The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 4: The Mortal Iron Fist, collecting The Immortal Iron Fist #17-20 & Orson Randall And The Death Queen Of California.
Written by Duane Swierczynski. Art by Travel Forman & Russ Heath (pages 6-8, 14-15, 22), Colours by Matt Milla.
Last time around, we took a journey through the history of The Iron Fist. We met some of history's finest warriors and watched as they were all either killed or broken to the point they gave up, all at the age of 33. We then jumped back to Danny Rand, just in time for him to celebrate his 33rd birthday. How's THAT for a gift! This time around, Danny celebrates his birthday as only an Iron Fist can, by engaging in a battle to the death with a mythical egg-eating kung fu master. Should be a blast.
Issue 17: The Mortal Iron Fist Chapter One. Danny's birthday party goes as well as it can, considering he's just been given a death sentence. Attempting to calm himself down, he goes for a walk, at night, in a park, alone. Needless to say, this ends about as well as you could expect it to. Then, back in the 1800s, we're introduced to Iron Fist Kwai Jun-Fan. Don't get attached...
Issue 18: The Mortal Iron Fist Chapter Two. Kwai Jun-Fan continues his battle with the Iron Fist Killer, a few days after his 33rd birthday. Just saying. Back in the present, Danny continues his showdown with the very same mystical murderer. Thankfully, Danny has one thing the the previous Iron Fists lacked, and it just might save his sorry hide.
Issue 19: The Mortal Iron Fist Chapter Three. In K'un-L'un, the Ch'i-Lin attacks! His sole mission, to eat the egg of the Immortal Dragon, Shou-Lao The Undying! But the Thunderer and the Steel Serpent will do whatever it takes, to stop it.
Back in New York, The Iron Fist Killer puts a truly awful plan into action, to strike Danny where he's weakest. Can The Iron Fist win, with so many innocent lives at stake?
Issue 20: The Mortal Iron Fist Conclusion! Zhou Cheng, AKA The Iron Fist Killer, has Danny Rand at his mercy! Betrayed by one of his own, things seem bad for The Iron Fist! Can he get his friends help for a third time, or will he try something new here?
There's only one way to find out! Read the epic conclusion of The Mortal Iron Fist!
Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall & The Death Queen Of California! with art from guest "cinematographer" Giuseppe Camuncoli.
Man, these names get crazier every time. I can't lie, though. I'm totally loving them.
This time around, we're getting Holly-weird, as Orson Randal heads to Cali, to help track down an old friend's missing daughter.
But is there more to this tale than just big dreams turned to nightmares? And what exactly is going on, behind the doors of Empress Pictures?
And so, the great mystery of why all the Iron Fists die at 33 is solved! It was a Ch'i-Lin from another of the Capitol Cities of heaven eating them all. Of course, that raises the question of WHICH city did it come from, and the answer to THAT question opens up a whole can of worms, but that we'll get into later! Then we wrap the volume up with a noir tale of the dangers of Hollywood, which was FAR better than it had any reason to be. Honestly, these Orson Randall one-shots are brilliant. Kinda wish we had more of them.
You know what gets a really bad rap, these days? Filler.
People act like throwing in the odd filler story now and again is this great crime, and if each issue isn't utterly vital to some grand overarching story, it's totally pointless. But, honestly, I could not disagree more. And if anyone ever questions my stance, I'll direct them to The Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 4.
On the surface, this volume does very little to push the story forward. This volume, Danny must fight Zhou Cheng, AKA The Iron Fist Killer, who has been cropping up every time an Iron Fist hits 33 years old, and murdering them.
People could discount this arc, as it's slotted in right between "The 7 Cities of Heaven", and "Escape From The 8th City", and doesn't really seem connected to either. But I think to disregard this book, you miss out on a really solid Iron Fist tale, that shows exactly why Danny is as special as he is, and how he managed to triumph where 66 Iron Fists before him failed.
Because here's the funny thing, about this volume: Danny fights Zhou Cheng three times. And in every single one of those fights, barring the last one, he gets his ass UTTERLY ruined. Everything he tries to throw at this guy, he either ignores or negates. There's nothing Danny, or any Iron Fist, could do against him.
So Danny takes a different route. He chooses to do what any good businessman would do, when faced with a problem he can't solve. He outsources it!
Yup! Danny brings in his friends, in basically every fight against Zhou. The first time he nearly dies in the park, he brings in the Heroes for Hire. During the second show down in the Thunder Dojo, he brings in the other Immortal Weapons. I mean, you could say that it's a little cheap, pulling the same trick twice. You could say it shows a little lack of imagination... but I choose to see a greater lesson in all of this, and it's one that comes up multiple times, in this run.
