The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 5: Escape From The Eighth City. Collecting The Immortal Iron Fist #21-27 (2008).
Written by Duane Swierczynski, Art by Timothy Green II (#21), Travel Foreman (#22-23), Kano (#24) Juan Doe (#25-26) and David Lapham (#27)
Last time, Danny Rand had the worst birthday ever. After a Ch'i-lin by the name of Zhou Cheng returned, to continue his tradition of killing every Iron Fist, when they turn 33! Thankfully, with a little help from his friends, Danny managed to put an end to that generation-spanning curse! But, that wasn't the end to the nasty surprises... as a little digging revealed that Cheng came from the forgotten Eighth City, and now, it's time for Danny to pay them a little visit! I'm sure it'll be fine, though. Not like this volume has a super ominous title or anything.
Issue 21: Wah Sing-Rand and the Mandate Of Heaven. Before all the delving into hell and whatnot, let's take a look at what the distant future holds for the Iron Fist! It'll be nice to start off with a fun, easy story before all the grimness. Oh, no. Welcome to a Dystopian future, where we're ground up to feed robots. Fun times.
Issue 22: Escape From The Eighth City Chapter One! Danny is in hell. Or, more accurately, he's captured and imprisoned in The Eighth City, a hellish prison, filled with convicts, monsters, and other people banished there from the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. But it's quite possible that not everyone there deserves to be...
Issue 23: Escape From The Eighth City Chapter Two! While Danny continues to fight for his life, Davos is up to something, outside the gate. I'm sure it's totally legit though. Davos is a good guy, now. He'd NEVER do anything sketchy. Not at all. He wouldn't even consider it. We also learn the origin of The Eighth City and the secret origin of Shou-Lao!
Issue 24: The Immortal Iron Fist Li Park, The Reluctant Weapon Vs Unstoppable Forces of EVIL. Man, that is a long title. It's history time again, folks! This time around we hear the story of Li Park, artist, creator, and reluctant Iron Fist. Li Never wanted to be an Iron Fist, but when fate calls you to be a weapon, you have to answer!
Issue 25: Escape From The Eighth City Chapter Three! As Danny fights a man claiming to be the First Iron Fist, we find out more of the twisted origins of The Eighth City, and the other immortal weapons seize their chance for freedom!
Issue 26: Escape From The Eighth City Conclusion! The Immortal Weapons make their escape! But is this really their plan? Are they walking into a trap? And just what IS Davos up to? All of this and SO much more, and this grand, dark tale reaches its mind-blowing conclusion!
Issue 27: Fall Of The House Of Rand. Danny returns to New York, only to find that if you run away and leave a giant multinational corporation all on its own, just after it's survived one of the roughest periods of its forty year life, things might not go as well as you thought they would. Also, we get another take on Wendell Rand and his trip to China. Because how ELSE would you end this run?
But, it's not just the House of Rand that's falling. With this final issue, The Immortal Iron Fist dies. But WOW, what a way to wrap it all up, right? We had a look at this distant future, and another glimpse of the history of the Iron Fist. We also had one of the most brutal, but artistically excellent arcs of this whole run! But you have to wonder. . . just who are the villains, really? Because after this arc, I'm not so sure I really know.
Okay... Are we all familiar with The Mandela Effect? Because I'm having a serious case of it, right now. I read this whole arc through, years back and. . . I remember two fairly huge events, neither of which seem to have happened. Honestly, I finished this volume and had to google, to make sure that there isn't a Volume 6 that I forgot. There's a spin-off that gives a bit more history for the other Immortal Weapons, but that's not what I was missing. Honestly, I'm going a little crazy right now. . .
Because here's the thing: First, I was SURE that K'un-Lun got destroyed, during this arc. I remember, because after watching the GODAWFUL MarvelFlix Iron Fist series, I was even more annoyed because they referenced two things that happened in this run. The first was Zhou Cheng, the Ch'i-lin from the last volume. You probably missed him in the show, because it massively underutilised him... But if you remember the excellent Drunken Master that Danny "fights" towards the end of season one? yeah. That was him. Huge waste, right? But anyway, between that, the Bride of Spiders showing up and the season ending with K'un-Lun in ruins, I was hoping that if we got a season three, it would adapt something similar to this arc, and we might ACTUALLY get a decent story. But, as we now know, that wasn't to happen. And the strangest part is, reading this arc through now, it seems like it never could have happened, because the event I thought it was going to be based off. . . never actually happened. Which is kinda blowing my mind right now.
The second, FAR more important part that I really, strongly remember, because it was one of my favourite parts of the whole arc: last volume, we saw Misty talking to some random kid. We all assumed it was her and Danny's kid. She laments that his father never should have gone to The Eighth City and it's all very sad, because it leads us to believe that Danny is going to die there. And I was SURE that this volume, we got another scene of that, but it's then revealed that the little kid isn't Danny's kid, it's Davos's and despite being a BIT of a dick this volume, he ends up sacrificing himself to save everyone, and Danny and Misty end up adopting his kid. I can almost picture the page where it happens... but now it's nowhere to be seen.
