Immortal Iron Fist Trade Post: Volumes 1 & 2

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 1: THE LAST IRON FIST STORY (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction, drawn by David Aja, Travel Foreman, Russ Heath, John Severin & Sal Buscema
Collects Immortal Iron Fist #1-6, excerpt from Civil War: Choosing Sides
After re-reading all the post-Rebirth Green Lantern comics in Books Of Oa and all ten volumes of Ex Machina, I wanted to re-read another recent favorite but one that wasn’t quite so involved. I’ve had the first three Immortal Iron Fist books sitting around for a while now and figured it would make a great candidate. Even though the comic suffered from timeliness issues if memory serves, they came out with a few one-shots here and there to fill the gabs and really broaden the idea that Danny Rand is but one of 66 Iron Fists from throughout history. As it turns out, Danny’s predecessor, dubbed the Golden Age Iron Fist Orson Randall who also had a Doc Savage kind of a thing going on for a while, is still alive.

As this first volume progresses we not only learn more about Randall and some of the other previous Iron Fists, the present story involves Danny and Orson teaming up to fight the newly powered Davos (his old enemy called the Steel Serpent) along with an army of Hydra agents. The seeds are also laid for the next arc including an evil businessman blackmailing the guy that run’s Danny’s company Jeryn into arranging for some trains to be built. Fraction and Brubaker also mention six other celestial cities like K’un L’un where he became Iron Fist which have their own immortal weapons all of whom fight in a tournament.

I’m a sucker for superheroes with a legacy, so the idea that a character who, as far as I knew, was the first of his kind, had this long ranging history with all kinds of story potential was right in my wheelhouse. Thankfully, the book also proved to be pretty damn good. Sure, there’s action elements that don’t always work because of the constraints of the form. I’ve recently realized that action, especially fisticuffs are really difficult to convey in comics. Sometimes it’s the art, sometimes it’s the eye not catching all the things it’s supposed to. One thing that artist Aja does to help get rid of some of that confusion is putting red circles around impact points. It might seem a little obvious, but the redness zooms the attention from one crack to another, just like in a great action flick. Aja’s my favorite of the many artists in the book. Some fit really well with whatever story they were tasked with while others leave me wanting more. All in all, this volume not only adds a depth to an existing character (I knew nothing about Iron Fist when I started reading this book, so don’t worry about not knowing what’s going on) and tells a great action story where two kung fu masters fight an army of goons and a few legit fighters, but also gives you plenty to look at and even includes some behind the scenes sketch material from Aja. Best of all, though, is that the collection does it’s job in making me want to move right on to the next volume. Oh, my only complaint is that Heroes For Hire Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing come off a little too 70s blaxploitation for my tastes, but that’s all I got.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 2: THE SEVEN CAPITAL CITIES OF HEAVEN (Marvel)
Written by Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker, drawn by David Aja, Roy Allan Martinez, Scott Koblish, Kano, Javier Pulido, Tonci Zonjic, Howard Chaykin, Dan Brereton & Jelena Kevic Djurdevic
Collects Immortal Iron Fist #8-14 & Annual #1
While the first volume of IIF was a lot like a 70s kung fu movie with some pulp elements thrown in and a butt-ton of (for lack of a better word) ninjas throwing down, the second one focused more on the fantasy elements of the character, his fellow immortal weapons and his former home K’un-L’un. As it happens, every so many years all seven Capital Cities of Heaven come together and have a tournament where each of the seven immortal weapons (Iron Fist, Steel Phoenix, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, Dog Brother #1, Fat Cobra, Prince Of Orphans and Bride Of 9 Spiders) all fight each other using rad sounding moves like The Black Milk Of Hell and Burning Chi Thunderfoot, but the larger story revolves around Danny trying to find out more about Orson Randall’s life and teaming up with his former trainer The Thunderer to plan a revolution in K’un-L’un.

Brubaker and Fraction really know how to pack a lot into a comic because, in addition to the elements I mentioned already, this volume also has repeated flashbacks to Danny’s father training to become Iron Fist (SPOILER, he fails) and his relationship with Davos which turns a little quicker from friend to enemy than seems realistic, but that’s more of a nitpick. Danny also escapes to Earth to meet with some of Orson’s friends and learn more about his history AND the guy with the trains from the last volume is causing more trouble, this time trying to shoot a train full of explosives at K’un-L’un in an attempt to destroy ALL the cities. Oh and a more toned down Heroes For Hire are there too, trying to help. Seriously, the issues are just packed with goodness.

I don’t want to get into too much spoiler territory here because I want everyone to go into these books fresh, but I found it really interesting how the tournament ended and then even more so how the volume ended. I also read the third volume but since this review is running a bit long, I’ll save that for another day and a pretty good amount of the issues after that, but not the Immortal Weapons series. I know the creative team changed, so I’m curious to see how the excellent set-up played out. Speaking of which, what’s the deal with Iron Fist right now? Where’s he at?

