REVIEW: “Iron Fist #1” Reads Like a High Schooler’s Suicide Note

"Iron Fist #1" (w, a) Kaare Andrews Marvel Comics
“Iron Fist #1”
(w, a) Kaare Andrews
Marvel Comics

I did not like this comic.

I have a deeper, more detailed opinion on why, but when I finished this book, it took me several minutes just to stop thinking about how much I didn’t like it. So I’ll just put that out on the table right away.

I’ll also start by saying how disappointing this is to me. This was probably the All-New Marvel NOW! title I was most looking forward to, because Danny Rand is one of my favorite characters. He’s in my top 3, as is the run by Brubaker, Fraction, Aja, and guests (The Immortal Iron Fist #s1-16). That book was the coolest on the shelves, and the art, both exterior and interior, looked like it was going to cash in on that “cool factor” that helped reinvigorate Iron Fist.

Kaare Andrews thinks dark is cool. He wants to show you how cool he thinks dark is.

Andrews is both the writer and artist on Iron Fist (or Iron Fist: The Living Weapon; I don’t know what’s official and I don’t really care anymore). He delivered some fantastic, refreshing art on Incredible Hulk, which is where he first made his name. However, the first time I remember him taking on both writing and art was on Spider-Man: Reign, and that should have been a warning. For those who are unfamiliar, Reign was Marvel’s attempt to give Spider-Man the Dark Knight Returns treatment. Because Spider-Man is a wisecracking character full of hope and relatability who doesn’t generally fit in well with that kind of super dark story, they decided to break him by killing Mary Jane. With his radioactive spider-semen. I promise you I made up none of that.

This book shows that Reign wasn’t a fluke. Apparently, if you hand Andrews a generally fun character, he’ll take them to absurdly grim depths. Iron Fist‘s biggest downfall is that it is utterly and completely joyless. This issue is divided into two intertwining stories. The first is Danny mopily banging a reporter before ninja zombies show up, the other is flashbacks of Danny’s father dying for half a book. I’m not exaggerating, the first page is followed by 15 pages where Iron Fist literally doesn’t say a word. Instead, we have a whole lot of the angstiest inner monologue I’ve seen since I was a high schooler hanging out on MySpace.  A certain degree of angst is appropriate; Danny Rand is a caucasian American who mostly grew up in a mythical Far East city, which creates a duality where he doesn’t really fit in either place. This is way too much angst. “It’s just an exercise of forms. One cold, dead thing imitating another” doesn’t sound like Iron Fist, it sounds like Holden Caulfield in a goth phase.

Anyways, I’d love to talk more about the plot itself. It really doesn’t go any deeper than what I said. He’s talking to a reporter. She stops being a reporter really quick and becomes an embarrassingly sexist floozy. They bang, ninjas attack. The other half of the book is what seems to be the most depressing take on Iron Fist’s origin we’ve yet seen.

Meanwhile, the art is inconsistent. Some panels and even pages are pretty, bordering on beautiful. However, there’s a very poor flow to a lot of the book, particularly in the action sequences, and it becomes almost hard to follow. Other parts of the book just look straight-up muddled and messy. I found the flashbacks, with their slightly different art style, to be more consistent but generally less visually appealing. The art just couldn’t seem to win for me.

Other things to note: none of Iron Fist’s fantastic supporting cast is anywhere in sight, and apparently Danny’s father has been retroactively given a case of the super-crazies.

I’ve checked out a fair number of the All-New Marvel NOW! #1s and written reviews on a handful of them. I’ve enjoyed the other titles that I haven’t reviewed, like Moon Knight and Secret Avengers. I even enjoyed X-Force, which I’ll freely admit is average-at-best. This is the first one I’ve read that was bad and is the first comic in a few years that I’m actually returning to the shop. I don’t recognize this gloomy jerk who they’re calling Iron Fist, and the comic surrounding him was just poorly done. Avoid at all costs.

UPDATE: Since we apparently do the number thing now, I’ll give this a 1.5/10. It gets that extra .5 for a few pretty panels and because Iron Fist says “Crappity-crap” once (it’s one of his, like, four lines) and I thought that was in-character.

  • I rather enjoyed this comic, and its art. I wasn’t familiar with Kaare, but your hatred for them seems quite strong but probably warranted based on your description. However I can’t agree about this comic. I found it enjoyable, and I think it’s both in character for Rand, and reminded me of Immortal Iron Fist in theme to a degree which I found to be one of the few arcs that I truly enjoyed.

  • Thing is, I don’t want to have a hate for Andrews, and honestly I didn’t until this. I just keep expecting something different than what he delivers, so I always end up shocked at how dark things turn out.
    I’ll admit that I need to read more classic Iron Fist, and there’s a gap in my knowledge (I still don’t know where that ugly white suit came from), so maybe it’s more in character than I thought. Still, if you were to just hand me a piece of the text and ask me which character it was, I’d probably say Blade or Morbius. Or Ghost Rider, someone who fits the goth tone of the book. I will also freely admit that my impression of the art may have been badly damaged by how poorly I took to the story it was telling.