Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IRON FIST #9

Mott Street, just off Chatham Square -- near the center of that part of New York City known as Chinatown… the tourists have long since left, the shops and restaurants are shuttered for the night, the streets are silent and empty

…Save for the harshly-drawn breaths and pounding feet of one young man… who is running for his life.

It’s a deadly race, Iron Fist… and right now, you’re losing it!


”THE DRAGON DIES AT DAWN!”
Author: Chris Claremont | Artist: John Byrne | Inker: Frank Chiarmonte
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Bonnie Wilford | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The Plot: A weakened Iron Fist wanders New York, defending himself against the Golden Tigers. As he moves, he flashes back to the Meachum boardroom, where Danny Rand managed to escape the Tigers and change into Iron Fist, then returned to confront them. But the Tigers’ leader, Chaka, defeated Iron Fist.

After more action in the present, Iron Fist recalls awakening as Chaka’s prisoner. Chaka poisoned him and let him free, telling him to fight his way through all the Golden Tigers and back to Chaka, who would have the antidote. Chaka then went into an adjoining room and hypnotized his brother, Bill.

In England, Danny Rand’s friend Alan Cavenaugh joins the crew of a tramp steamer bound for the United States. And back in New York, Iron Fist catches up with Chaka and duels him. Realizing Chaka’s promise of antidote was a lie, Iron Fist subdues his enemy and uses his power to heal himself. Then, when Chaka regains his strength and attempts to kill Iron Fist, the hero knocks him away. Unbeknownst to Iron Fist, Chaka is struck by an unseen opponent just as he slams into a wall, leaving him near death. The police arrive to Find Iron Fist kneeling over Chaka’s body.

Continuity Notes: This issue’s story continues directly from last issue. Does that mean Iron Fist’s been running around New York, eluding Golden Tigers for a month?

A footnote reminds readers that Iron Fist last saw Joy Meachum following her father’s murder in MARVEL PREMIERE #18.

Joy’s bodyguard, Davos, is present at the meeting, putting him and Danny Rand in the same room together. Neither man appears to recognize the other. Later, when Iron Fist crashes the party, Joy attempts to order Davos to kill him, but Davos declares Iron Fist will perish when he chooses and for now he is merely Joy’s bodyguard.


While preparing to depart London, Alan is observed by two shady assassins with orders to trail him and then kill both him and Iron Fist in America.


It's confirmed that Chaka is the brother of Bill Hao, as hinted last issue. It's also pretty obviously telegraphed that the “Chaka” Iron Fist battles in the issue’s climax is a hypnotized Bill, with the real Chaka being the one who knocks him out after Iron Fist’s final strike.


As he contemplates using the Iron Fist to heal himself, Iron Fist recalls the last time he was this near death was in Radion’s lab in issue 4. It's also clearly explained that using his power for healing drains Iron Fist’s life force temporarily -- thus the reason he waits until the last moment to try the stunt is because he was already close to death thanks to Chaka’s poison.

My Thoughts: One thing I've always felt comics do really well, almost better than any other medium, is the en media res opening followed a little ways into the action with a flashback explaining how our hero got into this situation. Certainly other media have done this: TV, movies, novels -- all have engaged in the trick at some time or another. But, to me at least, it feels much more natural when a serialized comic book does it; probably because flashbacks are so ingrained as standard operating procedure within their pages.

And that's what we have here. Last issue ended on a cliffhanger and this one picks up with Iron Fist in the thick of the action, only going back to resolve the cliffhanger and connect last issue’s Point “Z” with this issue’s Point “A” a few pages later. By way of the flashback we also get a quick look at our supporting cast -- Misty Knight, Jeryn Hogarth, the Meachums, and Davos -- all of whom are sidelined for the story’s main action.

But beyond the above technical strengths, this issue doesn't really have a lot going for it. It's an “all action issue” and while those can be exciting sometimes, here the drama feels artificial. We know Iron Fist could heal himself with his power. He knows it too. He spends part of the issue worried about dropping dead if he does it, but then he goes ahead with it anyway and succeeds, suffering no apparent consequences.


Plus I'm not exactly sure the Golden Tigers warrant a three-part storyline. They're pretty cool-looking and, like I said last time, they reek -- in a good way -- of Bronze Age sensibilities… but Master Khan, they ain't. Heck, they're not even the same caliber as the Cult of Kara-Kai!

In the end, this is a middle chapter, and it takes a lot to make a middle chapter seem worthwhile. It can be done, sure -- Chris Claremont himself would go on to do it many times in his long career. But here, I'm just not feeling it.

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