BOOM! Trade Post: Die Hard Year One & Irredeemable Vol. 1

DIE HARD YEAR ONE (BOOM Studios)
Written by Howard Chaykin, drawn by Stephen Thompson
Collects Die Hard Year One #1-4
I think it’s fair to be skeptical of any and all comic book continuations of beloved movies or TV shows. Sure there’s some good ones here and there like Buffy Season 8, but many of them turn out to feel either like boring retreads of familiar material or sequels that pale in comparison to even the worst ones on film. After watching the first four Die Hard flicks in relative quickness over the past few months (I’m kind of surprised I didn’t blog about them actually) I figured checking out this prequel in comic book form might be worth the risk. I hadn’t heard anything one way or the other about the book, but I know that Howard Chaykin can turn out a pretty good yarn. So with that, plus a healthy dose of skepticism, in mind, I jumped into Die Hard Year One. And you know what? I’d put this in the Buffy list of continuations (calling them adaptations doesn’t seem accurate).

The story is set in New York City in 1976, it’s the bicentennial and the hot, dirty, corrupt city is filled with tourists. It’s also got some corrupt cops, a woman witnessing a murder and a plot to make some money dressed up as a bit of eco terrorism. Oh, it’s also got a young John McClain, who’s back from Vietnam, but now a rookie on the NYPD. In what would turn out to be the first of many similar events, McClain finds himself swept up in something much larger than he expected and has to rely on his wits and toughness to ensure the safety of innocents.

What I like most about this book is that it actually feels more like a movie from the 70s than a Die Hard movie crammed into a 70s setting. I was worried they’d try and shoehorn all these elements from the first movie into this prequel and thankfully they didn’t. There wasn’t even a “yippee ki yay,” but there were cowboy references which I thought was a really nice and subtle touch that I didn’t make the connection right away. Though it has the feel of a gritty, dirty NYC movie from the 70s, Chaykin still utilizes the comic book form by offering up narration along with showing us what McClain’s thinking here and there.

I really don’t have any complaints when it comes to this book. The story flew by at a great pace and feels like it works equally well as a comic and a Die Hard story. Stephen Thompson’s art looks great and conveys the grittiness I can’t seem to stop mentioning, though I wouldn’t say the Bruce Willis likeness is really on the page. There’s bits here and there where the eyes look exactly right, but I wouldn’t say it’s like looking at Willis circa 76. Overall, I’m okay with that and think it might have been distracting if he did really look like Willis in every panel. Either way, the art is consistent which makes the story move along well.

I went in very skeptical, but now that I’m done with Die Hard Year One I can suggest it for Die Hard fans along with people like me with a penchant for 70s flicks like Dirty Harry, Death Wish and the like.

IRREDEEMABLE VOLUME 1 (BOOM Studios)
Written by Mark Waid, drawn by Peter Krause
Collects Irredeemable #1-4
I just realized I was apprehensive about reading Irredeemable too, but for different reasons. With this book, I wasn’t really interested in reading another book about a Superman-type character gone bad because I feel like I’ve been there and done that enough times to not have to go back to that particular well. But this is Mark Waid we’re talking about here, one of the most solid comic book writers around. With the exception of his more recent Flash stuff, I can’t think of a book this guy’s written that I haven’t enjoyed. Hell, he wrote Kingdom Come, one of the most influential comic books I ever read. I love that book. So, I decided to discard my misgivings and jump right in. Once again, I was happy with the results.

And yes, the story is about a Superman-eque character, called the Plutonian going bad. Well, not really going bad, he’s already bad by the time our story picks up. Going in, I thought the book would show his decline into madness or what have you, but instead Waid flips the script a bit and makes these first four issues all about other heroes trying to figure out the Plutonians history and weaknesses to varying degrees of success. We’ve got a dandy-ish potentially intergalactic being called Qubit who has a history with the Plutonian and also seems to be leading the charge against him by sending the surviving heroes out to find the hero-turned-villain’s former girlfriend and other people he cared about to try and figure out a weakness to the ridiculously powerful character.

I really like how Waid mixes various elements with this comic. There’s the obvious superhero conventions, but more interestingly the idea of a group of heroes working under the radar and risking their lives, plus the added mysteries with people trying to figure out who the Plutonian is and what might kill him. I’m also a big fan of the fact that the story doesn’t start at the very beginning with the hero going bad, but well into his reign of craziness. Everything isn’t presented on a platter right away which adds to the mystery. I like that. In that way, the book feels kind of like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, another comic book universe I’ve had a lot of fun with, especially as the creator plays off of well known comic-book tropes but also does some novel things with them.