So, yeah. Our journey through The Immortal Iron Fist has reached its conclusion! And this volume kind of sums up my big issue with this whole run. This run comes in two flavours: Absolutely amazing, and vaguely pointless. This final volume begins with a trip to the future, where we meet the latest Iron Fist! A distant relative of Danny's judging by the name, who beats up a fat robot that is apparently the new Fat Cobra. The art is great, the bright colours and flashy designs a stark contrast to the fairly grim story... but the problem is, nothing is really built on, because they've only got one issue to tell a story that probably required at least two of three to flesh out properly. We're introduced to new characters and a whole new broken world, that is then saved in a couple of panels due to a literal deus ex machina, and then everything is happy again. The end. It's a strong concept, but it reads more like a pitch meeting than an actual comic, where the basic ideas are roughly sketched out, but there's no meat on the bones, no substance to the story.
Then the "Escape From The Eighth City" arc begins! And trust me, True Believers, it's a beautiful hellscape of an arc. Some really amazing lore, some fantastic fights, and some intriguing new characters. This arc builds on everything that has happened so far in The Immortal Iron Fist and spins it out to a gripping and gory finale. This is hands down one of the darkest arcs I've ever seen in an Iron Fist book, and easily amongst the darkest I've ever seen from a Marvel book... And the whole thing is packed into four issues.
It just feels like such a waste. . . The Eighth City has SO much potential, and there was easily enough material here for a couple of solid arcs. But we don't get that. We get one short arc, and a couple of single issues that don't really contribute anything. They tease these big reveals and show us brief flashes of amazing lore, and then move on so quickly we barely have any chance to understand what we just saw. They give us the dark origin of Shou-Lao, who is revealed to be one of the monsters that the big bad unleashed on K'un-Lun, in a SINGLE PANEL, and then move on as if nothing major has happened.
Then, sandwiched in the middle of it all is a light and fluffy tale of a previous Iron Fist, who didn't like to fight but had to because Plot. We then jump back to the main story and in a page or two are told a long and complex story about the first Immortal Weapons, and how The Iron Fist ended up trapped in The Eighth City...
And I can't help but think that THAT is the story that needed a whole issue to tell. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed all the flashbacks and history lessons about the Iron Fists that came before, but they very much felt like set up for the Ch'i-lin reveal, and once the whole "They all died at 33!" thing drops, I don't really see what use those tales have. The only real impact the story of the Reluctant Weapon has on the story as a whole, is that his idea to bring the people of the village he failed to save back to K'un-lun sort of mirrors Danny's choice to let the people inside The Eighth City free. But did that really need a whole issue just to set up?
Here's the thing: I don't want you to leave this thinking I didn't like this volume or that I don't enjoy the series as a whole. This is still easily my favourite Iron Fist run ever. But reading it back now, and really thinking about what happens, I can't help but feel like this run had SO much potential, and just doesn't live up to it. The concepts, the story beats, the lore, they're all some of the best Iron Fist has EVER had. I just can't help but feel that they're not given the chance to really shine. I can't help but look back at some of the other volumes in this run and think "Would I trade this story, for another volume's worth of Eighth City lore?" and the answer is always yes, because it feels like they could so easily have delivered a truly legendary run here, and they just sort of fell short.
LOOK AT THAT PANEL. LOOK AT IT! It's glorious. The art in this whole run is fantastic, delivered by a variety of brilliant artists, each bringing their unique style to the table. But, I have to just give a shout to Travel Foreman, who delivers some absolutely brutal, twisted, glorious art in this volume. I commented last time that his work has an almost bodyhorror-like bend to it, and never is that more apparent than in "Escape From The Eighth City". Between the twisted creatures they have to fight, and the horrors they inflict on themselves to win, Foreman's art brings genuine horror to the series that I honestly didn't think would be allowed in a Marvel book. While the story might have frustrated me at times, I could stop and stare at the amazing creature designs, the backgrounds, and the almost living flow that he shows during the combat scenes. It was a genuine pleasure to look at, even when WHAT you were looking at was a man being hung from the roof, by spikes driven through his wrists.
Dude, I told you this series gets DARK. I just wish we could have explored that darkness a little more fully...
Overall, The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 5 is an exercise in glorious frustration. When it hits, it hits like the Iron Fist itself, leaving you shocked and stunned at the new worlds and dark realms delivered, but when it misses, it misses like the Iron Fist Netflix show, and just leaves you frustrated at what could have been, if we'd had a little more time to explore the great things concepts that make Iron Fist such a beloved character. The Immortal Iron Fist was my first taste of the world of Danny Rand, and nothing since has quite captured my imagination and interest the way this tale did. Spinning a saga that is as heartwarming as it is soul-crushing, showing Danny as a true hero that knows when to fight, when to run, when to show compassion, and when to strike to kill. Despite everything, I highly recommend it!
So, if you want to dive into "Escape From The Eighth City", the final arc of The Immortal Iron Fist series, you can pick up the collected volume from your Local Comic Shop, or any decent online retailer.
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.