Immortal Iron Fists #1
Artist: Afu Chan
Colorist: Shelly Chen
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
A review by Nico Sprezzatura.
With his own Netflix series, a new ongoing comic, and membership in the latest iteration of The Defenders (depicted in live action as well as on the page), 2017 has been a pretty good year for Danny Rand – the Immortal Iron Fist. This weekend saw yet another spotlight for the character: Immortal Iron Fists #1.
Written by Kaare Andrews (who previously wrote and illustrated Iron Fist: The Living Weapon), Immortal Iron Fists is the first product of Marvel’s just-announced partnership with Comixology, who will offer digital exclusives for paying customers as well as members of their Unlimited service.
(It’s worth mentioning that Immortal Iron Fists was originally unveiled last year as Iron Fists, but seemed to fall into development hell when it never actually came out. Not anymore!)
Immortal Iron Fists isn’t Marvel’s first foray into digital comics –their Infinite line publishes comics tailor-made for reading on devices like tablets and smartphones– but it represents the next logical step of their partnership with Comixology and Comixology Unlimited. But is it any good?
As someone who isn’t a huge fan of the Iron Fist concept in general, I went into Immortal Iron Fists #1 with piqued interest but low expectations. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Danny Rand as a character, but I tend to prefer in the context of others, i.e. Power Man and Iron Fist. That said, Immortal Iron Fists #1 held my interest and made me wanna keep reading, which isn’t a bad sign.
Much of the criticism faced by the live-action Iron Fist series was directed at the casting of Finn Jones as Danny, a figure whose ethnic background probably could’ve used an update in 2017. Luckily, Immortal Iron Fists #1 attempts to sideline Danny’s presence in the story in favor of someone else; someone less white, less male, and a lot less wealthy.
While the Danny Rand shown here is still very much a white male billionaire, he’s not our protagonist – it’s Pei, a young girl who also happens to be a monk from K’un-Lun, and the youngest person to bear the mark of the Iron Fist.
By focusing on Pei as our POV character, Immortal Iron Fists #1 differentiates itself from the other Iron Fist title published by Marvel at the moment. Now a preteen, we’re reintroduced to Pei as she begins high school in New York City, where she’s clearly having a rough go of things. She’s an outsider from top to bottom, and the only thing she can depend on –aside from her immense strength– is Danny’s mentorship.
It’s a good hook for the series moving forward, and though Immortal Iron Fists isn’t officially part of the upcoming Marvel Legacy relaunch, its themes of identity and legacy make a pretty good argument for its place in the line.
I’m not overly familiar with the work of anybody on this book’s creative team, but Andrews’ script is easy to follow and you get the gist of Iron Fist as an entity in the Marvel Universe based on this singular issue. The real revelation for me here, though, is collaborative work of artist Afu Chan and colorist Shelly Chen.
Simply put, their combined effort here makes for some wonderful visual storytelling, and I can easily imagine a version of this issue without any dialogue whatsoever. Chan’s work is expressive and has a great sense of movement; there’s a great sequence of panels in particular (on page six) that guides the reader’s eye to follow follow Pei as she stumbles out of a moving car and onto a subway platform below, conveying a sense of movement that you sometimes don’t see from an interior artist. It’s just great!
Chen gets in on the visual storytelling with her coloring as well; a later montage cuts back and forth between two different scenes unfolding simultaneously, using panels hued in blue and red to establish them from one another. Overall, the book’s color palette is warm and inviting, which I wouldn’t necessarily expect from an Iron Fist comic.
(Also: good lettering work from Travis Lanham, as usual. His use of lowercase in speech bubbles makes Andrews’s script easy on the eyes, and his flourishes on action-heavy moments are fun.)
Even if you’re not hot the Iron Fist character, Immortal Iron Fists #1 makes a pretty good case for you to reconsider your stance.