Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IRON FIST #15

”ENTER, THE X-MEN”
Author: Chris Claremont | Artist: John Byrne | Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Annette Kawecki | Colorist: Bruce Patterson | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The tip-off had been brief and to-the-point: a valuable Rand-Meachum shipment was due to be hijacked this evening… and only Iron Fist could stop it!

It was a trap, of course. That was why you’d followed up on the tip -- to find out who was behind it and why he was after you.


The Plot: Iron Fist is ambushed by Davos, who saps more of his strength and then escapes. After the skirmish, Iron Fist heads to Misty’s apartment, forgetting that she’s on assignment in the Carribbean. Iron Fist is observed entering the apartment by the X-Men’s Wolverine.

In the Carribbean, Misty flashes back to her mission briefing from District Attorney Tower, then is greeted by John Bushmaster, the mobster she’s been sent to bring down.

Back in New York, Wolverine attacks Iron Fist. The battle is soon joined by Nightcrawler and Colossus, then Storm and finally Banshee. Iron Fist holds his own against the X-Men but ultimately surrenders when he realizes they think he’s a supervillain. Jean Grey, Misty’s roommate, returns to the apartment with Scott “Cyclops” Summers. Wolverine is berated for starting the fight, then a party is thrown.

Continuity Notes: We’re reminded via footnote that Davos ambushed Iron Fist last issue. Later, Misty recalls walking out on Danny Rand in IRON FIST #13. The flashback to her briefing features appearances from D.A. Tower, Rafael Scarfe, and Bill Hao. We also learn that, as part of her cover, Misty has apparently become Bushmaster’s lover.


Wolverine holds a photo of Scott and Jean as he stands outside Jean’s apartment. As he thinks about his plans to hook up with Jean whether Scott likes it or not, he rips off Scott’s half of the picture and sticks Jean’s half in his pocket. In a nifty continuity touch, Wolverine will have the same photo on him (inexplicably tucked in his costume belt) in X-MEN #114, published a year later.


Wolverine wears the costume of “Fang” this issue, procured in X-MEN #107 and intended by artist Dave Cockrum to be his new permanent look. He would quickly switch back to his yellow outfit, however, when John Byrne took over X-MEN a couple months later.

As he fights Wolverine, Iron Fist compares his ferocity with that of Sabre-Tooth and wonders if there's a connection between the two, foreshadowing Claremont’s original intention that the pair was father and son.

This story seems to be Nightcrawler’s first chronological abandonment of the image inducer he used in early X-Men stories to hide his true appearance. An interesting bit of character development for a guest-spot in another series.

Dr. Moira MacTaggart, Banshee's girlfriend and an ally of the X-Men, notes that Misty's and Jean's apartment was recently trashed by Galactus's former herald, Firelord, in X-MEN #106.

It’s revealed that Jean’s and Misty’s apartment building is (conveniently) owned by Rand-Meachum, and Danny promises to use his pull with the company to get Jean’s landlord off her back after the fight. Danny’s exact position in Rand-Meachum has not yet been revealed, but if he has any pull at all, then apparently something came of Jeryn Hogarth’s work on his behalf as seen in issues 7 and 8.

In attendance at the party on the final page are Dave and Paty Cockrum, Chris Claremont and then-girlfriend Bonnie Wilford, and John Byrne.


This is the final issue of IRON FIST, and the series ends with several hanging plot threads: Who was stealing money from Rand-Meachum (noted last issue)? When will Davos and Iron Fist have their final showdown? What will become of Misty and Bushmaster? Fortunately Claremont and Byrne would not leave readers hanging on the bigger of these questions for long, as Iron Fist would show up in MARVEL TEAM-UP issues 63 and 64, a few months from now, to wrap up his story.

My Thoughts: This is probably the best X-Men story not to be in an issue of X-MEN. First, I should note that I love the X-Men of this era. I grew up with the X-Men of the nineties, and those are really “my” X-Men -- but the All-New, All-Different X-Men are the X-Men, as far as I’m concerned.

In particular I love this version of Wolverine. Again, I grew up with the noble “fallen samurai” who mentored Kitty Pryde and Jubilee, and that’s the version I -- and most everyone -- is most familiar with. But the very early “All-New” Wolveine, the little prick with no redeeming qualities, who is barely tolerated by his teammates, holds a special place with me. I wish he’d stuck around longer before evolving into the wise elder statesman he eventually became.