I look forward to reading more Irredeemable books and seeing where Waid takes the character, whether the resistance can put a dent in the Plutonian’s seeming invulnerability and finding out the answers to some of the questions I have like why the Plutonian didn’t kill Qubit when he had the chance too. Is he just messing with him? Is there something more sinister going on? I can’t wait to find out which is good because there’s four more trades for me to get and read through.

Roseanne Comics Cavalcade: Cyberella

This is another pic I snapped while watching the Roseanne series finale. Roseanne’s talking to DJ down in the basement room which is now his. Over Roseanne’s right shoulder you can see the handle of a lightsaber. There was a plot in one of the last two seasons where DJ and his girlfriend kept trying to see the Star Wars re-releases and failing. But, more importantly (at least as far as the title of this post goes), you can see a Cyberella poster over Roseanne’s other shoulder. Cyberella was a comic by Howard Chaykin and Don Cameron that came out from the short-lived Helix imprint from DC. It was intended as a more sci-fi oriented subdivision and is post famous for spawning Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. For a full rundown of Helix titles, check out the Wiki page. Anyway, I never read Cyberella, but I liked the image. Anyway, the poster is just a bigger image of the cover to #1. Anyone read it?

Making a (Thrill)Killing

2008-07-11
7:36:26 pm

So, every few months I have a few beers and start clearing off my trade shelf to make room for new stuff. But I don’t just automatically get rid of things. Sure there’s a pile of books I’m going to throw up on Swap or see if any of my buddies need, but I also make another stack of books that I want to re-read to see if they deserve that place on my shelf. Batman: Thrillkiller was one of the books on the chopping block. What did I think? Read on…

Batman: Thrillkiller (1997)

Written by Howard Chaykin

Art by Dan Brereton

I’ll put it this way, Thrillkiller is heading back to my shelf.

Here’s the deal, Thrillkiller is an Elseworlds book, which was a stamp that DC put on out of continuity books that took familiar concepts and put a different spin on them. This one obviously focuses on Batman, but it doesn’t start with Batman, instead, we get a load of Batgirl and Robin in the early ’60s. Batgirl is still the daughter of James Gordon and Robin is still acrobat Dick Grayson (though his real family name is different), but instead of Bruce Wayne living in Wayne Manor, Barbara lives there and has created her own batcave below. I’m not really sure where she got her money, but I assume it’s from her mother who got murdered. Little Barbara found her with a bat-shaped blood pool around her (hence Batgirl). Also, Chaykin calls her a madcap heiress way too many times.

Batgirl and Robin walk the mean streets of Gotham standing up for the little guy, but not against your average supervillains. They’re butting heads with the corrupt cops of Gotham. But not all the cops are bad guys, take Bruce Wayne for instance. His parents lost their fortune in the depression and went on to get murdered by their servants. He’s been tasked by Jim Gordon (another good cop) to both stop the corruption and bring Batgirl and Robin to justice.

I actually don’t want to get too into the story in case you want to check it out and see for yourself, which I highly recommend. I will say one thing about the trade, though, that confused me. I thought the book was made up of a four-issue series when it’s actually a three-issue series and a one-shot put out later. Which explains why the last chapter of the book seems separate but equal to the previous ones.

Okay, here’s what I like about the book. First up, the art. Dan Brereton has an somewhat exaggerated yet super-sexy style that really appeals to me. Back in my younger con-going days (1999 to be exact) I met Dan at either the Mid Ohio Con in Columbus or the convention in Novi, MI. He drew me this rad Harley Quinn sketch for free and also gave me the great suggestion of getting two sketchbooks in order to maximize your sketch-getting potential.

So, yeah there’s a little nastalgia for the first creator that ever talked to me like a real person and did something cool for me, but I also really like Dan’s style. You should check out Nocturnals sometime.

Anyway, I’m also a big fan of this time period. As Chaykin says in the first issue, this is a pre-JFK assassination ’60s. Things are going crazy, the cops are corrupt, but the country still has the spirit that seemed get squeezed out when JFK got killed. Chaykin really captures the mood of the times and even uses what seems like language of fiction from the time in his narration.

But what I really like about this Elseworlds tale is that the relationships aren’t just assumed. In a lot of Superman EW tales, Superman always falls in love with Lois. In this case, Bruce Wayne isn’t rich, he doesn’t even start off as Batman. And even though Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson are together, it’s a whole different dynamic than what you’re used to in the comics. Also, the villains were changed, some more drastically than others. Joker is a woman, there’s a dirty cop called Duell that looks like Two-Face, but then there’s also Harvey Dent the DA. You’ve even got Black Canary and Roy Harper showing up in the one-shot. Oh and Catwoman is a stripper. But even though the characters’ circumstances are different, you still feel like you know Bruce Wayne because he’s a tough guy who’s out for justice and doesn’t mind busting a few skulls to get it.