On March 17, Iron Fist joined the ranks of the other Marvel Comics characters to get his own Netflix TV series. This is clearly the biggest event in the character’s 43-year history, but that is not to say that the hero hasn’t had some significant highlights in the past. He’s had some of the world’s greatest comic book creators involved in his comic book stories for decades now, from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to Chris Claremont and John Byrne to Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja.
RELATED: Iron Fist: 15 Things You Must Know
At the same time, though, he has also mostly worked with other characters for most of his comic book career. Therefore, spotlighting the greatest stories specifically about Iron Fist is a bit trickier than you might think. Still, there are plenty of them to put together a list for you to check out if you liked the TV series and wanted to see what comics are the greatest “Iron Fist” comic book stories of all-time.
15. THE DARKENING
The final storyline in the original “Power Man and Iron Fist” series, which ran from issues #118-125, opened up strongly. Writer Christopher Priest (then going by Jim Owsley) and artists M.D. Bright and Jerry Acerno conjured up a new darkened costume for Iron Fist as he dealt with issues of guilt after getting his powers back. His “aura” was all out of whack, though, and his friends had to help him get through it.
The problem was that they were also dealing with a dying young boy who could conjure up a superpowered being known as Captain Hero with his mind. Power Man and Iron Fist help him get through is final days, but in a tragic twist, just as Iron Fist seemed to have come to a new inner peace, the boy created Captain Hero and in a dying rage, beat Iron Fist to death. Captain Hero vanished and the only super-strong suspect that the authorities could look to was Fist’s own partner. Power Man had to go on the run again, wanted for his best friend’s murder (this was all resolved years later in, of all places, “Namor the Sub-Mariner”)!
14. SOUL GAMES
In the issues leading up to “Power Man and Iron Fist” #100, our heroes suffered a series of setbacks. It all appeared random until they realized that there was a single man behind it, the villainous businessman, Ward Meachum, who blamed Iron Fist for the death of his brother, Harold (Harold was responsible for the death of Iron Fist’s father, but Iron Fist did not actually kill him. Some ninjas did and framed Iron Fist for the killing). However, Meachum was secretly working for an even bigger bad guy, the magical villain Master Khan.
In “Power Man and Iron Fist” #100 (by Kurt Busiek, Ernie Chan and Mike Mignola), with Iron Fist’s friends kidnapped and his business in disarray, Master Khan struck at his very soul, stealing it with a magical gem. As you might imagine, Iron Fist without his soul to power his magical Iron Fist was a good deal weaker, but he forced himself to power on to save his kidnapped friends. In the end, Iron Fist’s best friend, Power Man, forced Master Khan to split his magical blasts between he and Iron Fist, weakening him enough for Iron Fist to defeat Khan and get his soul back!
13. THE RETURN OF IRON FIST
In “Namor the Sub-Mariner” #15 (by John Byrne and Bob Wiacek), Namor is shocked to discover a still living Iron Fist! This began an epic 11-issue event, culminating in “Namor the Sub-Mariner” #25 (Byrne’s last issue as artist on the series), which saw Iron Fist’s murder explained away. The Iron Fist who Namor meets in #15 turned out to be the Super-Skrull in disguise. Namor uncovered an elaborate plan by Master Khan where he teamed up with the Skrulls and a group of plant people to work out a conspiracy where Iron Fist would be seemingly killed and Power Man would be framed for his murder.
The storyline explained that Captain Hero and the dying boy were all machinations of Master Khan’s. However, Namor and his friends were able to rescue the real Iron Fist. When the storyline ended with Master Khan wiping Namor’s memory and sending him off to the world with amnesia again, Iron Fist ultimately returned the favor and brought Namor back (by this point, Jae Lee was drawing the book).
12. THE MORTAL IRON FIST
Duane Swierczynski had quite a difficult road ahead of him when he took over writing “Immortal Iron Fist” with issue #17, following the epic Matt Fraction/Ed Brubaker run on the series. However, working with artist Travel Foreman (who had similar gigantic shoes to fill with David Aja now off of the series), he managed to come up with a striking approach to the book.
Working off of the idea that all Iron Fists die at the age of 33 (which is Danny Rand’s age now), we learn of a mystical being who hunts down and kills off Iron Fists when they reach that age. The key thing about this storyline is that Swierczynski highlights the very mortality discussed in the title. He really gets across the idea that no matter how cool Iron Fist is, he is still just a man, a man who needs to get by with the help of his friends sometimes.
11. THE RETURN OF K’UN-L’UN
One of the all-time greatest Jim Starlin Warlock/Thanos stories took place in the annuals of “Avengers” and “Marvel Two-In-One,” which was a Thing team-up series. We mention this only to note that sometimes, if you want to get your story to happen, you have to give in to market pressures and find out a commercial way of doing your story. This is what Jay Faerber and Jamal Igle did with their excellent “Return of K’un-L’un” storyline, which they had to make into an “Iron Fist/Wolverine” miniseries in order to tell.
