Wednesday, August 26, 2015

IRON FIST #14

The Canadian Rockies, west of Calgary

Gunshots! Loud, staccato explosions shattering the silence of the mid-winter night

…And then, a scream!


”SNOWFIRE”
Author: Chris Claremont | Artist: John Byrne | Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Annette Kawecki | Colorist: Janice Cohen | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The Plot: Iron Fist and Colleen Wing flee across the Canadian tundra from a pair of mercenaries. Colleen is injured, but Iron Fist gets her to safety then flashes back to New York, where he was recently ambushed by someone very familiar with his past. Then, in Canada, he and Colleen find a weather shack and hide out.

Iron Fist flashes back again, to Colleen inviting him to Canada to help her guard Jeryn Hogarth, but when they arrived at his estate they found him the prisoner of a mercenary named Sabre-Tooth. Sabre-Tooth’s men chased the duo away from Hogarth’s grounds and into the story’s opening page.

Back in the present, another pair of mercenaries arrives looking for Iron Fist and Colleen. They subdue this pair and take their uniforms, then return to Hogarth’s estate. While Colleen frees Hogarth’s staff and destroys Sabre-Tooth’s helicopter, Iron Fist rescues Hogarth and has a rematch with the villain. Despite a sudden case of snow-blindness, Iron Fist is victorious and Sabre-Tooth is captured.

Continuity Notes: First and foremost, this issue features the debut appearance of longtime Wolverine antagonist Sabretooth (here with a hyphenated name). The issue has long commanded high prices on the aftermarket for this reason.


The figure who ambushes Iron Fist in Manhattan wears a costume similar to Iron Fist’s. He has knowledge of K’un L’un and Iron Fist’s true family name, Danny Rand-K’ai, and he possesses the power to drain Iron Fist’s strength by pressing their chests together. Thanks to the serpent brand on his chest, we know that this is Davos, former bodyguard to Joy Meachum -- but that fact is unknown to Iron Fist at this time.


We’re reminded that Iron Fist and Colleen shared a mind-meld in IRON FIST #6, and that Misty left on an undercover assignment last issue. This story reveals that her destination was the Carribbean.

Lastly, Hogarth (who apparently is either Canadian or simply maintains an estate in Canada) notes that someone has been funneling money out of Rand-Meachum and he’s trying to get to the bottom of it. Sabre-Tooth confirms that he’s working for this mystery party. Sabre-Tooth also has a huge hi-tech helicopter for transportation, which Iron Fist finds familiar somehow. Don't hold your breath for any of this to be resolved before we finish our time with Iron Fist, however.

My Thoughts: In the Chris Claremont canon, Sabretooth was one of the toughest customers Wolverine would ever face. He was the diminutive X-Man’s superior in every way, and he was Wolverine’s father, to boot. Claremont used Sabretooth a handful of times in his seventeen years writing X-MEN, but maintains that in his opinion, most of those appearances were inferior clones created by Mister Sinister. Claremont believes we only saw the true Sabretooth sparingly, and this was one such appearance.

Of course, most of Claremont’s personal preferences were discarded by later writers. Sabretooth was not Wolverine’s father, and it seems that most of his “clone” appearances may in fact have been the real version of the character. But even if we discount that, this “Sabre-Tooth” still bears very little resemblance to Claremont’s “true” version.


Sabre-Tooth here is a force to be reckoned with, no doubt about that. Iron Fist notes that his strength and speed more than make up for his complete lack of any formally trained fighting skills. And this Sabre-Tooth seems pretty smart, which is in line with Claremont’s later version of the character.

But Sabre-Tooth is also described by Colleen as “… a freebooter, a modern-day pirate.” He has a small army of uniformed mercenaries in his employ and seems more interested in money than anything else. (Yes, it’s possible the mercenaries were provided, along with -- presumably -- the chopper, by Sabre-Tooth’s employer, but that’s not specifically stated here and Sabre-Tooth sure seems to treat these folks like they work for him directly rather than as temps.) Claremont’s later versions of Sabretooth tended to be less concerned with material possessions, and in fact his main goal in life seemed simply to be tormenting Wolverine for the heck of it.


To be honest, I like this Sabre-Tooth better. I feel like there’s a lot more here to work with, and I would’ve liked to have seen the “freebooter” and his minions pop up from time to time to menace various heroes in the Marvel Universe. I think this is a better concept than either the cold-hearted stalker Chris Claremont turned him into or the bloodthirsty psychopath later writers extrapolated from that.

But Sabretooth's future was written a long time ago, and this issue is really our only glimpse at what he might've been instead.

Trivia: John Byrne has stated that, before Wolverine was unmasked by Dave Cockrum in UNCANNY X-MEN #99, he drew his own unmasked Wolverine. Once Cockrum revealed the Canucklehead’s face, though, Byrne shelved his design for a couple years and eventually used it for Sabre-Tooth. Whether he knew at this point that the character was intended as Wolverine’s father I don’t know, but it’s a cool re-use of the design in either case.

2 comments:

  1. This is another one I probably should have covered in X-aminations back in the day.

    It's funny, because I've only ever read this issue as the first appearance of Sabre-Tooth (heh), and not as a chapter in Iron Fist's narrative, so I've always assumed there was more setup prior to the issue that I just hadn't read. But sure enough, this is mostly a standalone issue (at least in terms of Sabretooth's involvement), like I've always read it.

    I think this is a better concept than either the cold-hearted stalker Chris Claremont turned him into or the bloodthirsty psychopath later writers extrapolated from that.

    I kind of like the idea of a freebooting Sabretooth who leads his own small gang of modern day pirates who also takes to stalking Wolverine on his birthdays. Like, he has his own little criminal organization to run, but makes sure to take timeout to torment Wolverine. It'd be a neat way to make him important to the X-Men but also useable elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, though at the time, it seems writers were a lot more proprietary about who got to use their characters (hence Claremont not being able to use his creation in X-MEN until PM&IF ended, because Sabretooth was deemed a Power Man/Iron Fist character as a result of his appearance here) so that probably wouldn't have worked anyway.

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    1. Teebore -- "I kind of like the idea of a freebooting Sabretooth who leads his own small gang of modern day pirates who also takes to stalking Wolverine on his birthdays."

      I agree with this, and looking back up, I see that I wasn't really clear about it. I would like this version of Sabretooth to still be Wolverine's dad/stalker/tormentor, but also to be the "modern day pirate" Colleen describes here. I feel like I would've added a bit more depth to his character if he was both. I like Claremont's Sabretooth a lot, but he's kind of a one-note character.

      I've never read any of Sabretooth's POWER MAN AND IRON FIST appearances, so I'm curious to see if Mary Jo Duffy did anything with the "freebooter" persona, or if she just turned him into a generic thug. He certainly seemed the latter in the one pre-X-MEN appearance besides this one that I've read (a Peter David SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN issue).

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