Jan 14, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Iron Fist, Part 8

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

Part Eight: The Death of the Dragon

If you’ve been tuning in for the past seven weeks, you’ve witnessed my slow descent into madness. It has not been a very long fall from where I already was, but it has taken forever, and I’m sure many doctor-type individuals will be studying these writings like the notebooks from Se7en. My exploration of the history of Iron Fist continues with the end of the Power Man and Iron Fist comic book of the ‘80s. Along the way, I’ve developed an unhealthy fixation on supporting character Colleen Wing, to the point where I am considering ways to convince my wife to dress up like her on a daily basis.

I have been taking a look at key issues throughout the series, but now that we’re here at the end, I’m going to look at all five issues that closed out this series. If you’ve stuck with me for this long, congratulations, you’re as crazy as I am. But also, you’re far more dedicated than those Rom: Spaceknight fans.

Let me cease blathering on, and give the people what they want. What they want is hardcore Iron Fist-ing action.

Power Man and Iron Fist #121. Co-plotters/Script/Pencils: Jim Owsley and Mark Bright; Inks: Jerry Acerno; Editor: Dennis O’Neil

This is a Secret Wars II tie-in, notable mostly for the return of Captain Hero, who is really twelve-year-old Bobby Wright, who was granted super powers by an alien spore. He sneaks up on the doctors that are studying him, only to overhear them say he only has three months to live.

He is justifiably upset, and goes searching for his friend Iron Fist, and Power Man and Iron Fist were returned to Earth from K’un-Lun by the Beyonder. Iron Fist then goes off with the Falcon to talk to S.H.I.E.L.D. about the Beyonder, while Luke Cage takes him out for lunch. What followed was a curious scene of the Beyonder turning himself into a jive-talking black man.

Some more things happen with the Beyonder; Misty and Danny simultaneously try to call each other, each getting a busy signal (old school telephones!); Misty finds comfort in her man friend; and Danny gets a visitor in the form of his boss Maxine.

My brain thoughts: Secret Wars II was so horrible.

#122. Script: Jim Owsley; Pencils: Mark Bright; Inks: Jerry Acerno; Editor: Denny O’Neil

Misty is still feeling guilty about cheating on Danny. She gets a phone call from Colleen, who threatens to tell Danny about her boyfriend Tyrone, or she will. (Go Colleen!)

We then are treated to a little adventure of police detective, and official other guy, Tyrone. (I suspect this is to try and make the reader like this guy. But it will not work on me!) Tyrone gets some coffee, kneecaps some guys trying to rob the electronics store across the street. All kinds of brutal vigilante cop justice to make him seem cool.

Luke Cage pays a visit to Tyrone on behalf of his buddy Iron Fist.

At Iron Fist’s place, Maxine is trying to get some action, with little success. She goes upstairs to change into something more seductive, just in time for Misty to finally pay Danny a visit.

This awkward situation is quickly interrupted by Chiantang throwing a unconscious Luke Cage through the wall (even unconscious he never uses a door). Chiantang easily takes out Misty, and then gases Iron Fist.

Misty, Collen, and Tyrone track Chiantang down to the docks. Luke Cage shows up and tells them he escaped but that Iron Fist is shackled to a boat set adrift. Misty strips down to her underwear and dives in to go get him. Along the way, she discovers that Luke Cage’s story just doesn’t add up, and that it is probably a shape-shifted Chiantang.

Tyrone has also figured this out, and lets loose with a shot to Chiantang’s dome.

Misty makes it to the boat just in time for it to explode. The real Luke Cage is fine, but she has to dive down and find Iron Fist.

She gives him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, all the while proclaiming that she doesn’t love him the same way she used to. He revives, and they kiss, holding each other for the last time for a while.

Colleen makes sure to take care of the dragon in a more permanent manner. (Go Colleen!)

The next morning, Misty says goodbye to Danny, Luke, and Colleen before boarding a flight. (Presumably to, “find herself.”)

My brain thoughts: I suppose we’re supposed to think Tyrone is cool, with his long flowing trenchcoat blowing in the wind while he rides his motorcycle, and shoots criminals in the knees. Okay, that is kind of cool, but he still was sleeping with Misty behind Iron Fist’s back, so he can eat it. Colleen is still the coolest, bad ‘80s hair and all.

