Over comics bought and read on Saturday the 3rd of May

The Immortal Iron Fist #14
Written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker
Drawn by Tonci Zonjic, Clay Mann, and Kano
Published by Marvel Comics

The theme this week is sadness. Which brings me straight onto Iron Fist, which ain’t looking anything like as immortal as I’d hoped. But, never mind, I’ve got to the point where I’m not so unhappy about that. If you ask me – and you should – this book’s never really got beyond teases of skillience.

What’s skillience? Super martial arts. Work it out.

Brufracaja’s desire to expand and explore the Fist mythos was – apart from being sexually exciting – the stuff of worthwhile intentions. The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven tickled my Chi, and their champions stirred the kind of geeky emotions usually reserved for Mooreian or Morrisonian creations. And, okay, I must admit to giggling with glee when Orson Randall let rip with his ninja-flame bullets. I even got off on that legacy Fist business. But. Where was Danny Rand amongst all that? Uttering the odd supercool yet strangely dull as bruised balls line about being a captain of industry, billionaire, superhero, that’s where. Making virtually zero plot driving decisions, that’s where. Being unforgivably boring, that’s where. Now, lest anybody think I’m committing the cardinal sin of favoring storytelling rules over storytelling results, I should stress that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting Danny on the back seat, per se, however it was a very odd creative choice to make early on in the book’s run, and it’s a dangerous game to play if you want people to give a shit further down the line. Mainly, though, it points towards the real problem: a scattershot focus.

One hundred and onety five squintillion subplots do not a good story make*. I asked where Danny Rand got to, what about the martial arts contest? Did that even end? I didn’t notice. I was too busy trying to work out why I should care about John Amman, Jeryn Hogwarts, Power Man and co, Iron Fist’s dad, Hydra, Ju Te, secret revolutionaries, Davos, Orson’s mates, cosmic convergence, other. tedious. stuff. By the time this issue rolled around my hopes for Streetfighter 2 meets Marvel heroes was down the shitter, instead I got Danny hitting a train (nothing like as amusing as it sounds), and ensuing anti-pathos (is he dead? No he isn’t. I’m so not surprised I could weep. On this comic) And… do you know, I can’t even remember the rest of it, and I can’t be bothered to open the book and remind myself. That’s how engaging the team’s final issue turned out to be. And that’s why I’m sad, because I was prepared to forgive this series a lot.

I love it when creators aim high. Mainstream comics are bloated with mediocrity, but, like Daniel LaRusso, Iron Fist was trying that much harder, and when it found its feet it kicked arse better than most. Even when it fucked up it threatened kung-fu coolness a few pages down the spine. But, God, it was fucking up far too often, particularly towards the end. It never delivered the crane kick to the face, or if it did I was too busy being distracted by all that redundant Hydra business to spot it. Which is a such a shame, because I was rooting hard for the K’un Lun massive. I even forgave Fraction his bloody awful name (which he chose) for a minute there.

*There’s a thing here about the expediency of the legacy fist stuff, and how it might have been a clever editorial ploy designed to ameliorate the problems created by the deterioration of the creative team, but that’s a route to forgiveness I feel disinclined to explore. The end result might have been better than it could have been, but it still wasn’t good, and David Aja never did catch up.

DC Universe 0
Written by Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns
Drawn by loads of people
Published by DC

Picture the scene: A sad young buck enters a comic store. It’s Free Comic Book Day, time to try this cape fetish on for size! Maybe here he’ll find the acceptance he’s always craved. Hey, what’s this? A big promotion for a book called DC Universe 0, a jumping on point for new readers signposting all kinds of exciting stuff starring Batman and Superman and other cool dudes, handcrafted (he’s informed by the guy behind the counter) by the best in the biz. Wowzers! That’s for me! thinks the now hopeful young buck, who whips the book off the rack and dives into…

…Impenetrable nonsense, made from fanboy excess and badness. It’s just about then that the pitiful young buck realises that DC hates him, that the guy behind the counter hates him, that all those people clutching their bagged comics hate him. That Superman, Batman and the Justice League all hate him. Poor lost young buck, this is, surely, his Final Crisis (see how I lol). The belt-strap noose beckons.