In their short-lived “New Warriors” series, Faerber and Igle had introduced Junzo Muto (nephew of old Iron Fist frenemy, Yu-Ti), who had taken the power of the Iron Fist away from Danny Rand. They continued the story in “Iron Fist/Wolverine,” as Muto was now set to bring K’un-L’un into this dimension, where it would displace Tokyo in the process! Iron Fist, Wolverine and a bunch of other heroes fought against this and, as it turned out, the only way to stop it all was for Yu-Ti (who did not want this to happen) to kill Danny. That worked and the city was sent away, but then the magic of K’un-L’un resurrected Danny.
10. RETURN TO K’UN-L’UN
As soon as readers learned about the magical city of K’un-L’un, where Iron Fist received his powers, people would write in asking for new adventures set in that city. Marvel resisted for a number of years, but finally gave the fans what they were asking for in the double-sized “Power Man and Iron Fist” #75 (by Jo Duffy, Kerry Gammill and Ricardo Villamonte), where Power Man and Iron Fist ended up following Master Khan through a dimensional portal and ending up at K’un-L’un.
There, Iron Fist managed to get revenge upon the ninja that had framed him for Harold Meachum’s death years earlier, but generally, the story was a bit of a case of “you can’t go home again,” as Danny discovers that the laws of K’un-L’un are not always the most practical (something his best friend, Power Man, realized a lot sooner than Iron Fist), especially when they sort of throw in with Master Khan against Iron Fist. In the end, though, things work out for the most part.
There’s an excellent two-parter a few issues before this one where Iron Fist goes to the Avengers for help and inadvertently gets Captain America to think that he just attacked Jarvis, leading to an awesome Iron Fist/Captain America fight (especially noteworthy in it being one of the first times John Byrne got to draw Captain America), but we think we’ll go with the fight a couple of issues later for this list. In “Iron Fist” #14 (by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Dan Green), Danny Rand’s friends run afoul of the brutal terrorist/assassin known as Sabretooth.
Iron Fist must rescue his friends, who are trapped in a snowy mountainside, and he ends up having to have an epic battle with the newly-introduced villain, while blinded by the glare of the snow! Sabretooth is tearing him apart, but Danny is able to tap into his chi and he is able to defeat Sabretooth without even seeing him! It’s an excellent fight scene and it is a historic issue with the introduction of one of Marvel’s most notable villains.
There had already been other comics merged together before “Power Man and Iron Fist,” like when that happened with Atom and Hawkman at DC Comics in the 1960s, but even so, it is still remarkable that Marvel pulled it off so well with Power Man and Iron Fist. Iron Fist’s series had ended with an excellent storyline in the pages of another book Chris Claremont and John Byrne worked on, “Marvel Team-Up,” and now the creators took over “Power Man,” and brought Iron Fist and his supporting cast into “Power Man” for a storyline that resulted in Luke Cage being declared a free man.
In “Power Man” #50 (not yet officially titled “Power Man and Iron Fist”), Luke celebrates his freedom with his new friends when they are suddenly attacked by two of Power Man’s old enemies, Stiletto and Discus. After defeating the villains, Power Man and Iron Fist decide to give being a team a shot and so comic book history was made (Byrne, though, left the title after this issue and Claremont soon followed – it’d be fascinating to see what would have been had they stayed on the book).
7. NIGHT OF THE DRAGON
“Marvel Team-Up” #63-64 featured two of the trickiest comic book writing feats. The first was something that happened more at Marvel than DC, which was when a writer would wrap up plots from one series in another, totally unrelated series. That, as you might imagine, was often a hard feat to pull off. Secondly, writing multi-issue stories in a team-up book were always a pain, because you had to have a different person teaming up with the hero in each issue. Luckily, Chris Claremont nailed both feats in this classic two-parter (with art by John Byrne and Dave Hunt).
Claremont and Byrne had ended their run on “Iron Fist” with having Iron Fist repeatedly attacked by a mysterious assailant. In this two-parter, we discover that it is the Steel Serpent, Iron Fist’s old friend Davos from back at K’un-L’un, who was driven mad with jealousy and sought out to steal Iron Fist’s power. In the end, he succeeded, but it was too much for him and Iron Fist had to re-absorb it, proving who was the better man. This wrapped up the “Iron Fist” series and then Claremont and Byrne brought Iron Fist, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing to “Power Man.”
6. THE SEARCH FOR COLLEEN WING
One of the first allies that Iron Fist encountered when he returned to the United States was Colleen Wing. At the end of the “Iron Fist” feature in “Marvel Premiere,” Colleen Wing wad kidnapped. Thus, the “Iron Fist” ongoing series was launched with Iron Fist trying to find his friend. Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Frank Chiaramonte had Iron Fist come across a few different bad guys along the way, most notably Angar the Screamer.
