Dec 3, 2012

Back Issue Ben: Iron Fist, Part 4

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Part 4: Bring on the Big Guns!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Iron Fist is arguably my second favorite superhero character of all time. My favorite character? Squirrel Girl. (Not really, but now that I think about it, she might bump ole’ yellow slippers down to #3.) Why Iron Fist? Yellow mask, blah blah, dragon tattoo, blah blah, martial arts. Look, just read the previous entries in this series, I hate writing the openings. I’m not good at it. Why do you like to make me feel inadequate!?!

Previously, on Back Issue Ben: Danny Rand was raised in the mystical city of K’un-Lun learning the martial arts, until he was picked to become the Iron Fist. Harold Meachum, responsible for the death of Danny’s parents, is dead. His daughter, Joy, blames Iron Fist for his death. Iron Fist finally rescued Colleen Wing and defeated her kidnapper Master Khan, who had been the cause of all kinds of grief for our hero. He followed that up by taking down a criminal empire of martial artists going by the name of the Golden Tigers.

There, everyone all caught up? Stupid multipart retrospectives…grumble grumble. Anyway, let’s hurry up and speed through #11, because I can’t wait to see Iron Fist versus Captain America. Let’s do this!

Iron Fist # 11. Author: Chris Claremont; Artist: John Byrne; Inker: Dan Adkins; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Iron Fist makes his way across the city to the hospital, with a familiar looking red-headed blind man “looking” on.

Iron Fist changes clothes and meets Misty Knight inside, where they run into a couple more familiar faces from the Westchester region.

They find Colleen, who is upset, with good reason, because her father doesn’t remember her.

Danny and Misty go for a walk in the park. Danny talks about how he’s getting more comfortable being Danny Rand, and his desire to return to K’un-Lun isn’t as strong anymore. Their tender moment is interrupted by the arrival of the Wrecking Crew.

Cut to a few pages of explanations on how the Wrecking Crew got back together, including a panel with Luke Cage, aka Power Man, which is kind of prophetic.

Anyway, the Wrecking Crew have come back to kill Thor. Danny does what he can to hold off their rampaging, while Misty helps evacuate the hospital. After changing into his union suit, Iron Fist does what he can to combat the Wrecking Crew using misdirection, quickness, and the power of the iron fist.

Interlude with Alan Cavenaugh, who is having nightmares about the people he killed as a terrorist bomber. While next door, two mysterious strangers (one with a boomerang) talk about their mission to kill Cavenaugh and Iron Fist.

Back to the fight, Iron Fist tries to use his abilities to absorb energy against the Wrecker and his enchanted crowbar, but to no avail.

With Misty captured, Iron Fist makes a desperate plea to save them both. He agrees to break into Avengers mansion, and lure out Thor for an ambush.

The Wrecking Crew accept his offer, but only if Iron Fist agrees to kill any other Avengers he finds inside.

My brain thoughts: Claremont sure did use working on multiple books to his advantage. Misty and Jean Grey being roommates is a classic Marvel thing to do, and you couldn’t have two more oddly paired titles than Iron Fist and the X-Men. Now that I think about it, maybe it was that connection that inspired me to get an Iron Fist comic in the first place. Those guys working in comics, it’s almost like they knew what they were doing.

#12. Author: Chris Claremont; Artist: John Byrne; Inker: Dan Adkins; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Captain America mans the monitor room in Avengers mansion. He’s checking up on the current news reports of the Wrecking Crew and Iron Fist. Iron Fist uses his ninja skills to sneak into the mansion, but drops right in on Jarvis, the Avenger’s butler.

Captain America does some more research on Iron Fist, and finds the newspaper headlines where he was accused of killing Harold Meachum, and the story about him killing Bill Hao. (See, I told you it was weird that Iron Fist kept getting accused of murder and nothing happening about it.) Captain America heads out to do something about this Iron Fist fella.

