The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 3: The Book of Iron Fist, collecting The Immortal Iron Fist #7, #15-16,
Orson Randall & The Green Mist of Death, and The Origins of Danny Rand.
Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction.
Art by a varied and wonderful cast of misfits.
Last time, everything went a little crazy, as a once in a generation martial arts tournament to decide to fate of humanity was held! No, not THAT once in a generation martial arts tournament to decide the fate of humanity... the OTHER once in a generation martial arts tournament to decide the fate of humanity. Yeesh, pick up a book, you Philistines. However, the once in a generation martial arts tournament to decide the fate of humanity wasn't the most important thing going on! Because deep within the bowels of K'un-Lun, revolution was brewing! This time, we've got a somewhat less... paradigm-shifting collection of tales. As we delve into the history of The Iron Fist, and realise just how screwed Danny Rand really is.
Issue 7: The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay. Pencils by Travel Foreman, Inks by Derek Fridolfs (pages 1-6), Pencils by Leandro Fernandez, Inks by Franciso Paronzini and Leo Fernandez (Page 7-13), Pencils by Khari Evans, Inks by Victor Olazaba (Page 14-22). Colours by Dan Brown (but not THAT Dan Brown).
Our journey through the history of The Iron Fist begins! This time, it's Wu Ao-Shi, pirate queen, Iron Fist, and last lady to hold the title. I'm wondering if the whole "ran away to marry a fisherman and became a pirate queen" thing had any impact on that...
Issue 15: The Story of Iron Fist Bei Bang-Wen. Pencils by Khari Evans, Inks by Victor Olazaba, Colours by Paul Mounts.
Our second historical tale takes us to Taku Forts, 1860. Where Iron Fist Bei Bang-Wan has two tasks left to complete. Defeat the British and die trying. Sadly, he spectacularly fails at both. Locked up in the heart of India, he meets Vivatma Visvajit, a man with a remarkably similar tale. Together, they hatch a plan that could well get them both what they want.
Issue 16: Happy Birthday Danny! Pencils by David Aja, Colours by Matt Hollingsworth.
We take a brief break from our journey through history to catch up with Danny. After discovering the true source of his family's wealth, Danny wants nothing to do with it. So he's shutting down Rand Corp and becoming a Non-Profit. He's also restarting the Heroes for Hire and doubling down on his work at the Dojo. But, nothing stays happy forever. And some mental maths while reading the Book of Iron Fist brings about a startling, and terrifying, discovery for Danny!
Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death. Artists: Nick Dragotta, Mike Allred & Laura Allred (Part One). Russ Heath (Part Two). Lewis LaRosa, Stefano Gaudiano & Matt Hollingsworth (Part Three). Mitch Breitweiser & Matt Hollingsworth (Part Four).
Our journey through time resumes! And now, we have four more pulp-tastic tales from the life and (mis)adventures of Orson Randall and the Confederates of the Curious. Each daring tale chronicles one bone-chilling adventure, where Orson Randall had a run-in with the unbeatable, but not unreasonable John Aman, The Prince of Orphans!
The Origins of Danny Rand. Writer: Matt Fraction, Artist Kano (Framing Sequence) Writer: Roy Thomas, Penciler: Gil Kane (Chapter 1). Writer: Len Wein, Penciler: Larry Hama (Chapter 2). Inker: Dick Giordano. Colours: A. Crossley.
How did Danny get the Iron Fist? What happened to his parents? How did he return to New York, after his time in K'un-Lun? All of these questions, most of which we already know the answers to, are answered again, but slightly differently, in this retro throwback!
And with that, our journey through the history of the Iron Fist is over... for now! It was a fun and informative ride, though. Was great to see how some of the older Fists got their business done, and I've got to admit the OTT pulpy tales of Orson Randall are really starting to grown on me! Seriously though, what was up with the Issue 16 ending? How can they just leave it there? That's just mean.
Okay, I'm going to start at the beginning, seems the best place. This volume opens up with the story of the last lady to hold the Iron Fist mantle: Wu Ao-Shi. The Pirate Queen! Those that were paying attention last time, will remember her as the lady that could infuse her arrows with Chi. I actually, really enjoyed this issue, it was a fairly simple tale, but very well told. There's an expression I've heard, many times: "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The idea is that if you get lots of people all trying to do one task, it invariably ends up a bit of a mess.
Clearly, that's not the case here, because despite the fact there's about 10 different artists working on this one comic, it ends up being visually fantastic. With a style that blends modern techniques with a distinctly retro aesthetic, you end up with a comic that almost feels like a Sumi-e ink painting, but with punching.
Between this very classical art style, and the simple but well executed tale, this volume starts off on a real high. This is especially necessary, given how dense the rest of the story is. It's like a refreshing palette cleanser, before a thick, rich dish.
And no, that's not a description of Danny Rand.
Our next tale, is the story of Bei Bang-Wen. I can't lie, the lead of this story is Bei Bang-Wen, described as the smartest man in most rooms, and clearly a guy more than proficient in the ancient art of kicking ass... but I just found it quite hard to care about him. Because, after being locked up by us mean Brits, he runs into Vivatma Visvajit, who is basically Bei Bang-Wen, but FAR cooler. Honestly, I don't understand how they just pitched this idea, wrote one story with him, and the consigned him to the history books. He seems like a character with a HUGE amount of potential, especially when you consider he's connected to a whole culture that is WOEFULLY under-represented in current comics. (And no, I don't mean "People the British have screwed over"... they're everywhere).