He also fought and then befriended Iron Man and Colleen’s partner, Misty Knight. Misty, in particular, became a key part of Iron Fist’s search for Colleen. When he found her, though, he discovered that she had been brainwashed to attack him. Luckily, Colleen was strong enough to break free and she and Iron Fist both took on Yu-Ti, who had been behind it all in his attempt to get Iron Fist out of the way in case he threatened Yu-Ti’s claim to leadership of K’un-L’un (Yu-Ti and Iron Fist have a complicated relationship).
5. THE BOYS ARE BACK
Ever since Iron Fist returned and Luke Cage was cleared of his murder, the two went right back to being close friends. They were on a larger Heroes for Hire team together and then, more importantly, they served together on a couple of different incarnations of the Avengers. Even before that, though, they were such good friends that Luke Cage named his daughter Danielle, in honor of his best friend. However, up until recently, the actual Power Man and Iron Fist “team” had not gotten back together.
That changed in the excellent “Power Man and Iron Fist” storyline, “The Boys are Back,” where David Walker and Sanford Greene had the guys run afoul of their old secretary, Jennie Royce, from their Heroes for Hire days. She had been to prison and had befriended Black Mariah, an old enemy of Luke’s. They worked out a deal in which Jennie would get the guys to steal a magical amulet for them, but then it turned Jennie into a demon. The guys stopped her and Luke had to give in and agree that they were a team again.
4. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DANNY
Matt Fraction capped off his run on “Immortal Iron Fist” with this beautiful one-shot in “Immortal Iron Fist” #16 (drawn by David Aja), where Danny takes stock of his life in the wake of all the crazy stuff that happened in the first year and plus of the series. Now that he has a breather, Danny re-evaluates his life and the place that all the people in his life have in it. He has fun with the kids he teaches martial arts to. He works on the mystery of the Eighth City with the other Immortal Weapons. He has a long talk with Jeryn Hogarth and they part ways as friends. He opens up a new Heroes for Hire office for him and Luke Cage to work in. He re-commits himself to Misty Knight.
3. THE FURY OF IRON FIST
In the world of superhero comics, origins are a fleeting thing. We’ve done multiple lists about how comic book origins get changed, whether it was the most drastic origin retcons or just the characters with the most origin retcons. Therefore, when you come across a superhero’s origin that has remained mostly unchanged for over 40 years, that’s an impressive statement about that origin. This is s just the case with Iron Fist’s origin story.
Roy Thomas, Gil Kane and Dick Giordano combined to debut Iron Fist in the Marvel anthology series, “Marvel Premiere,” in issue #15. We learned about how Danny Rand was a young boy who was on an expedition with his parents when his father’s business partner betrayed them, killing his father. He and his mother escaped, but she died helping him get away. He then ended up at a magical city that only appeared on Earth every decade. Trained to be a master of martial arts, Danny Rand gained the magical power of the Iron Fist and then returned home to avenge his parents. That’s a really tight origin story.
2. THE LAST IRON FIRST STORY
“The Immortal Iron Fist” ongoing series by Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja was one of those series that brilliantly built on the established stories of a character while opening things up for many more new stories. The way they did it was to introduce the concept of the Book of the Iron Fist in “Immortal Iron Fist” #1-6, a ledger containing all of the secrets of the Iron Fists of the past. This was given to Danny by a fascinating new character, Orson Randall, the only Iron Fist ever to walk away from the job after being unable to deal with the stress of World War I.
Randall and the Book are being hunted down by Steel Serpent and Hydra, who are working together and have increased Steel Serpent’s power set accordingly. Danny and Orson must team up to stay alive and also prepare Danny for what is coming next, a secret that will blow up what Danny thought he knew about K’un-L’un.
1. THE SEVEN CAPITAL CITIES OF HEAVEN
The big secret Danny discovered in the previous storyline was that K’un-L’un was only one of seven magical cities. Each of the cities had their own version of Iron Fist. Together they are dubbed the Immortal Weapons. They take part in a special tournament to determine which city will appear on Earth next. Guest artists helped fill in during the tournament and they all did a wonderful job (but it is hard to beat David Aja when it comes to drawing martial artistry).
Ultimately, though, Yu-Ti and the leaders of the other cities were involved in some corruption (like we said, Iron Fist and Yu-Ti have a weird relationship) and the Immortal Weapons must put aside their differences to stop the bad guys and save K’un-L’un from being destroyed by an evil Hydra plot. Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker introduced a ton of fascinating new characters in this story arc, while never sacrificing action or character work. It’s a stunning comic book achievement (heck, their whole run stands out as an epic accomplishment).
What is your favorite Iron Fist story? Let us know in the comments section!