Sunday, December 22, 2013
Book review: Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist Volume 1
Iron Fist was my introduction to to the world of martial arts, in the sense I had never read a martial arts comic (like Master of Kung Fu) or seen a chop-socky flick (like Master of the Flying Guillotine) before I picked up my copy of Marvel Premiere #15 at Gene's Superette in Amherst, Wisconsin. Even then I could tell the story had a golden age feel, but I hadn't known about Amazing Man back then. I really enjoyed that first issue, but the problem I had was that I never got to read the rest of the origin story.
Back then, in Wisconsin, comics and magazines were distributed via this orange-yellow cube truck that hit the various grocery stores and drugstores during the week. You never knew what was going to turn up in this week's selection, and if you weren't there on a Thursday, you might never know. The next time I saw Iron Fist was in an issue of Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man (an issue that I think really should have been in the collection) and then in the first issue of his own comic, fighting Iron Man. I found that one nearly a year later at Hal's Red Owl in nearby Stevens Point. I hadn't seen hide nor hair of the Marvel Premiere title in that period. That was always the problem of being a comic book fan living in the boonies.
Anyway, this book finally allowed me to read all those missing issues. The stories hold up over the decades that have passed. The artwork is great, by such stalwarts as Gil Kane, Dick Giordano, Pat Broderick, Larry Hama, and of course, John Byrne. Byrne and Chris Claremont did their first work together in this title, just prior to their innovative run on Uncanny X-Men.
The series really shows how good comics in the seventies could be, with strong characters and concepts. The only thing I noticed is that, like a lot of the lower-tier Marvel titles, it had a virtual carousel of writers for that Marvel Premiere outing. The series luckily kept the consistency of the first few issues under Roy Thomas' watch for the entire run.
This really wasn't a series that I would've thought would get a Marvel Masterworks treatment. I kind of guess that the allure of the early Claremont/Byrne collaboration was enough to push it to the forefront. Personally, I hope they also consider giving Luke Cage, Hero for Hire/Power Man the requisite fancification; I like the two Essentials books, but sweet Christmas, Luke deserves the full-color shebang, too.
Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist Volume 1 is a good read and a nice look back at when Marvel was really beginning to fire on all cylinders. Any Marvel fan might want to give it a go.