Claremont basically treats this as a story co-starring both Iron Fist and the X-Men, rather than an Iron Fist story guest-starring the X-Men. As noted above, the X-Men have some nice character moments here, and this almost feels like an integral part of their story rather than a guest-spot. But Iron Fist isn’t given short shrift in his own book either, as he puts up a very impressive showing against Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Banshee (Storm is a bit much for him, though).


Legend has it that this issue was meant to be John Byrne’s “try-out” to take over X-MEN from the departing Dave Cockrum, yet for some reason editorial had Cockrum redraw most of Byrne’s X-faces on the finished pages. I’ve seen it said that Cockrum redrew all the faces, but there are some shots of Nightcrawler and Colossus here which are clearly pure Byrne.

In a touch I’ve always loved, Byrne clearly used Cockrum’s X-MEN #105 for reference in drawing Jean’s apartment. He extrapolates the rest of the unit based on one establishing shot from Cockrum, but it’s unmistakably the same place. So many artists tend to draw settings looking however they want, with no regard to how the places were drawn in the past, that it’s nice to see someone conscientious enough to maintain an established look for a place.

Speaking of the apartment, it’s interesting that Jean and Misty were never specifically seen moving in together. Jean moves away from Xavier’s school in X-Men 94 (Aug 1975). We learn that she and Misty share an apartment together in IRON FIST 11 (Feb 1977). We see the apartment for the first time in X-MEN 105 (June 1977), and then again here (Sept 1977). But there’s never any dramatic “Pleased to meetcha, roomie!” moment.

And that’s it for IRON FIST. Eleven issues of MARVEL PREMIERE plus fifteen issues of his solo series -- not a bad run, altogether*. But, while this is the end of Iron Fist’s solo career, we haven’t seen the last of him, and he hasn’t seen the last of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, quite yet.



* It should be noted that Iron Fist had a number of black-and-white solo outings as well around this time, also written by Chris Claremont, in Marvel’s DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazine. But to my knowledge, these have never been collected anywhere. If they ever are, though, expect to see them covered here eventually.

2 comments:

  1. This is probably the best X-Men story not to be in an issue of X-MEN.

    Yeah, I really should have given this issue its own post.

    It didn't read this way at the time, of course (since Sabre-tooth wasn't yet an X-Men villain), but in hindsight, it's funny that the last two issues of Iron Fist's series are so X-Men-centric.

    But there’s never any dramatic “Pleased to meetcha, roomie!” moment.

    I feel like I've seen that somewhere...maybe a CLASSIC X-MEN backup?

    And that’s it for IRON FIST.

    Any idea why the series got cancelled (mid-storyline, almost)? Was it just a low-sales thing? Was the Power Man/Iron Fist merger born of an attempt to bring together two low-selling titles, or was Power Man seen as a boost to Iron Fist's profile? Or, given that Claremont & Byrne stuck around for the initial pairing, was it a genuinely creative decision ("let's pair up these two seemingly-disparate characters born of 70s fads!") that also made financial sense ("It's not like Iron Fist is flying up the sales charts!")?

    It should be noted that Iron Fist had a number of black-and-white solo outings as well around this time, also written by Chris Claremont, in Marvel’s DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazine.

    I did not know Claremont wrote those stories as well. Interesting.

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    Replies
    1. If there was a scene featuring Jean and Misty meeting and moving in together, it definitely wasn't in IRON FIST or any of the contemporaneous X-MEN issues. X-MEN 105 is Misty's first appearance in that series. It probably was in an issue of CLASSIC X-MEN, then.

      (Though I believe X-MEN 105 features Jean introducing her parents and Professor X to Misty, if I recall correctly.)

      "Any idea why the series got cancelled (mid-storyline, almost)?"

      Based on what I've read, IRON FIST was simply canceled due to low sales. John Byrne says the decision to team him up with Power Man came from the logic that if the two books were merged, and if they had two separate readerships, then the readership of the combines series should double. I'm not sure it doubled, but it apparently spiked enough that they stuck around together for another several years.

      I'm not positive Claremont wrote all of Iron Fist's black-and-white stories, but he certainly did at least some of them. I'd love to see Marvel publish a collection of all the DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU stories. I've always wanted to read the Sons of the Tiger stuff, and Iron Fist would be nice to have as well.

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