Yeah, yeah, hyberbole, but, Look, I love Grant Morrison when he’s on his game, and Geoff Johns is a capable writer if a little too conservative for my tastes, but this was just terrible. Admittedly I sort of enjoyed it on the first read through, but that’s only because I’m a complete bitch for the DCU and a little overexcited about GM’s forthcoming cosmic jaunt. When I reread it with more sober, critical eyes, the effect was markedly different and had me asking whether anyone in the DC office has an ounce of sense. Only hardcore, cape wearing geeks (like me) are going to get anything out of this, and we don’t need a bloody teaser, we’re in anyway. As a primer for the DCU or this Summer’s mega crossover, it’s… well, despite a wonderfully concise distillation of all that Crisis stuff, it isn’t, is it? It’s bunch of unconnected scenes thrown together seemingly at random. It doesn’t prime anything, except perhaps a hand grenade made out of crap.

In short, a week of wrongness. Good thing I bought Bone. Bone is good.

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10 Responses to “The Yellow Eye sheds a tear”

  1. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    Oh dear, it’s a kicking for Fraction this week.

    Poor, poor cappers, though. I can only nod in sad agreement about Iron Fist – once, not so many months ago, I made a rule (in my head) that the comic could only be referred to by its full title. And it had seemed to earn it. But 2-3 months of vapid explodo and plothammers will flip the script and I found that, likewise, I had no more fucks to give.

    DCU #0… the consensus is that it’s balls, and I’ve never even read (oh no, JLA: Year One, which was wank) a Barry Allen comic but I still got a bit electrified with The Excite at the end. Because, ZOMG, Barry Flash IS the much-promised sentient DCU narrating himself. (Batman teaser well-handled, too, and goodness Tony Daniel has grown into big-boy pants quick, no?) It’s really unclear who the falling figure is – my brane, naturally, I think, colluded it with the narration but it’s apparently Darkseid? It is quite menacing-looking on latter glimpse. The previews are generally arse, mind you:
    “There was Naughtiness.”

    “…And there was Niceness.”

  2. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    I bought all three Fraction books this week past, and in the interests of balance it should be noted that, while employing similar tricks to Iron Fist #7*, narration/slightly counter-captioning, Thor: Ages of Thunder is a lot less cute and therefore aggravating with it and generally, I thought, a jolly and brutish read quite unlike everything else. I don’t think I ever read a Thor comic before – maybe that one with the frog?

    *the legacy flashback one; it’s also pretty politically expedient, I think, in a post-Imperialist sense, to emphasise that the Iron Fist is mostly not a white man’s burden so it’s certainly the most forgiveable strand to me.

  3. bobsy Says:

    Problem with this book all along was: Iron Fist = 50% of one good idea. Power Man (50%) + Iron Fist = 100% of one good idea. Sad to say, and I know B’Wana has love here, but Iron Fist wasn’t made to carry a comic on his own – and neither, surprisingly, was his dad, his dad’s mate, his dad’s ex-mate, or a fat bloke in a nappy.

  4. scene Says:

    just want to say great blogging going on; glad i found the site.

  5. Qthgrq Says:

    Yeah, poor old Fraction. I so don’t hate his work, but the guys just all over the place, tonally, conceptually and plotwise. I’d love to see him reign it in a bit. As you say, Beast, less cuteness more solidity. I think I’ll head over to ye olde comic shoppe after work and pick up Thor. If I like it I’ll bung up a review, just to show we’re not haterz.

    Dunno. Bobs, unlike you I don’t think there’s anything inherently 50% about Iron Fist, and I certainly don’t think you can make a case based on this particular bout of up screwing. The biggest problem with this series is that Fraction and Brubaker pointed the way towards Iron Fist as a solo character and failed to deliver the goodness. In fact, that’s a point I really wish I’d got into my review.

