I didn’t hate season 1 of Iron Fist on Netflix.
I have had some harsh criticism for the Netflix series for a long stretch where, prior to Luke Cage season two, they had seemed to have lost their way, but I actually enjoyed Iron Fist somewhat. Honestly, until Punisher, it was probably my third favorite season of the lot (after the nearly-flawless Jessica Jones and Daredevil inaugural seasons). I enjoyed the Colleen Wing storyline. The episode directed by RZA where Danny fights his way through The Hand’s stable of powerful warriors was a lot of fun. I thought the entire Meachum clan was engaging and curious and had genuine motivations and reactions; they felt and acted like real human beings. I just… look, the show had flaws, yes—I’m never denying that—but it wasn’t as bad as folks said. What? Quit looking at me like that. It was a B/B-. And yeah, until The Punisher, that was the third best grade I gave any season. Leave insulting comments below!
I didn’t really know what to think of Iron Fist season two. The dinner party episode was pretty weird. It reminded me of The Office.
TITLE: Iron Fist: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven
Writer and Artist: Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, David Aja, Roy Allen Martinez
Protagonists: Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight
Antagonists: Davos, Xao, Hydra.
I had mentioned wanting to re-read this WAY back when I reviewed Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, and this book is a different beast from that one entirely. The entire storytelling style is new from that work, especially in Aja’s art which uses a lot more of a typical comic layout and design than the hard, frequent, small panels and lots of individual heads/faces telling the story through expression of Hawkeye. Whereas I enjoyed the look of Hawkeye much more, it’s great to see guys push themselves in new directions to make separate books feel fresh.
The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven opens with Danny Rand back “home” in K’un Lun and being told that he must prepare for a ceremonial battle between the Immortal Weapons. It turns out that K’un Lun is not the ONLY city of heaven, and every 88 years, the seven cities’ mystical appearances all overlap the mortal realm at the same time and engage each other in respectful combat. This ends up being a red herring for the other conflicts at work, and we don’t quite get the Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi that it seems we are gearing up for as Danny loses in the first round to Fat Cobra.
Much like Iron Fist (and the aforementioned Fat Cobra), all the Immortal Weapons have nifty names and fancy abilities. Bride of Nine Spiders, Dog Brother #1, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, Prince of Orphans… there aren’t folks I want to engage in any kind of physical confrontation. Dog Brother #1 and Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter don’t get to show off too much, as they both lose in the first rounds along with Danny, but the rest are creepy and strange as all get out. Especially Bride of Nine Spiders and her frequent laugh (“Je je je je je je”). Prince of Orphans is the oldest of of the lot, and as been a Weapon longer than any of the others, and seems incredibly powerful and mysterious. It’s a really strange group, and I kind of wish they had a team book at some point (there seems to have been a book based on the group in 2009, but as far as I can tell, each issue stars just one of the weapons; not the same! Sad!).
As I said, though, while the Immortal Weapons are relevant to the story, they and their battles are not the actual core of it. T7CCOH is a collection of several plots all coalescing into a fine point. Danny finds answers on what came of the Iron Fist before him and what his own father had to do with that man (and his role within the Iron Fist legacy itself). Corrupt leadership in K’un Lun is inspiring a secret revolutionary army deep within the city. And Hydra is working to launch an attack on the seven cities while they are accessible. On the mortal realm, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing are all involved to rescue Hogarth from Hydra’s clutches after he has been forced to help them build… some kind of mag-lev train kamikaze bomb? It’s actually pretty neat. And the story does build to a massive fight scene with the Immortal Weapons working with the Heroes For Hire to defeat Hydra’s attempt on their homes. Iron Fist punches the train bomb to death! It’s just as bad ass as it sounds.
I like the tease of the tournament being used to subvert reader expectations and build an entirely separate plot, but parts of this book just didn’t work as well for me. For one, I’m not well versed on Iron Fist history and lore, so the time spent learning about Orson Randall’s history and his involvement with Danny’s dad didn’t mean much to me, nor was it handled in such a way that made me care about it. The flashbacks to Danny’s dad undergoing training in K’un Lun and befriending Davos before their relationship dissolved was fine, but there’s an entire issue dedicated to Orson Randall’s legacy, and that felt unneeded and out of place when I just wanted to get back to the modern day story. If you are a long-time Fist fan, that might be your jam, but as someone less engaged, it did nothing to get me excited for it. I did not read this pages thinking “Wow, now I need to know more about this guy!”; I just wanted to get back to the present. But everything set in the present day was handled successfully. So it was a mixed bag overall. To be fair, the Orson Randall stuff was relegated to more-or-less one issue and some scattered background detail, so it didn’t detract from the main arc as much as it could have.
Talking Point: What would your Immortal Weapon name be? Those guys had some bad ass identities. Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter! Prince of Orphans! Those are pretty rad; they sound like Mad Libs. Who would you be?
If you cut out the backstory of the previous Iron Fist, this would be higher, but with it included… I don’t know; it felt like someone threw a few chunks of brussel sprouts in my chocolate chip cookies. I still dig Fraction and Aja, and the story was clever and put together well. Just… yeah… it had too much padding and establishing a surrounding mythos that it just didn’t need.