For Christmas, Clare gave me The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection (Marvel 2013.
Now you can’t be around Clare for long before discovering the world of comics and the cross-overs into games, graphics, films, popular culture and indeed the commercial world that surrounds/promotes the whole genre. Or should that be genres? However, this was the first time that I had actually read a comic in many years.
For those unfamiliar with The immortal Iron Fist, one of the blurbs describes the book in this way:
Experience a new kind of Iron Fist story, steeped in legends and fables stretching back through the centuries! Orphaned as a child and raised in the lost city of K'un Lun, Danny Rand returned to America as the mystical martial artist Iron Fist - but all his kung-fu skills can't help him find his place in the modern world. After learning the legacy of the Iron Fist holds more secrets than he ever dreamed, Danny is invited to fight in a tournament against the Immortal Weapons.
I came to the book quite cold and had an initial strange, mixed, reaction. To begin with, I couldn’t quite date it. It looked like an updated version of an older series, but that didn’t quite fit with the visual clues. Some of the underlying assumptions/messages built into the sub-plots as well as the very particular art styles struck me as quite recent. Was that due to updating, or was the series itself recent? It seems a bit off both.
The series itself began in November 2006, so it is recent. However, the artists also took the opportunity to update some of the styles.
The book is visually very rich, something that made it initially hard to read. I actually had to work out how to read it. In the end, I looked at the art work first and then read the dialogue. I am a very fast natural reader, so this process forced me to slow to a crawl, creating a degree of impatience. Still, the story slowly dragged me in.
As Mick Martin noted in a review of an earlier Iron Fist book (The Whole Story - Immortal Iron Fist), the plot is fragmented, disconnected. I was drawn in to the point that in I could ignore the disconnects, but I was always conscious of them. I was also conscious of the total melange of messages/styles. Think old style comic meets kung fu meets Raiders of the Lost Ark meets a variant of Chinese mysticism meets the evils of the British Empire meets Mathew Reilly meets video game. Lost?
As a franchise, Marvel comics date back to 1939. Its history reflects the ups and downs of comics as a genre, as does that of its older (1934) rival DC Comics. Marvel is now owned by Disney, DC by Time Warner. Both seek to maximise the value of their respective franchises – their original comic book heroes with modern add-ons - across multiple platforms supported by merchandising. This is big business, very much part of the modern age. The comic is dead. Long live the comic!