Jarvis runs away and accidentally falls down the stairs. Iron Fist uses his skills to shield Jarvis with his own body and prevent him from getting seriously hurt. As Jarvis lays on the ground unconscious, of course Captain America enters the room.

Captain America attacks, and the battle is on!

Iron Fist is surprised by Captain America’s level of fighting skill.

Iron Fist uses the power of the iron fist to backhand Captain America across the room. Captain America throws his mighty shield, unintentionally (or intentionally?) severing some support cables for machinery right above Iron Fist.

Iron Fist stands motionless, leaving Captain America to leap over and save him from the falling machinery.

Convinced that Iron Fist is not there to fight, he finally listens to his story. A short while later, Iron Fist waves the Wrecking Crew into the mansion. He leads them to a large room where the motionless body of Captain America lies. Once they’re all inside, Iron Fist frees Misty and locks her out of the room.

The room is a Danger Room set on a Thor sequence (I didn’t know the Avengers had a “Danger Room”, I think Claremont was getting his books mixed up). Using the programmed obstacles, and their own fighting skill, Captain America and Iron Fist take the Wrecking Crew down one by one.

The Wrecker is the last one to take care of.

Misty finally wrenches the door open with her bionic arm, only to find Iron Fist and Captain America sitting on a pile of unconscious Wrecking Crew. As the Crew is carted off to prison, Iron Fist and Misty decide to go get some dinner, as their relationship continues to blossom.

My brain thoughts: I could have had a whole issue of Iron Fist and Captain America fighting each other. It was short, but pretty damn sweet. Byrne was continually improving all the time. (Marvel should do a superhero tournament showdown mini-series. Like Contest of Champions, only not lame. No storylines are needed, it doesn’t even have to be set in any kind of continuity. Just characters throwing down until a winner is crowned. And that winner must be…Squirrel Girl! Or maybe Doop.)

#13. Author: Chris Claremont; Artist: John Byrne; Inker: Dan Adkins; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Iron Fist heads toward the pier to greet Alan Cavenaugh, who had sent him a telegram (what, no email?) about his impending arrival. Misty Knight meets him there, and they are immediately ambushed by Boomerang. Boomerang and Iron Fist fight, while Boomerang’s associates pin down Misty with machinegun fire. Boomerang manages to knock Iron Fist into the icy cold water. Misty searches for any sign of him, but there is none to be found.

Cut to Ward Meachum’s manor. Joy Meachum has sent Davos after her crooked uncle. Her demand, Ward either needs to withdraw from Meachum, Inc’s affairs completely, or die. His debt to Joy paid, Davos declares it is now time to take his revenge upon Wendell Rand, K’un-Lun, and Iron Fist himself.

Iron Fist finally emerges from the water, nearly frozen to death. After warming up a little, Iron Fist determines that Cavenaugh must still be alive, and he needs to save him. Misty doesn’t understand why he wants to waste his time saving a terrorist bomber, since it was a bomber that took her arm from her. Iron Fist believes Cavenaugh is a good man tortured by his past deeds. (I’m with Misty, let him die. If for no other reason than I have to hear Claremont’s horrible international dialects anymore. Well, one less character of it at least. Claremont has plenty more in his back pocket. Gambit doesn’t even exist yet. Good times…sigh.)

Acting off a lead from Lt Scarfe, Iron Fist tracks down Boomerang and his crew to a derelict ferry on the waterfront. He takes out the minions easily enough.

This punch looks like it hurts, ouch!

So now it’s down to Boomerang and Iron Fist. After tussling for a bit, Boomerang uses his “rocketrang!”, which is a boomerang that expands in size and adheres to Iron Fist with “some sort of magnetic field.” (Why a magnetic field would make a human being stick to a giant boomerang is anyone’s guess. Regardless, this device is straight out of a Road Runner cartoon or something.) Iron Fist is able to change the trajectory of the rocketrang back in the direction of the ferry. It hits the ferry and explodes.

