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The Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 2: The 7 Capital Cities of Heaven

Review

The Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 2: The 7 Capital Cities of Heaven

 

Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s 2006 take on The Immortal Iron Fist is one of those gems of the superhero world that transcend the limited definitions the genre affords, becoming something new, different, and wonderful. The two writers team up with artist David Aja (who’s ably supported himself by several other artists who provide art for various portions of the 15-chapter saga) to reinvent a character who was created in the mid-1970s as a way for Marvel Comics to cash in on the era’s Bruce Lee–inspired Kung Fu craze.
 

The series focuses on Danny Rand, aka the Immortal Iron Fist, the champion of the mystical city of K’un-Lun, with immense kung fu skills and the power to charge his fist up with…well, with the power of iron, it would seem. These particular details aren’t really too important in terms of what makes the book great. Rather, it’s the way that Brubaker and Fraction blend two seemingly incongruous genres—pulp comics of the ’30s and ’40s and the aforementioned martial arts movies of the ’70s and ’80s. The result is a postmodern examination of the genres themselves, redefined and updated in a modern context through Iron Fist’s adventures, which the audience follows at a breakneck speed.

The plot chronicles Danny meeting a heretofore unknown predecessor, Orson Randall, whose own adventures in the early 20th century are portrayed in such a way as to evoke comparisons to classic pulp heroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow, forebears of the modern comic book superheroes. Giving Orson’s history the pastiche-treatment—much like George Lucas’s own pastiche of old movie serials in the forms of Star Wars and Indiana Jones—allows the character to be given a sudden and immediate weight in the world of the story, accomplished in the span of only a few chapters.

Similarly, the style and feel of the book’s panels and pace, as rendered by Aja’s visuals, mimic the fast and frenetic look of kung fu flicks—to use another filmic-homage parallel, think Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies, but with far less (but still present) violence. This style reaches its height in the second half of Iron Fist’s story, wherein our hero fights in a kung fu tournament against six other immortal weapons who hail from K’un-Lun’s mystical sister-cities. The deft characterization with which Iron Fist’s opponents are portrayed—like Fat Cobra’s machismo and Bride of Nine Spiders’ creepy sense of humor—make the world of this story feel fully realized while rarely slowing down long enough for the story to get boring or overly expository.

Can a reader unfamiliar with Marvel mythology not only keep up, but enjoy this book? Probably: Some supporting characters who appear, such as Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing, bring the Marvel Universe’s baggage with them into the story, but ultimately these details are inconsequential to comprehending and enjoying the story as a whole. The Immortal Iron Fist is packed with enough action, adventure, and style to satisfy any reader looking for a rollicking good time.

Reviewed by Brian P. Rubin on September 10, 2008

The Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 2: The 7 Capital Cities of Heaven
by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2008
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Marvel
  • ISBN-10: 0785125353
  • ISBN-13: 9780785125358