This week in The Marvel Rundown it’s all Iron Fist all the time except when it’s not! The last Defender just debuted on Netflix and Marvel is following up his less-than-stellar small-screen debut with a brand new ongoing. We’re taking a look at the debut followed by an analysis of whether the The Unworthy Thor mini-series was worthy of your attention from start-to-finish.
Iron Fist #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colors: Andy Troy
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewer: A.J. Frost
Well, this is a really nice surprise. If you are like me, more of a casual observer of that’s been going on in Marvel land, you’ll no doubt have heard about the lackluster (to put it kindly) reception that the Iron Fist Netflix series has received from all corners. Me… I’ve avoided passing judgment on the whole affair because 1) the show probably isn’t my cup of tea anyway, and 2) I simply don’t know enough about the character to have a strong opinion on the depiction either way. I will let other, more talented and nuanced observers, present their views on the matter.
Yet, as an explorer of deep roster superhero comics (admittedly my weak point in the medium), I was heartened by what I read in this week’s new release of Iron Fist #1. With a solid script from Ed Brisson (Sheltered, Murder Book) and beautifully rendered art from Mike Perkins (Captain America), this relaunch issue has the seeds of blossoming into a singularly compelling story arc. While the overall story is certainly an expository issue without much in the way of character development, it does set up Danny Rand and places him with the contextual archetype of a loner in search of a purpose. And at this point, Brisson presents Danny as pure id, a creature looking to exploit his basest needs while still trying to uncover his latent aspirations in life. It’s great stuff.
What is remarkable is that Perkins further furnishes the story with excellent and detailed art. His work with faces is what is most extraordinary, capturing and conveying the subtle emotions in the characters’ expressions. But he’s also excellent at the macro, which in this case is depicting bone-crunching kicks and punches. Danny kraks and thwacks nameless goons with superb, brutal grace, made all the more tangible by Perkins’ visceral visuals.
Indeed, for long time readers of the comic who were disappointed with the television series, I think this will be your pick-me-up. I felt that everything was working in tandem—the pulpy noir-ish writing, the expressive art—to create what felt like a great reintroduction of a character that hasn’t been celebrated by the mainstream in many, many years. It’s a bit mundane regarding setting up a hero, but just because something is retread ground doesn’t automatically make it an ineffective story. There is a lot at play here. From the seedy underground fighting rings ofBulgaria to the sunny haze of Vietnam, the variation in tones helps break up the narrative, not quite into vignettes, but more like connective tissue that connects Danny’s inner-self.
In sum, if you’re looking for something to cleanse your palette of all the bad publicity that Iron Fist has been receiving, this is an excellent remedy. It is not perfect by any means, but it is fun and the start of what looks to be a great adventure. It’ll be interesting to see where his journey takes him. It is certainly an exciting ride punctuated by bouts of sharp kung-fu fisticuffs and existential wandering.
Final Verdict: Buy
The Unworthy Thor #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Olivier Coipel, Kim Jacinto and Pascal Alixe
Colors: Mat Lopes and Jay David Ramos
Letters and Production: VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewer: Alexander Jones
Everything was leading to this issue. The Unworthy Thor concluded this week and while the mini does push the life of the Odinson forward, there’s still a slew of lingering questions that fans will have after reading. This mini-series might have placed too much emphasis on some of the reveals seen in this issue which can be a little disappointing with how much writer Jason Aaron has been building up to them overtime. However, this story does exactly what it is supposed to do in that it answers more than a few burning Thor questions while raising a few new ones in the final pages of this story.
I would also love to give the writer a hand for really sticking to this status quo. Thor as a lead can feel almost a little trite with over 600 issues of material devoted to this character. This is a huge, well established Marvel Universe hero and in order to keep Marvel comics interesting big status quo shake-ups are absolutely necessary. Making Thor Unworthy to wield his hammer and moniker and keeping it that way for an extended period of time is a really bold move from Aaron that has started to produce fruit with this issue in particular. Thor almost has nothing left to lose here and I can’t wait to watch him be able to come back and take it all with a new costume. I also can’t wait to see the other lingering mystery from this issue start to payoff.
While I did appreciate lots of things about this story, some of the reveals hit on beats that have already been played out for several months. I want to see Thor (Odinson) finally start to take action and have some confidence in himself to know that he is worthy of saving the world and being a god.
I thought the art in this issue might have been a little too quirky with the different pencillers but I could hardly tell the difference from Olivier Coipel to the next few sets of artist. I felt that in these pages Pascal Alixe and Kim Jacinto were using an ultra-refined version of their style to match up with Coipel’s beautiful work but not copy him. With only five issues that didn’t seem incredibly time sensitive I would have preferred Marvel to put these issues on hold until Coipel was done drawing them, but all the work in this issue looks great and the publisher placed their best foot forward here. Even though it didn’t span the whole issue, there’s something magical about seeing Coipel back on Thor after the incredible run that he did with author John Michael Straczynski.
There are lots of great moments in this issue with strong characterization on Thori, some upcoming movie villains and The Collector. Even though I may take some issue with the headspace of the main character, nobody writes this character quite like Aaron does. However, the preliminary beat before the mysterious cliffhanger that sort of concludes this story is a little rushed. This is one of the rare scenarios where the author’s humor doesn’t quite land. This issue is slightly anticlimactic as well, lacking in any huge fight scene that could have been a nice moment for Thor’s uprising.
While this mini-series ultimately didn’t take the Odinson where I wanted him to go after over a year of patience from readers, it still delivered on the promise of a good story with some really solid artwork.
Final Verdict: Light Buy. The journey is more important than the destination in this excellent mini-series.