This Week’s Haul

Hey, it’s the 100th edition of This Week’s Haul! I missed a week here and there (usually due to being away on vacation), but I have been keeping this up for nearly two years – yay me!

  • Booster Gold #12, by Chuck Dixon, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Ex Machina #38, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven vol 2 TPB, by Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, David Aja, Tonci Zonjic & others (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron First: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death one-shot, by Matt Fraction, Nick Dragotta, Mike Allred, Laura Allred, Russ Heath, Lewis LaRosa, Stefano Gaudiano, Matt Hollingsworth & Mitch Breitwiser (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #15, by Matt Fraction, Khari Evans & Victor Olazaba (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #16, by Matt Fraction, David Aja & Matt Hollingsworth (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #17, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman & Russ Heath (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #18, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman & Russ Heath (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: The Warning #3 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • Invincible #52, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
The Immortal Iron Fist: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven vol 2 TPB Last week I read the first volume of The Immortal Iron Fist, and I enjoyed it enough that this week I picked up the second volume, and all of the issues published after that to get caught up on the series. (Boy, remember the days when you’d discover a new series and spend the next two years trying to buy all the earlier issues to get caught up on what had happened? Now you just buy a couple of trade paperbacks and the last few months’ worth of issues and there you go. Ain’t progress great?)

I had some reservations about the first volume, and I’m happy to say that the second volume, The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven is much better all around. The story has two threads:

  1. It tells the story of Daniel Rand’s father Wendell who years ago went through the same trials as Danny did to become the Iron Fist, a quest which cost him the friendship of his best friend Davos, and also showed him to be tortured by his relationship with the previous Iron Fist, Orson Randall, who may or may not have been Wendell’s father.
  2. In the present day, Danny is summoned to the otherdimensional city of K’un Lun, where he became Iron Fist, to fight in a tournament against the immortal champions of six other cities – including Davos, who is now the champion of another city. While doing so, he also learns that there’s a plot afoot from Earth to reach and destroy the city. In trying to stop this plot while not appearing derelict in his duties in the tournament, Danny learns that his predecessors have left some interesting secrets around the city which have some interesting uses.

There’s a lot of good stuff in here: Danny seems less like a naive rookie (one of the biggest problems I had with the first book) and more like a fairly worldly guy who’s just out of his element and being kept off-balance by a variety of challenges that are just not what he’s used to dealing with. Despite being a martial arts master and having spent his teen years in K’un Lun, Danny has always been more of Earth than of that city, so feeling out-of-place during the tournament makes sense.

The stories of Orson Randall and Wendell Rand are both very well done. Randall is the Iron Fist who managed to escape his destiny, and he’s obviously shaping the series despite the fact that he’s no longer among the living. Wendell Rand’s contribution is of having brought Danny to K’un Lun (before meeting his own untimely end) and of having turned Davos into an enemy. Davos’ father is Lei Kung the Thunderer, the mentor to the Iron Fists. The humanizing of this figure is one of the book’s greatest strengths: He’s a hero in his own right, but his uneasy relationship with his son makes him seem more vulnerable. Davos is maybe the most interesting character in the book, having become much more nuanced than his one-note villainous persona in the early Iron Fist stories of the 70s.

The volume has a nifty showdown between all sides with a lot of good action and satisfying resolutions, as well as setting up some potential storylines for the following issues. Well worth a read.

(By the way, the flashback sequences featuring Orson Randall are based on the style of 30s and 40s pulp adventures. In addition to the contrast in styles, there’s an issue where Danny meets with Orson’s former associates, who are now elderly people, and that sequence is drawn by Howard Chaykin, who produced The Shadow: Blood and Judgment mini-series in the 1980s, which similarly portrayed the former associates of the Shadow encountering him again in the present day. A nice little in-joke.)

Following this story, it looks like Brubaker, Fraction and Aja left the title, and that writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Travel Foreman are the new creators (with Russ Heath illustrating the scenes taking place in the past). After a last story by Fraction, the new story starts like this: On the eve of his 33rd birthday, Danny learns that every previous Iron Fist – save for Orson Randall – died at the age of 33. Issue #18 starts with one of those annoying “flash-forwards” to the future where one of the characters is reminiscing about how Iron Fist died; it’s a gimmick which is going to be cheesy at best, because Fist can’t really die and make a satisfying story, but having him live is going to feel like a cheat. I’d rather the story stayed in the present (and past) to show how Danny cheats his presumptive fate. But other than that it’s off to a rather gripping start, with Fist facing an enemy that’s too much for him and relying on his friends to bail him out. The presence of the other immortal weapons hasn’t been forgotten, so this could shape up to be quite a fight.

The series overall is based around the themes of responsibility and destiny, and about the degree to which the Iron Fists meet both standards. It’s got some flaws, but it’s still enjoyable. The series sales seem to be fairly stable, so hopefully it’ll be around for a while.