In the a recent arc of "The Immortal Iron Fist" ominously titled "The Mortal Iron Fist," title character Danny Rand defeated Zhou Cheng, a mystical assassin believed to be responsible for the murders of 64 of his Iron Fist 65 predecessors, each one a guardian of the inter-dimensional city known as K'un-Lun. In besting such a formidable opponent, it's possible that Danny might be feeling a little immortal himself. But in the new story arc, "Escape from the Eighth City," which begins this week in Marvel's "Iron Fist" #22, writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Travel Foreman will remind their hero of just how vulnerable he really is.
CBR News spoke with Swierczynski about the arc, his plans for the series, and some of the fallout from the "Mortal Iron Fist" arc.
To defeat Zhou Cheng, Rand had to tap into an emotion he doesn't let out very often: rage. It proved to be a very cleansing experience for the hero. "I don't think he's felt this way in quite awhile. He's reached back into the past to see where the previous Iron Fists came from, but he hasn't really paused much to see where he came from," Swierczynski told CBR News. "Confronting Zhou Cheng made him go back to that moment in the mountains before he was thrown into this crazy world of the Iron Fist. For him, it was a matter of reaching down for that last bit of strength, and it turned out that last big of strength was his anger over being abandoned as a child. Any abandoned child will have a lot of rage and resentment inside. And a lot of how you live as an adult depends on how you deal with that rage. "
At the beginning of "The Mortal Iron Fist," readers were presented with a vision of the future where Rand's love interest, Misty Knight, was living in K'un-Lun with a boy that appeared to be his son -- but Danny was strangely absent. It looked like Danny was destined to lose his life at the hands of Zhou Cheng, but a subsequent vision of the future saw Misty telling her son that it's not Zhou keeping his father Danny from him. "That's part of an ongoing mystery," Swierczynski confirmed. "It won't be resolved in the near future, but it will hopefully play out in the coming year or so. I can't say too much about what's going on, but it was kind of fun to do something that hopefully made readers stop and go, "WAIT! What's happening ten years from now?'"
The final page of the "Mortal Iron Fist" arc found Rand and his fellow Immortal Weapons from the seven Capital Cities of Heaven standing outside the mysterious "Eighth City." Iron Fist was compelled to journey there. "The plot thread about the Eighth City has been dangling for a few issues now. The other Immortal Weapons came to New York City to research the city, and Danny's defeat of Zhou Cheng gave them a big clue to its whereabouts," Swierczynski explained. "Danny has a clarity of purpose. He knows what he should do, and he goes off to do it. What tugs at him of course is that he's leaving behind his friends, his business, and most importantly Misty. But he really has his mind set on getting to the bottom of the mystery of the Eighth City."
When Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons enter the Eighth City, they'll quickly discover the mysterious metropolis is quite unlike the other Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. In fact, it might even be more of an infernal counterpart to those realms. "I don't want to ruin too much because I want people to go into issue #22 with an open mind and experience things for themselves, but it is a city that's been swept under the rug by the other Seven Cities," Swierczynski stated. "Danny and the Immortal Weapons are on a more difficult mission than they could have imagined. From the moment they arrive, they realize they're in way over their immortal heads."
As a group, Iron Fist and Immortal Weapons are a fairly tight knit unit, but they're just getting used to working together. Their experiences in the "Escape From the Eighth City" arc will test not only their mettle, but the strength of their friendships as well. "Like with any group of colleagues, there is some tension in a sort of 'Hey you can do something I can't do!' way, but this arc is really going to bring them together like never before," Swierczynski said.
While "Escape From the Eighth City" is certain to have enough kung-fu action to satisfy hardcore Iron Fist fans, Swierczynski has incorporated elements from other genres in the story as well. "I'm a big horror junkie and it was fun to play with the idea of the Eighth City as almost the mystical version of Hell," he said. "Also, I've been itching to tell a good prison break story. So that's a major thread in this story."
Many readers have been wondering if the Eighth City has its own Immortal Weapon to protect it. Naturally, Swierczynski couldn't confirm whether such a character exists, but the writer could reveal that the chief adversary for Danny and the Immortal Weapons is named Changming. "He's a new guy but he's also very, very old guy. I can't say too much about what his deal is because part of that is in the first issue and you learn more in the issues to come," Swierczynski teased. "He's a major player in the Eighth City and he's more or less the leader and architect of how it's run."
Duane Swierczynski has enjoyed the work artist Travel Foreman has done on "Iron Fist," but is especially pleased with how his collaborator has brought the "Escape From the Eighth City" arc to life. "What I love about Travel is that I can describe to him this cool and very bizarre idea and he'll just take it to the next level by adding something weird or visually striking to it," the writer said. "Like in this past arc-our Iron Fist slayer was this guy who turns into a monster and Travel had the great idea of having the monster emerge from his neck. It really worked visually, and I never thought to describe it that way. And he does a lot of similar things in the 'Eighth City' arc. There's a lot of horror stuff going and it seems like he's having a field day with it."
"Escape From the Eighth City" is a four-issue arc, but the story is interrupted in issue #24 with another tale that stars a different Iron Fist. Swierczynski explained, "It's a standalone story that does a few things. It tells the story of Park Li, the only pacifist Iron Fist, and it reveals a pretty vital piece of history about K'un-Lun itself. It also plays a role in the current arc; there are echoes of it. It explains one of the Iron Fist's powers, which we've seen used a bit, but never quite explained, namely Orson Randall's Jedi mind trick, which you saw in the first few issues of Ed [Brubaker] and Matt [Fraction's] run on 'Iron Fist.'"
Park Li's adventures in "Immortal Iron Fist" #24 are brought to life by Kano, whose work previously appeared in issues #10-14 of the series. "I've seen a bunch of pages already and they're amazing," Swierczynski remarked. "This issue is set in Ancient China, and I don't know if he time traveled and once lived there or what, but he's really channeling that period. It's pretty freakin' incredible."
In creating the tale of Park Li's and "Escape From the Eighth City," Swierczynski of course draws upon the multitude of kung-fu films he saw as kid growing up in the '70s, but the writer also finds inspiration from looking at both ancient and modern history. "A lot of what these stories are about is how leaders treat their citizens and their enemies," the writer explained. "There's that old line about those who don't learn from history being doomed to repeat their mistakes over and over again. And it's been a lot of fun echoing that in 'Iron Fist' because a lot of this book is about history and repeating mistakes. I'm a big history nerd, and a lot of that finds it's way into these stories."
As 2009 rolls on, "The Immortal Iron Fist" will become more and more concerned with the current events of the Marvel Universe, like Norman Osborn's Dark Reign. "We kind of treat 'Iron Fist' as its own little thing right now. That will change soon," Swierczynski confirmed.
The writer thinks "Escape From the Eighth City" is a tale that will resonate with the already established fanbase of "The Immortal Iron Fist," and Swierczynski also hopes it will bring new fans to the book. "If you're a new reader, this is a great place to jump on," he said. "It's a fresh adventure where you can hop on and meet Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons and understand what they're about pretty quickly, right before - THEY GO TO HELL!"
"The Immortal Iron Fist" #22 is on sale this week from Marvel Comics.