#124. Co-plotters/Script/Pencils: Jim Owsley and Mark Bright; Inks: Jerry Acerno; Editor: Bob Harras

Luke Cage breaks into the office of a government agent named Gordy. He needs him to help with a plan to break Iron Fist out of the funk he’s been in.

In Iron Fist’s home, Maxine goes through his fan mail. She finds a letter that Danny finds intriguing, and off they go.

They arrive at a giant compound, where Iron Fist is attacked, first by mobsters, then by ninjas. Much kung-fu action ensues.

He makes it to the temple, where an old man speaks words of wisdom to him. Apparently it worked, as when he makes it back to the car and Maxine, he seems to be in a much lighter mood. But the old wise man was, of course, Gordy. He lets a grateful Cage know that the plan was successful.

Meanwhile, back in France, Jonathan Lumus has escaped from prison, and plans to kill Power Man and Iron Fist.

My brain thoughts: A good all-out action issue. Maxine seems to have a mad crush on Danny, which I like in a woman. (The obsessive crushing. Not the interest in fictional character Iron Fist. Well, I guess either way is a win-win in the romantic partner area, unless she starts stealing your underwear and secretly living in your attic. That being the, obsessive to the point of craziness, downside to a female refusing to leave your home. We’ll call that a Kirsten Dunst, for no other reason than that she ruined three Spider-Man movies for me.)

#125. Co-plotters/Script/Pencils: James Owsley and Mark Bright; Inks: Mike Esposito; Editor: Bob Harras

Double-Sized Final Issue!

Luke Cage is in police custody. Captain Chris Keating tries to get a confession out of him.

He leaves, and detective Tyrone King enters the room. He wants the whole story. 

Three days ago, Power Man and Iron Fist are playing football against the Chicago Bears to benefit underprivileged kids.

They win 73-13, as John Lumus looks on.

 Later, Power Man, Iron Fist, and Maxine have taken the kids to lunch, when they spot John Lumus pointing a bazooka at them too late. The restaurant is destroyed. The heroes scramble to save everyone they can, and then go after Lumus in his battle armor. Iron Fist makes it to him first, and unleashes a beating on him.

Lumus fights back with some tricks in his armor. Danny finally unleashes with the power of the iron fist, sending Lumus flying off the rooftop.

In doing so, his power somehow turned the color of his costume red again, the color of shame in K’un-Lun.

Back at the Rand home, Jeryn Hogarth works the media, while Maxine lets it slip that she and Cage hired Gordy to pretend to be the wise old man, in the hopes of him getting over his green/red suit problem.  Luke Cage enters at just the wrong time, and gets an earful from Danny, prompting him to announce that Heroes for Hire is finished.

Finally, he uses a door.

Outside, Lumus plants bombs on Tyrone’s motorcycle, and Maxine’s car. A still angry Danny gets a call from the Falcon. Bobby Wright has taken a turn for the worse. Hank Pym breaks down the situation (it’s hopeless).

Danny runs in to see Bobby. They talk, and then Bobby begins to slip away.Refusing to quit, Iron Fist uses the power of the Iron Fist to keep Bobby alive.

In the next room, the Avengers discuss what can be done to save the boy. The female Captain Marvel suggests that maybe her predecessor’s nega-bands could slow the deterioration process. Hank Pym rushes off to see if he can synthesize the bands.

John Lumus moves in on Luke Cage, who is being guarded by Gordy and his men.  He lets loose with the bazooka blasts.  Luke Cage unleashes on him, eventually leaving him motionless in his armor lying on the train tracks.

But he doesn’t leave him there to die, or does he? Either way, he’s not dead.

Luke pays a visit to Bobby and Iron Fist at the hospital, but Iron Fist is too deep in concentration to talk. The heroes in the waiting room try to remind Cage that having a friend and a crime-busting partner is a special thing, and not to let it go to waste. (This is kind of a silly couple of pages, involving a bunch of heroes talking about how special their partner is to them. Gah, feelings.)
I’ve had plenty of good friends, but I don’t think I’ve ever held hands with
any of them the way Captain America and Falcon are doing here.

While Pym works on making some nega-bands, Iron Fist and Bobby hang on.

Finally he’s finished, and they put the bands on him. He stabilizes.

Time to celebrate, and relax. Luke Cage heads out for a burger or six, leaving behind an exhausted Iron Fist and a recovering Bobby.

