“The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” (part 4)
Writer(s): Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction
Artist(s): David Aja, Kano
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Iron Fist has to get back into K’un L’un, but the way is barred by both Hydra on Earth and the August Personage in Jade, the mystic city. Luckily Luke Cage and the Daughters of the Dragon are his allies in the former, and he has other allies in the latter as well. Also, Davos (now going by, ahem, Steel Phoenix, for real) takes on Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter in the ring.
Comments: Fraction and Brubaker have done it. They’ve made Iron Fist cool again. What? When was this goofball ever cool? Rich white boy in slippers, somehow adding up Shangri-La and Bruce Lee into one battle-prone sally? It worked in the ‘70s, folks, and it works now three decades on.
They’ve done it by taking the character seriously. Rather than playing down his odd mix of lore, they’ve played it up, adding layers of slayer—I mean Iron Fist—history and progenitors going back centuries, and making the idea of a blonde blue-eyed boy who’s also a master of martial arts seem much more plausible and even historically based. Because really East and West have been interacting for a very long time, and Danny Rand is uniquely poised to be a sort of liaison between the two. Is it colonialism, exploitation, neoliberalism or globalism? All of the above, please, depending on where, when and whom.
While the writers have brought on the drama (Danny’s company is in trouble, Hydra has stolen some of his technology and kidnapped some of his agents, and his long-time enemy Davos is as mad and vengeful as ever) they’ve also included doses of humor. Luke, Misty and Colleen, observing the weird goings on at the Hydra ground zero operations base, chatter about Luke’s odd team of rebel Avengers (not cool to Misty, always the cop even in long-term retirement) and Danny’s odd behaviour, until Danny pops out of the shadows to ask for a favor.
This issue also reminds us of Davos’ twisted origin (always worth a reminder to take a look at the man who could have been but never was the Iron Fist), with embellishment by Kano, the guest artist whose style makes these more mythical and mystical aspects of the story stand out in a charming, old school way. In battle we see that Davos’ remains a being with too much power and an utter lack of honor, an unpleasant combination. We know that the reason he will oppose Danny always stems from his own blighted insecurity, and never anything Danny has actually done to earn his wrath. It’s the stuff of tragedy, and the Brubaker/Fraction team is as masterful at that as they are at the video-game like combat, the rich historical narrative (which pulls on Danny’s pulp fiction roots rather than denying them), the corporate intrigue and the stealthy soap opera of inter-family alliances on both planes of existence.
David Aja is fully on board with his grounded style, perfect for an action/spy/exotic locale sort of tale. He’s proven surprisingly spry in coming up with inventive designs for the quasi-mystical combatants in the escalating competition. This book has about seven things going on at once, and each is balanced and clear with through-lines and narrative climaxes hitting not predictably, but satisfyingly exactly where they should. Immortal Iron Fist continues to be one of the year’s revelations, proof that there’s life in the old dogs if they’re revived in style.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!