Iron Fist emerges from the water with Alan Cavenaugh, but the whereabouts of Boomerang and his crew are unknown.

My brain thoughts: I bet Tobey Maguire really liked this issue.

#14. Author: Chris Claremont; Artist: John Byrne; Inker: Dan Green; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Iron Fist and Colleen are on the run through snow-covered hills. A shot glances off the side of her skull.

They tumble down, and their attackers leave them to die in the cold. Iron Fist waits for them to leave, and then he throws the unconscious Colleen on his back and looks for shelter. As he walks, he thinks back a day, he was making his way home through an alley in New York, he was ambushed by a mysterious foe.

His attacker does something to him, zaps some of this life force and energy. (Eagle-eyed readers like you and eye can pretty much figure out that this is the mysterious Davos that has been working for Joy Meachum.)

Back in the present, Iron Fist finds an abandoned weather shack. Colleen comes around, only to see that the shack has been stripped bare, with no insulation left behind. Iron Fist suggest they go into a zen trance to protect them from the cold. Colleen can learn the technique via the mind-meld they experienced back in Iron Fist #6. (Claremont sure was obsessed with the whole sharing minds thing.)

Flashback to earlier that same day. Colleen called Iron Fist to Calgary to back her up working as a bodyguard for Jeryn Hogarth. Misty was off in the Caribbean on her own case (and still mad at Danny after their argument over Alan Cavenaugh) or else she would have called her. Jeryn is looking into someone that has been ripping off Rand-Meachum.

When they arrive by helicopter at Hogarth’s chalet, they are ambushed by gunmen. The gunmen are under the command of Sabretooth, (making his comic book debut, right here, in the pages of Iron Fist!) who also has taken Jeryn captive.

Danny and Colleen escape from the guards and run off into the snow, catching us all up to the present. The next morning, two of Sabretooth’s men track Iron Fist and Colleen to the weather shack, and are promptly relieved of their clothes and snowmobile.

Our two heroes return to the chalet to find Sabretooth and his men loading up a giant helicopter, preparing to depart. Colleen frees her associates and they go after Sabretooth’s men, while Iron Fist goes after Sabretooth himself. They fight.

One of Colleen’s agents shoots the helicopter, causing it to explode. With most of his men down, Sabretooth tries to escape out the back, with Iron Fist in hot pursuit. When Iron Fist opens the back door, the sun gleaming off of the pure white snow blinds him. As Sabretooth says, he’s snow-blind, and he moves in for the kill.

Iron Fist tries to fight back, with no success, until he remembers back to his teachings from Lei Kung, to rely on his other senses other than just sight.

Iron Fist knocks Sabretooth out cold, then almost takes Colleen’s head off, but she is able to dodge the attack.

All the men have been rounded up, and that's it for the issue.

My brain thoughts: Claremont’s really making me feel like that if I don’t share a psychic rapport with my wife, we just aren’t fully committed to each other. Iron Fist has one with Colleen, and they aren’t even dating! (I bet that would be embarrassing, a hot samurai woman knowing about that time you crapped your pants after 1st grade throwing star class.) Sabretooth makes his comic book debut here, and it’s a pretty valuable issue on the back issue market. It seems like they planned for him to have a connection with Wolverine right from the very beginning. Claremont continued to tie-in this book to that other book he was writing, something called the X-Men. They would do so even more blatantly in the very next issue.

#15. Author: Chris Claremont; Artist: John Byrne; Inker: Dan Green; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Iron Fist received a tip that a valuable Rand-Meachum shipment was going to be hijacked. As he was taking down the robbers, he is attacked again by the mysterious figure (just like the previous issue). Once again, he drains more of Iron Fist’s life energy, and then leaves him unconscious.

Outside of Misty Knight and Jean Grey’s apartment in Greenwich Village, Wolverine pines over Jean Grey.

