IRON FIST #4
Writer: Ed Brisson
Penciller: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Release Date: 6/7/17
Iron Fist by Ed Brisson continues to draw on the lore previously laid down by Ed Brubaker during the Immortal Iron Fist. While they’re clearly trying to use that lore as base for where they want to go with the character, they were very careful in the letter section to tell a fan that they’re leaving the door open for Brubaker to come back and finish what he started. In other words, this project is very much meant to remind you of the Immortal Iron Fist, but it’s not going to wrap anything up from that chapter of Danny Rand’s life.
This deference is both incredibly classy on the part of Brisson, but it’s also very exciting for fans of the Brubaker and Matt Fraction run, which many feel is the definitive run of the Iron Fist. This isn’t just about using Immortal Iron Fist as a launching pad, it’s about creating a legacy that Brisson can call his own. The stylings are similar, but make no mistake, Brisson is very much the architect of his own house.
Plot: Lost deep within Liu-Shi, formed by exiles of K’un-Lun during the reign of the tyrannical Yu-Ti, Danny Rand is competing in a tournament with the best warrior each of the seven factions put forth, one per faction. The seven factions of the Liu-Shi were modeled after the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven, Brubaker says hello. Jokes aside, this is where I say that Brisson borrows from a defining Iron Fist run, but he very much creates the character and challenges he will face in his own image, so back to Liu-Shi.
Should Liu-Shi be successful in their attempt at killing Iron Fist, Rand would forfeit the crown to his conqueror, who would then use it to march right back into the Capital City of Heaven. After receiving care from a good samaritan, said samaritan soon enough reveals that he is the next challenge for Rand, he only sought to fight the true Iron Fist, not some poisoned and run-down version of K’un-Lun’s greatest champion. Even within the attempt at an invasion, there is still honor among combatants.
Story: Brisson is, no doubt, doing a tightrope walking act. The reader knows he’s pulling much of his source material from the Brubaker/Fraction run of Iron Fist, but the reader also has to find a reason to keep coming back. The best way for Brisson to accomplish that is by creating and crafting a narrative that gives the reader a familiar vibe, but creates and crafts a new story. Something adjacent to what we know, but still very new.
To couch Brisson’s work on Iron Fist in a different setting for the sake of comparison, think of it like a video game. Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto are perfect examples of this concept in action. Each game must be different from the last, giving the player a totally new experience, but developers cannot stray too far from concepts, gameplay, and storylines that players know and love. There have been times when massive overhauls have brought about an increased interest, but it often works in reverse. Brisson knows what works with the Iron Fist and he’s staying true to that particular National Park, but the path he’s taking us down with this version of Danny Rand is much different than authors of the past. He’s created a solid start in the first four books, it will be a pleasure to see what the future brings if sales figures don’t kill it off.
DISCLAIMER: To be clear, I haven’t heard or even seen any speculation that this series will be cancelled, has bad numbers, or isn’t selling well. I only bring up that fate because it seems pretty clear out of the gate that the writing and art won’t be the reason it fails.
Art: I bet Iron Fist is an absolute pain in the ass to draw. Not only do you have to know and use real terminology from time to time with regard to the martial art, but Iron Fist is a high-impact fighter and is always two steps ahead of his opponents. Mike Perkins and Andy Troy make it look effortless. Rand looks a bit grittier, which I rather enjoy. The shadowing and overall gruff look — you know, the one that consumes his face the vast majority of the time — Perkins and Troy gave Iron Fist go well with the tone and setting of the book.
Even their flashbacks are detailed, showing the reader a glimpse of a past most cannot comprehend. These books feel primal. That’s not to say they won’t be layered or complex, it’s just that they have a very primal feel to them. The art, the writing, the language used, it’s all very bloodthirsty, archaic, and appeals to the base instincts. It’s very much like Gladiator meeting Street Fighter, but with gorgeous artwork to match.
Verdict: Iron Fist is rapidly becoming one of my favorite books to read. I read the Immortal Iron Fist run after it had ended, but I couldn’t find a reason why it should’ve been cancelled. This feels like a soft-reboot of that series and it also stands alone apart from all the other crap going on in the Marvel Universe. Rand is a thousand miles from nowhere and time doesn’t matter to him, only survival. May Brisson be given the space and time to tell us some amazing stories with this character. He’s crushing it at the moment and I don’t expect Brisson to let up until he’s told to put the pen down.. — JW
Rating: 4.75/5 Stars