The Immortal Iron Fist #21
Duane Sweirczynski, writer
Timothy Green, artist
Marvel, December 2008
The Immortal Iron Fist as co-written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction and drawn by an ace team of artists led by David Aja was the most acclaimed Marvel comic to come along in quite a while. It took a largely forgotten character, reimagined and expanded his mythos, carved itself a storytelling space far outside Marvel’s current military-industrial superhero idiom, incorporated video game and manga influences, looked lovely, and was both thrilling and funny, which is hard to pull off in superhero comics. (Usually they’re one or the other.)
But Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja left the title rather quickly, and pulp writer Duane Swierirczynski took over. I liked his opening storyline well enough. The antagonist, a mystical Iron Fist terminator of sorts, fit right into the kinds of things Frubaker were doing with villains and the Iron Fist legacy, and the tone was right as well. I might have tried to do more with all the other Immortal Weapons that had just been introduced–witness how well Brubaker juggles supporting super-characters in Captain America and Daredevil, for example–but hey, it’s his first shot. The much bigger problem was with the art, provided by Travel Foreman. With a wiry line that is often drowned out by thick, murky blacks, it bobbled the two balls that absolutely need to be kept in the air for this iteration of this character to work: character design and action choreography.
This stand-alone issue is more like it. Artist Timothy Green shares enough with Foreman that at first I thought that the latter artist had simply varied his style or had a different inker/colorist support team working with him. But Green’s work is both looser (meaning less cramped) and tighter (meaning more self-assured). Yes, the backgrounds often disappear, but that just gives more breathing room for his Seth Fisheresque design flourishes, and for Edward Bola’s pretty pastel colors. With the visual handicap removed, you can now really see that Swierczynski gets this character and this concept. A story that takes place a thousand years into the future, pitting a cyborg Fat Cobra against a nine-year-old Iron Fist who uses his chi to form a giant robot, and features as a key plot point a kung-fu punch that takes over twenty years to deliver? It’s the exact same blend of majesty, absurdity, and creativity that made the earlier IIF so much fun. If the rest of Swierczynski’s run looks like this, sign me up.