Apparently, “Immortal Iron Fist” will suspend publication for a short time while a handful of “Immortal Weapons” one-shots hit the stands. I’m not sure what will happen to this series after that — whether it will pick right up where it left off, if it will relaunch with a new first issue and maybe new members of the creative team — but this is a series that deserves a larger audience. It’s consistently good, and while the Swierczynski/Foreman run hasn’t been as surprisingly excellent Brubaker/Fraction/Aja days, it has been a comic that continues to push the boundaries of kung fu action in the Marvel Universe.
This issue continues “The Eighth City” multi-parter (which was interrupted with a nice little flashback episode last issue) in which Danny Rand and the assembled Immortal Weapons find themselves on the bad side of a dimensional gate. The fabled Eighth City is the home of demons, outcasts, and the first Iron Fist — a hero sent across the border of the strange to protect his people by closing the gateway forever.
Obviously, it wasn’t closed, since Rand and company have ventured over into the demonic realm. And, in previous installments, they’ve been imprisoned by the evil overlord Changming and now Rand find himself face-to-face with the first Iron Fist, forced to battle for the tyrant’s pleasure.
The first Iron Fist, Quan Yaozu, is now a withered old man, and he’s no match for even the beaten and demoralized Rand.
But wait, Swierczynski throws a huge curveball in the middle of his by-the-numbers-but-fun fight scene between the two Fists of Iron: the old man Rand thought was Quan Yaozu is an imposter. The real Yaozu — the real hero who sacrificed himself to save K’un L’un from the Eight City all those centuries ago — is actually the overlord. He’s the one who has adopted the mantle of Changming, evil ruler of bad baddies of doom.
Such a reversal might be a cliche in this type of story — where the ancient and noble hero is proven to have been corrupted by the forces of darkness — but Swierczynski and Foreman tell it with style. Foreman continues to hone his transitional style, developing into an artist who favors expressionism over realism and creating a sense of forceful motion from panel to panel. We even get a few pages from cartoonist Juan Doe, who provides the “true” story of Quan Yaozu in blocky panels that look like a more gothic “Samurai Jack.” It’s the best-looking work I’ve seen from Doe, and it contrasts well with Foreman’s (and inker Tom Palmer’s) thin line and big-blotches-of-black style.
By the end of “Immortal Iron Fist” #25, the Immortal Weapons are headed for freedom, rescuing all the other prisoners along the way, but the corrupt first Iron Fist has a few more tricks up his sneaky kung-fu sleeve. Once again, Swierczynski and Foreman make this comic a fun read each and every month.