIST, with Colleen’s kidnapping and the teasing of an Iron Man appearance next time. And this won't be a short serial, either – settle in, because Iron Fist’s search for Colleen is going to take the better part of eight issues, told over a mostly bi-monthly schedule, to resolve.

And with Byrne along for the entire ride, for the first time ever, Iron Fist has a permanent, long-term creative team in place. These two may be best remembered together for the X-Men, but it was on IRON FIST that they first joined forces, and I look forward to revisiting the earliest days of their legendary partnership.


  1. I just had occasion to check this issue out, thanks to the arrival of the Iron Fist Epic collection in the mail recently. I was surprised at how atypical some of the art was to Byrne's work, even compared to just an issue or two later - a lack of a lot of the visual tics in the figures that I associate (in a good way) with Byrne. I thought maybe it was his inker, but McWilliams inks him on the next issue, and it looked much more typically-Byrne. Maybe it's just a case of rounding into form in a (very) short period of time?

    Angar the Screamer is one of my favorite C-list villains. He's just so 70s it kills me.

    And this won't be a short serial, either – settle in, because Iron Fist’s search for Colleen is going to take the better part of eight issues, told over a mostly bi-monthly schedule, to resolve.

    How very Claremontian (in a good way, of course). :)

    1. Yeah, I love Byrne's work here, but it seems his inkers couldn't figure out how to handle him. After McWilliams, his next inker is Frank Chiaramonte, who also takes an issue or so to get used to his style. My opinion is that he was just so different at the time that no one had a handle on how to ink his work. I know he was highly influenced by the likes of Neal Adams, but to me his work is completely different from almost anyone at Marvel at the time.

      "How very Claremontian (in a good way, of course). :)"

      It sounds like a good idea, and in theory it is -- but for some reason, as I will note several times in the next few weeks, Claremont treats this series as if it takes place in real time, meaning Colleen is imprisoned for about a year of her actual life! Plus it just messes with the sub-plot timeline too, as we'll see.


  2. Byrne really does energize things, as you say. Even if that’s not directly bearing on Claremont, yet, good comics art on its own terms in support of good writing makes the whole experience just so much more enjoyable. And beyond his polished figure work we get some really interesting compositional choices from Byrne, including the view you post of Iron Fist in the distance through the windshield of the car where he’s also being observed by a monitor. Heck, Byrne drawing an exterior shot of Fist and Scarfe in traffic is more interesting that many of the martial-arts fight scenes to date. Kane’s covers are finally topping a package worthy of them again.

    1. "Heck, Byrne drawing an exterior shot of Fist and Scarfe in traffic is more interesting that many of the martial-arts fight scenes to date."

      I chuckled at this line, because just about two or three days ago, I read a quote from Byrne courtesy of @JohnByrneSays on Twitter, where Byrne said the car chase Claremont asked him to draw in his very first Iron Fist story was "dead on the page". I disagree!


    2. My point was less that the sequence is any great shakes on its own merits and just that we’re getting something different with the approach to laying out pages — and this is hardly prime Byrne yet, either in terms of his own ability or the inking he's given. That panel I cited with a word balloon going to Scarfe’s car is just a way to break things up (cf. Wally Wood’s “22 Panels That Always Work”… which is really more about creative ways to stage things to avoid visual stagnation than about any one panel that will always work in every situation). Nifty as the martial-arts fight scenes might’ve been to kids when this material was first published they started to drone on issue after issue for me like “Tubthumping”: you get a tiger kick; you get a donkey kick; you get a viper kick; you get a monkey kick.


    3. Jumping over to the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu serial, as I noted elsewhere, made for a great antidote thanks to Rudy Nebres’ figure work and wild panel/page compositions in moody black, white, and gray.

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