Fun fact, on the day I'm writing this, the first issue of a Brand New Iron Fist has been released. It's a whole new character with a whole new team and (yay!) new things! But I can't help but wonder, do we really NEED a new Iron Fist tale? I can't really see what he's going to bring to the table that hasn't already been brought. Or that isn't currently BEING brought to the table by the amazing ongoing Shang-Chi book (seriously, if you're not already, do yourself a favour and pick it up). Now, if they were to release a book about Vivatma Visvajit, (or probably a newer, younger wielder of the same power) THAT would be something that Marvel haven't done before, and something with the potential to be really great.
So yeah, a fun issue, with a solid story and decent art, but I couldn't help but feel like it was a huge missed opportunity to introduce an amazing new character.
And then, nestled within this seemingly lighthearted collection of vaguely inconsequential tales, we have "Happy Birthday, Danny". "Happy Birthday, Danny" is a lesson in the importance of context. It's a fairly simple issue: it's Danny's birthday, but he's not telling anyone because he's a grown man and no one does anything major for their 33rd birthday. So instead, he spends the day getting right with the world. It's been a rough few weeks of old Danny Boy, and so he's doing some good, to try and bring himself some balance.
And that's when the bomb drops. After dissolving his company, because of guilt, and helping out some kids, and because it's a free excuse to kick them in the face, Danny is reading The Book of Iron Fist. Much like us, he's studying the history of those that came before, and seeing what else he can learn from them.
Then, it hits him. And now, it's going to hit you, too.
Go back and look, at all the dates mentioned for the various Iron Fists. They KEPT mentioning the dates, and it did strike me as a little strange. Like, I know we need to be able to tell when the events we're reading about are transpiring, for context and all, but why repeatedly mention not just the date that the current story is happening, but also the dates when the Iron Fist central to the story was active?
Well, now we know why.
At the start of the issue, Danny is beating up some kinds, and explaining to them that he'll only teach them how to fight back, if they do their Math homework. He's explaining that at his Dojo/Community Centre, they don't just offer Martial Arts Lessons, but also food and study assistance, because Math is important!
But is it, is it REALLY?
It turns out, yes. It can actually save your lift.
Because them we jump to the end of the issue, Danny is looking through the Book of Iron Fist and it hits him.
The age that Orson Randall was, when he went missing.
The age that Wu Ao-Shi was, when she died.
The age that Bei Bang-Wen was, when he was forced to fake his death.
Not a single Iron Fist has carried the mantle past the age of thirty three. They've all either died, or been forced to pass over the mantle, at the age of thirty three.
And then, just as this hits him harder than any strike he's felt before... In walks Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing... with his birthday cake, complete with little candles saying "33".
It's SO brilliantly executed. Paced just fast enough that you realise everything a moment before it's revealed, all culminating is a fantastic frame, of Danny's three best friends, smiling brilliantly... It SHOULD be a really sweet scene, but given what they've just hit you with, it's just terrifying.
This is where I have to give credit to David Aja. The panel of Danny's friends walking in with the cake really sets everything off perfectly. When you don't know what's happening, it just looks like a nice panel of some friends celebrating with cake, but once you know the full meaning behind it, even though nothing in the picture has changed, suddenly the smiles look super creepy, the picture is suddenly much darker and more foreboding. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words!
And then the issue ends, and we have to wait for next time to find out what happens. Because this people are just mean.
Overall, The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 3 is a mixed bag. The two opening historical tales are fun, but a little uneven. Wu Ao-Shi's tale is definitely the stronger of the two, with a solid story and fantastic art from all involved. Bei Bang-Wen's tale is fun, but feels like it could have spun off into far more than was covered here. Then we have "Happy Birthday, Danny", which just straight up ruined my evening. A great tale, fantastic art, beautiful framing and a sucker punch of an ending. This is what I came back for! The volume then concludes with some more random tales of Orson Randall, and his many run-ins with The Prince of Orphans, and wraps up with an incredibly, almost unbearably retro Iron Fist tale, as Danny returns to New York for vengeance, and is somehow surprised that it's already out for him.
So, if you want to know just why no Iron Fist has stayed active beyond 33, come back next time for The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 4: The Mortal Iron Fist! Collecting The Immortal Iron Fist #17-20 & Death Queen Special. Think you know everything there is to know about the traditions of The Immortal Iron Fist? If you do, then why's Danny sweating bullets over an inescapable legacy that's haunted the Iron Fists for centuries? What was the deeper meaning of Xao's ominous threat? And what incredible new adventure are Danny's fellow Immortal Weapons embarking upon?
Taheg Gloder is a Freelance Copywriter from England. Obsessed with comics and Manga since his teens, he now splits his time between writing comic reviews and retrospectives for POP, and doing reactions on his YouTube Channel, The Dragon & The Hound. He lives alone, because he’s a hermit.