Iron Fist began as part of Marvel’s response to the 1970s Martial Arts Movie phenomenon spearheaded by the late Bruce Lee. Imagined as a stranger in a strange land as Danny Rand found his way to the mystical city of K’un-Lun where he became their champion, the Iron Fist. Having mastered the martial arts and then defeating the dragon Shou-Lao to gain the ability to harness his Chi into his fist, which glows and becomes an unstoppable force. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s Iron Fist stared in his own series then joined Luke Cage in Power Man & Iron Fist. Then in the ‘90s he guest stared and was featured in anthologies or brief minis before finishing the decade in Heroes for Hire, once again joining with Power Man as well as several B list heroes as they filled the gap left by the Heroes Reborn event.
As the 21st Century began Iron Fist was featured in several Brian Michael Bendis books, first in Daredevil then New Avengers. Love him or hate him there is no denying that Bendis writes street level heroes better than most and he handled Iron Fist well in both titles but he was not the focal point, more a glorified guest star or a tag along to Luke Cage as he rose to prominence in the Avengers line of comics.
Then brilliance struck. Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja launched the greatest Iron Fist comic of all time with the Immortal Iron Fist. The book was pure brilliance and did more to build the mythology of what it meant to be the Iron Fist in 16 issues then had been done in the 30 years before. They delved into the past Iron Fist’s and how they all met their end at the age of 33. Davos was reintroduced as the principal antagonist as he allied himself with Hydra. Orson Randall, the Iron Fist prior to Danny was introduced and it was through him that we learn more about the role the Iron Fist has played throughout history as well as the ramifications that the job can have on the holder of the Iron Fist. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked the book up for the first time but when I closed it I had the biggest smile on my face and could not wait for the next issue. Brubaker and Fraction are both excellent writers who knew their Iron Fist lore while Aja is a true master of the comic medium with his classic panels with realistic characters and beautiful details. The Immortal Iron Fist was a must read, became one of Marvel’s best sellers and no doubt the influence for the upcoming Netflix series as Marvel loves to mine Brubaker books for the MCU. Brubaker and Fraction expanded upon K’un-Lun, introduced other immortal cities, each with their own living weapons, and took Danny on an emotional tour de force. Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman took over the title with the Immortal Iron Fist #17 and expanded upon the Seven Immortal Cities and their living weapons but the comic lost momentum and wrapped with issue #27. I enjoyed what Swierczynski was doing and have always enjoyed Travel Foreman’s artwork but it was not the same book as the Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja run and even though I stayed with it out of love for the character I can understand why there was probably a significant drop off.
It wasn’t just Iron Fist that was returning to the racks in the 2000s as the Daughters of the Dragon also rose in popularity. Misty and Colleen coopted the name Heroes for Hire and had their own title spinning out of the first Civil War. Misty was present in the short lived but excellent Fearless Defenders series. But my favorite iteration of this era of Misty and Colleen is from 2006’s Daughters of the Dragon written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Khari Evans. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I read this book but it was just a very enjoyable read. It was fun, lighthearted, sexy, and all around entertaining. The book follows Misty and Colleen as they are hired to protect some D list villains who steal from the wrong person. The series was fun, plain and simple. It showed the level of skill both Misty and Colleen possessed and how close their friendship was. It also had great action sequences, loads of Marvel history, and was just a solid read.
After the end of the Immortal Iron Fist Danny appeared in New Avengers, played an important role in the underwhelming Avengers vs. X-Men as the Avengers took refuge in K’un-Lun and Danny trained the X-Man Hope to deal with the coming Phoenix Force so she would be able to defeat the Phoenix Five. Then Danny bounced around the Avengers books and showed up in the Daredevil: Shadowland crossover after being paired with a New Power Man. But Iron Fist would again receive a solo book in 2014 with the release of Iron Fist: the Living Weapon by Kaare Andrews and it was a hell of a ride. Andrews’s art, to me, looks like a mixture of the Dark Knight Returns era Frank Miller and hyper kinetic Kung Fu Manga with rich and vibrant colors. The story was a tale of revenge as Davos schemes to gain the mantle of the Iron Fist and severely injures Danny. Danny has a nice training montage in the middle of the 12 issue series and then returns with vengeance. It’s a high-flying action story with some wonderful artwork and a complete departure from the Immortal Iron Fist but still true to the Iron Fist mythos.
After the end of Iron Fist: the Living Weapon Danny reappeared in the all-new Power-Man & Iron Fist by David F. Walker and Sanford Greene. It has been an awesome run so far as the classic feel of the old book is present with a modern take. Walker has a real understanding of Danny as a character. When the book begins Danny seems to be a fun loving martial artist with a light take on everything but as the story unfolds you begin to understand that is just a façade and Danny is very much at a low point and really needs his friend and partner more then ever. Power Man & Iron Fist has also been a street level story as it deals with the battle over the control of Harlem and revives many of the Power Man & Iron Fist cast of characters as well as many urban villains from the ‘70s and ‘80s era of Marvel.
The future is bright for Iron Fist. Not only are we getting a new Iron Fist series from Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins we also have the Netflix series premiering on Friday. It has stiff competition with the previous Netflix series as all have been fantastic, with Luke Cage being my personal favorite and I personally am excited to see Luke and Danny on the screen together and the epic bromance to begin. All in all it is a good time to be an Iron Fist fan and I’m hoping the good times keep rolling.