It's not always about choosing when, how, and who to fight. Sometimes, the most important decision is when NOT to fight. During the Celestial Tournament, Danny chose to take an early loss against Fat Cobra, so that he could work to bring down the corrupt government of K'un-Lun (it had NOTHING to do with the fact he couldn't actually win. It was a clever tactic, that's all). Now, when faced with an enemy that he knows is literally designed to kill Iron Fists, he doesn't just try to punch his way through... He takes a step back, and lets his friends save him.
One of the great lessons in Martial Arts, all of them, and one that every teacher has tried to drum into my head is: "A fight avoided, is a fight won." And it's clear that the creative team behind The Immortal Iron Fist understand this lesson!
But, sadly, you can't avoid ALL fights, and eventually Danny has to face Cheng and stop him, once and for all... And that's where things all go a bit wrong.
Because Danny knows that Cheng has studied Iron Fist, he can feed of their Chi, he's going to need to do something really special to beat him! and he decided to... fight like a child...
I'm not making that up, that's an actual line from this issue.
He decided to best way to defeat a master martial artist, who has murdered more than 60 other Iron Fists, is to forgo all his training and fight without the Chi of the Iron Fist, or his K'un-Lun training.
It's a... it's a bold choice, from the creative team. I mean, I get the idea behind it. Cheng defeats Iron Fists by feeding of their Chi and reading their moves, so if Danny doesn't use either of those things, then he'll have an edge.
But that totally ignores the fact that Cheng is still an extremely well-trained martial artist. Even without the small edge he gained from being a Ch'i-lin he still knows how to fight. Using LESS technique isn't going to help, here. Iron Fist isn't Wolverine, who can go into a berserker rage and just... overcome his foes with brute force and ferocity. It just seems a slightly odd character choice for Danny, who is all about inner calm and technique, to throw all of that out of the window and say "Sod it, when all else fails, get mad and don't stop punching". Maybe I'm missing something here, who knows.
Then, as seems to be the way in this series, the volume finishes off with a set-up for next time. Because Cheng wasn't working alone! He's a resident of the mythical 8th City they teased in Volume Two... and now, Danny knows just where that city is! And seeing as the next volume is called "Escape from the 8th City", I'm guessing things go REALLY well, there!
Then, the volume wraps up with another great tale of Orson Randall! This time around, they're going full '50s noir and it's AWESOME. I've always had a bit of a weakness for these kinds of noir detective tales ("Dreamland" is the best season of Archer, you know I'm right), so this little adventure was right up my street. It was all pretty simple stuff, but crafted with its tongue wedged firmly in its cheek, which gave the whole thing buckets of charm. Orson Randall heads to Hollywood to track down a missing girl, but gets caught up in a creepy sex cult and everything ends in tears... and other bodily fluids. The whole thing is so over the top, all fedoras, bourbon and 'dames', that it could easily have been too much, but Swierczynski's touch is just light enough that everything comes together brilliantly, and it ends up feeling like a respectful homage, rather than a cheap trick.
Overall, Volume 4 feels like a fun ride, that doesn't quite stick the landing. The idea behind it is brilliant, and I love the usage of Ch'i-lin's to bring more Chinese mythology to play, but while all the build-up and the concepts are very strong and FEEL very Iron Fist, the conclusion is a huge let-down, and leaves the reader with a slightly bitter taste in their mouth. Not the best start for a new creative team... Thankfully, while they might fall at the last hurdle, Swierczynski's writing is solid throughout, and he really captured the feel of Danny Rand and the twisted mysticism of K'un-Lun. Combine this with Foreman's twisted art, with its ever-shifting proportions and almost body-horror like transformations, and you can see there is definitely a gem to be polished underneath a little dirt. And from what I can remember of the next arc, things are about to get real dirty...
If you want to see how messed up it all gets, join us next time for The Immortal Iron Fist Volume 5: Escape From The Eighth City! Collecting The Immortal Iron Fist 21-27. Danny Rand was not the first Immortal Iron Fist... and he won't be the last! The year: 3099. The place: a distant planet first colonized a millennium ago by the People's Republic of China. Now, a humanity oppressed by a totalitarian, technological tyrant has just one hope for salvation: the kung-fu freedom-fighting of the Immortal Iron Fist! But his coming is nothing more than a prophecy and a silent prayer... and even if the Iron Fist does arrive, he must first defeat the most powerful weapon the evil robot empire has: Robo Fat-Cobra!
Yes, you read that correctly. Trust me, there's some Eighth City stuff in there as well.
And if you want to read along, you can find this volume at your Local Comic Shop, or any online platform that isn't Comixology, because Amazon ruined that.
No, of course I'm not bitter. Why would you ask?
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.