Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Immortal Iron Fist #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2007. This scan is from the hardcover collection The Last Iron Fist Story, which was published in 2007. Enjoy!
Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s Iron Fist is a fine, fine comic, as I point out here, but we’re not considering the entire comic, are we? We’re considering the first page of issue #2, so let’s consider!
David Aja is the main artist on the book, but he didn’t draw this page, as you might perhaps suss out. Fraction and Brubaker wrote vignettes from different time periods and had different artists draw them, presumably because they knew Aja wouldn’t be able to draw 22 pages a month every month, so they wanted to give him a break. So for our flashback to 1545 and the Iron Fist of Pinghai Bay, Wu Ao-Shi, we get Travel Foreman, drawing in his more “traditional” style (after he became the regular artist in issue #17, he experimented a lot more) and not doing too much interesting with the page layout. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but he tells the story very simply, with four layered panels that don’t really lead us too much around the page – the first panel jumps out at us, 3-D, which is a nice way to begin the issue, but even the dude pointing is pointing at us, the reader, and not toward the next panel or over to the right. Foreman pulls back in Panel 2 to show the dude’s gang of thugs, who are about to get schooled by Wu, and by pulling back, Foreman easily transitions from the point of view in Panel 2 that shows the gang from the front and then swings around behind them so we can see what they’re seeing, which is the “fire off her mainsail.” The panel is nice and balanced, with Wu’s ship right in the center of the panel, the bad guy on the left, and the imposing cliffs on the right. Then Foreman pulls back even further in Panel 4 to show the Wu’s even more boxed in than we thought. Obviously, this is all a set up to show how bad-ass the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay is, as we discover on Page 2, but Foreman does a nice job laying the groundwork for her bad-assery.
Brubaker and Fraction are doing the same thing, naturally. The bad guy says they’ve run the “mongrel dog” into the bay (I guess I should give someone credit for not using “bitch” in this instance, as Marvel, I’m sure, would have grawlixed it out and made it look stupid), then that her sail is on fire, then that they’re going to teach the “cur” a lesson, then that they’re going to cut out her tongue so she can “gurgle for mercy.” Of course, the reader knows this just means that the person about whom he’s talking is going to turn the tables on him and kick some major ass, but just because it’s a tried and true method doesn’t make it bad. The writers don’t have a lot of time to make the bad guys act bad-ass before Wu takes them down, so they have to speak like they’re bad-asses. Yes, it’s telling and not showing, but again, this isn’t the main story, so they need to get to Wu kicking ass and then get back to Danny Rand, so it’s forgivable.
There are a few things I don’t like about the page – the computer-generated sky doesn’t really work, and I don’t know if Foreman or colorist Dean White is responsible for the flames, but they look a bit like ghost flames, added in post-production. Either Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, or White makes good use of blacks on this page, because it helps the fire stand out a bit more and makes Page 2, on which Wu uses flaming arrows, pop very nicely. Overall, though, the page does its job. Who doesn’t want to read about the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay? Come on!
Next: Man, this is a weird comic. I really don’t remember much about it, but I know it was weird! There are some other weird comics buried in the archives!