Monday, January 14, 2008
The Internet is Right Again: The Immortal Iron Fist really is really good
Man, I am terrible at this “wait for the trade” business—I honestly don’t know how people do it.
I enjoy the monthly soap opera of super-comics, and the unique way universe comics like those of Marvel and DC relate to one another, and the ritualistic aspects of going to the shop and reading new comics every Wednesday way too much to ever drop all monthlies in favor of trades. Despite the fact that I realize trades are often cheaper, don’t contain ads and usually make for a more enjoyable reading experience.
The only ongoing super-books I have been successfully able to resist in monthly installments, opting to “wait for the trade” on have been those I started reading in trade (Daredevil, Captain America, Manhunter) or those that are so obviously paced for a trade that there’s little point in reading them monthly (Astonishing X-Men, most of Garth Ennis’ work, just about all of Warren Ellis’) or are so rock-steady in quality that I know ahead of time I’ll want the trade (Angry Youth Comix, Conan, The Punisher, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy stuff).
Marvel makes it particularly hard because they release their collection in a succession of formats, so even when I decide to wait for a trade collection, there’s an intermediary temptation when they release the more-expensive hardcover collection, and I often succumb to that, rather than waiting a few more months for the cheaper trade (Beyond! and Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. got me this way).
I’ve tried waiting for the trade on a couple other more recent series—The Immortal Iron Fist and X-Men First Class—and damn, it’s hard to resist picking up new issues.
Especially when all you read about the title online is a bunch of gushing from fans and critics who simply cannot shut up about how totally awesome the comics are.
Like The Immortal Iron Fist. Does anyone who read this book just kind of think it’s okay? I’ve never heard a single “meh” or seen a single shrug about it; it’s always a bunch of exclamation points. Even those relatively far afield from the core audience of people who enjoy seeing Danny Rand kick dudes in the face really seem to dig it.
Well, in an act of iron will that I’m completely shocked I was able to accomplish, I managed to hold off on Immortal Iron Fist after reading the first few, ad-crammed issues until the trade paperback came out.
And I just wanted to say, yeah Internet, you’re right again. This is a really good comic book.
The legacy aspects, the phenomenal guest artists who illustrate the flashbacks (including John Severin and Russ Heath in this volume), the acknowledgement of the Marvel Universe and character history without enslaving the book to it, the practically imperceptible drift from straight street-level heroics into martial arts fantasy, the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil meets Akira Toriyama Dragonball aesthetic—this is pretty much an ideal Marvel monthly.
As much as I loved the art on this book (and that’s why I originally dropped the monthly; all those ads featuring the Green Goblin riding brand new cars and Spider-Man bedding really broke the flow of Aja’s obviously carefully constructed layouts), I find myself idly wondering what it would be like if rather than the grittier, photorealistic style it were told in something more abstracted, cartoonier and Eastern looking. Say, if instead of Aja it was drawn by Kaare Andrews, and instead of their standard trade format, Marvel was putting this into digest-sized trades.
Would that ruin Brubaker and Fraction’s story? Would it fly off shelves and into kids’ hearts? As a reader, I don’t think that would necessarily make for a better comic (I do love Andrews’ work, though), but as someone who wonders a lot about the comic book industry, I’m curious about how this might sell as a Western manga. Mainly because it seems clear form this first arc that the book is moving into what I understand is a story arc that is as much fight manga as it American superhero (if not more so).
And as a final aside, I think this book is pretty much a perfect argument for why Marvel and DC should be a lot less cavalier when it comes to killing off their characters. Ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago, who would have thought a freaking Iron Fist ongoing series would a) exist, b) be any good at all, and c) be relatively popular and critically acclaimed?
It took the stars aligning just right—the right creators with a particular vision and the cachet to convince the publisher to greenlight a rather unlikely project, the availability of the character from other writers or editors trying to do something particular with him—for this book to come about.
And if it were Danny Rand who caught a chest full of Clor lightning in Civil War, we wouldn’t have an Iron Fist series right now. It makes me wonder if the future Fractions and Brubakers with these really neat ideas for a new series starring Goliath or Elongated Man or The Question will miss a future star aligning because the character got killed off to make a Civil War “matter” more or because Judd Winick needed to do something to see that first issue.
Now I wonder how I’ll be able to keep resisting the urge to pick up the monthly issues, now that I’ve read the first story arc and no first-hand just how good the series is…