He notices a figure slipping through the skylight on the roof, and tears off to take care of him.

On a Caribbean island, Misty Knight is working undercover (and she stole Storm’s costume to use as a bathing suit).

District Attorney Blake Tower had hired her to infiltrate the organization of a mobster named Bushmaster. She did her job a little too well, as she is currently pretending to be his girlfriend.

Back at the apartment, the intruder is, of course, Iron Fist, looking for Misty. He notices snacks and refreshments laid out, as if someone was planning on having a party.  Suddenly, Wolverine comes crashing through the door, looking for blood (and wearing that horrible costume that thankfully didn’t last very long).

Iron Fist and Wolverine fight, and it is glorious. (Iron Fist thinks to himself that Wolverine’s “animal ferocity” reminds him of Sabretooth, and wonders if there is a connection. So, they were planning on the two characters being connected right from the very beginning. Funny that they wouldn’t actually fight in a comic for the first time until many years later.)

Iron Fist throws the ornery little sucker out of the window.

Nightcrawler and Colossus happen to be walking up to catch him before he goes splat. And then, Colossus does the ole fastball special to get Wolverine back up to the apartment.

Nightcrawler teleports in, and gets a fist to the face. Colossus is on the receiving end of a charged up iron fist. Storm arrives, and gets a face full of potato salad, causing her to summon lighting and thunder. Iron Fist tries to escape, but is attacked by Nightcrawler again, and then carried off by a newly arrived Banshee.

He makes easy work of Banshee, and is attacked by Storm again. When Storm calls him a “villain”, Iron Fist starts wondering if maybe there hasn’t been a misunderstanding. Wolverine isn’t interested in hearing it though…

…until Phoenix arrives and ends the madness.

Apologies are made, and the party goes forward as planned. The landlord is yelling about evicting Jean Grey for trashing the apartment yet again, but fortunately the building is owned by Rand-Meachum, and Danny nips that in the bud.

My brain thoughts: This marked the last issue of the Iron Fist series, as it had been cancelled. Claremont and Byrne were building up to this confrontation between Iron Fist and Davos, but got the rug pulled out from under them before they could finish it. Not to worry though, as they were able to follow up on that storyline in a couple issues of Marvel Team-Up, but we’ll cover that next time. This also was one of the very first times that Byrne drew the X-Men, except for a one-panel appearance in an issue of Marvel Team-Up. (Making this another valuable comic for those silly back issue collectors. Comics are for reading, not for sealing away in plastic. So, just give them all to me, it will be fine.) Claremont’s love affair with Jean Grey was on full display here yet again, as everyone immediately stops fighting when she comes into the room.

My final brain thoughts:
Sabretooth, Captain America, Wolverine, snow-blindness, Wile E Coyote boomerang traps, afro’d ex terrorist bombers, and Misty Knight wearing Storm’s clothes.

It’s a shame the series was cancelled because this was a pretty excellent run of comics for the most part. Battles with Captain America, Wolverine, and Sabretooth were really upping Iron Fist’s profile, but I guess it was too little, too late. The series ended with those two key back issues. Ironically, they ended up being key for what they mean to the X-Men franchise, and not Iron Fist. (Is that ironic? I don’t care…) Just as well, Byrne was about to graduate to the X-Men franchise, and the world is better off for that.

The character of Iron Fist wasn’t done though, not yet. Next time we’ll cover the resolution of the storyline with Davos, as depicted in Marvel Team-Up. That is followed up by a historic meeting between two fringe characters that were struggling as solo acts, but would start a partnership that would stand the test of time.

If that doesn’t get you excited, well, it’s probably because you stopped reading these as soon as I started covering Iron Fist. You big jerks.

1 comment:

Oc said...

If you look close at the X-Men in #15, you'll see that Byrne drew them in the style of Dave Cockrum, who he was a big fan of at the time (although apparently not anymore.) That panel with Phoenix and Scott is particularly Cockrumish.

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