  6. bobsy Says:

    Well, the evidence for my assertion is just there in the fifteen-odd books that Brubaker/Fraction, no slouches generally, have managed to wring from the concept. Iron Fist is all yin, an absence: the character at its core is completely unrelatable to the audience (a billionaire who grew up in a magic ancient China fighting dragons? what?) and he needs a grounding yang energy to work. Power Man has traditionally been that yang, and being not-really in this title they’ve had to bring in all kinds of desparate plot-pluggers to fill the gap: old grizzled warhorse IFs, tragic dads, a grudgy psycho-baddy, faux golden age legacies, spunky forties sidekicks, hot kung-fu flick-chicks – basically ANYTHING substantial and meaty to try to balance out the nothing-ness of the lead.

    In short, the writers have taken every possible opportunity to remove Danny Rand from being the focus of the book. I’m not asserting anything that the comic itself hasn’t manifested. Or failed to manifest.

    What they should have done, instead of clinging to some conservative writerly ethic that says everything has to be about character and Emotion (‘Blub! My Dad! My Dad’s Evil Friend! My Substitute Dad!’ etc.), they should have wised up and realised that in a book called Iron Fist it is acceptable to have everything be about iron, and fists, and Fighting. The pop-socky dream that this comic should have been never happened.

  7. Qthgrq Says:

    You make an interesting point: that Luke helped ground Danny and that they’ve been plugging the gap with other, more relatable, characters. That said, I don’t think Danny Rand’s been explored anything like enough to make the call. I’m pretty sure something could be done with him if only anyone could be arsed. As for taking another approach, I’d rather see a synthesis, a little bit of grounding and a lot super martial arts. I’d argue that Brufrac shot for that and failed.

  8. bobsy Says:

    You can’t explore the character, otherwise why wouldn’t they have? There’s no there there to explore.

    A good test of a good character, which we alluded to in the recent Constantine discussions: how does their voice sound? If you can hear their voice, if their tone and/or accent conjures itself into your mind’s ear with little or no prompting, it’s a good character. If not, it’s not. How does Iron Fist’s voice sound to you, this billionaire American magic ancient Chinaman? The best I can say is ‘he always sounds a bit confused.’

  9. Qthgrq Says:

    When I said explore in this context I wasn’t exactly talking about his personality. Danny Rand is pretty much a blank space as far as the modern readership goes, which should be incredibly freeing from a creative standpoint. Most of us don’t know him of old, but rather the things that bound him: his history with Luke Cage and Misty Knight, Heroes for Hire, Kung Fu, wotsits. That’s the stuff that needs mapping, his fuzzy edges, and from there hopefully a decent character could be built.

    Not a new process. Writers do it all the time.

  10. neonsnake Says:

    DCU Zero was a funny one, wasn’t it? It achieved the stated objectives of being a primer for Final Crisis in absolutely no way whatsoever for the new reader.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe that anyone in DC actually believed that it was going to bring in new readers. I don’t think that was the purpose (never mind what they told us).

    I mean…which new reader is going to jump on for a big old mega-crossover? I’ve never read Marvel in any big way, and I’m certainly not going to jump on for Secret Wars, as I assume that I need at least some knowledge of the last 400 years of continuity and history, no matter what they might tell us to the contrary.

    No, I think DC know this, and it’s aimed at getting current DC readers to buy more comics than they normally do. I think it’s mean’t to get me, a Batman reader, to read Final Crisis (and Wonder Woman and Superman and Green Lantern) and all the tie-ins. There’s far too much in there that only a DC geek will recognise – even the 3-panel Crisis summary makes no sense to someone without a pretty reasonable knowledge of the last 20-odd years of DC.

    So, knowing/believing that, was it any good?

    Yeah. It was. I can leave the Superman/Lantern/Wonder ’300′ Woman bits at the door, and concentrate on the set-up to Final Crisis…we have Libra channelling Russell ‘Gladiator’ Crowe speechifying crossed with that southern preacherfella from the last season of Buffy, we have someone (Mr. Miracle?) on fire falling through the planes of existence, and ZOMG BARRY ALLEN IS BACK!!!11!!!…and I’ve likewise never read him in anything other than COIE and JLA:Y1, and, goddamnit, I still felt my dick twitch.

    I mean, look. Ignore the bits Geoff Johns wrote (they’re easy to spot, they’re the ones where people are having limbs torn off), concentrate on the Morrison bits, and you’re laughing.

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