Bobby awakens suddenly, in terrible pain. He turns into Captain Hero, wrecking the room with his super strength, calling for Iron Fist to wake up.

He tries again to get Iron Fist to wake up, by pounding him through the wall, killing him.

Luke returns to see Bobby disintegrate into energy particles, and finds his best friend dead on the floor.

So that’s the story, as he relates it to Tyrone. District Attorney Tower isn’t buying it. According to him, he and Iron Fist had a well-televised falling out recently, and he stands to inherit the Rand fortune through Danny’s will.

Cage isn’t having it, and leaves the only way he knows how.

Tyrone quits the police force in disgust.

At the funeral of Danny Rand, Colleen Wing chastises and blames Maxine for attending. As Maxine drives away, her car explodes.

Tyrone drives off on his motorcycle. It, too, explodes, but doesn’t do him any harm. (I never understood what this was about as a kid. I mean, I know they’re hinting that he has powers of some kind, I just wonder if it was ever followed up on at any point. I’m guessing no, because Tyrone sucks.)

The issue (and series) ends with Misty and Luke comforting each other over the death of the man they both loved so very much.

My brain thoughts: Where to begin? I read this comic so many times as a kid. It must be up there with Spider-Man vs. Wolverine and the Spider-marriage annual as some of the comics I read the most (all of them drawn by Mark Bright, if I’m not mistaken).

As I’ve told you before, I became a big fan of Iron Fist through back issues. However, reaching my Marvel comic reading prime a few years after this issue was released, I began to notice a conspicuous absence of Iron Fist and Luke Cage in the then-current Marvel landscape. Were they just not being used after the ending of their series? This was before the internet, so there wasn’t many ways for me to find out the answer, and my local comic shop didn’t have the final issue for me to buy. I craved that final issue. I wanted it so badly.

One day, I accompanied my parents on what I assume to be a trip to see my grandparents in Chicago. On the way, we stopped by Champagne, Illinois, where someone spotted a comic shop (or my parents scouted it out for me in advance, I cannot recall). Not having any money, I reluctantly went in to see what they had. I immediately looked to see if they had the elusive final issue of Power Man and Iron Fist. As fortune would have it, they did, and yet I was penniless. I rushed out to the car to take a look at the stack of comics I had with me, for trade-in options. (I always had comics with me at all times. Early on in my comic collecting life, I used to carry them around in some kind of container that I put a lock on. Exactly what, I do not remember. One year, for my birthday, my parents got me a locking briefcase to put my comics in. So, I would put my most valuable, treasured, and "must-read at any moment" comics in that briefcase and took it with me everywhere. Don’t judge me.) My parents stopped me from trading in any comics and agreed to buy the comic for me (it was probably only $2-3 after all). Finally, I had it.

Only to find out that Iron Fist dies in the story. This was absolutely heartbreaking to me as a child. I was so disappointed, it was like I had lost a real friend and he was never coming back. (I was young, and had no idea that heroes could and would die and come back all the time. In my defense, I don’t think resurrections were as prominent yet as they would eventually become, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe he was never coming back.) Even worse was the way he died, pummeled to death in his sleep by a superpowered child. Luke Cage blamed for his death and on the run, not even getting to say goodbye to his friend before he died. It was such a low-key way for a fictional character to die. I used to wonder why Iron Fist had to die, and Luke Cage got to live. (Don’t judge me!) Man, this comic book killed me, and yet I read it over and over. Maybe I expected it to not be true, or that I had imagined it before, who knows. On the plus side, it does have the Chicago Bears in it.

My final brain thoughts: Shazam analogs, cheating girlfriends, everybody is kung-fu fighting, and the death of a hero.

This marked the end of a long chapter in the history of Iron Fist. As a kid, I thought it was the final chapter. A disappointing end to a character that had peaked before I ever even discovered he existed. Partnered up with Power Man, they built a strong friendship, and a strong series filled with fun stories and fantastic action. Separately, they struggled to headline their own books. Together, they became one of the, if not the most, beloved tandems in the history of superhero comic books.

Iron Fist was a great character, and he would be missed. Was he popular enough to ever make a comeback, or would he be relegated to the limbo of forgotten characters? We would just have to wait to find out.

Next time, John Byrne to the rescue!

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