Marvel Comics has been trying out a new kind of comic book reading experience focused on the binging crowd — those who want a lengthier reading experience designed from the start to offer longer chapters. They’ve done it with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and now, out this week for the first time in physical format, Iron Fist. A part of Marvel’s appropriately dubbed Digital Originals line, Phantom Limb runs 136 pages and pushes Danny Rand to the limit.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A darkness is spreading through New York — something evil that preys on those who believe in the supernatural and the occult. And when palm readers and fortune tellers start turning up dead, the situation catches the attention of Danny Rand — A.K.A. the Immortal Iron Fist! But this might be one paranormal problem that’s too great for even Danny to take on alone. From horror author Clay McLeod Chapman (EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE, EDGE OF VENOMVERSE) and bone-crushing artist Guillermo Sanna (BULLSEYE) comes one of the most senses-shattering Iron Fist tales in recent memory!
Why does this matter?
Written by relatively new comic writer Clay McLeod Chapman (who wrote the fantastic Lazaretto at BOOM! Studios) and drawn by Guillermo Sanna (who killed it on Bullseye: The Columbian Connection) these two drop a fantastical plot onto Iron Fist’s lap. Can he survive? How about getting a new demonic edge? Titillated yet?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Generally speaking, Danny Rand has always had it pretty easy. When he’s in a jam he typically calls on his Chi to do the heavy lifting and beat the bad guys. This new miniseries offers up a threat that suggests maybe that’s not enough. Chapman quickly introduces readers to a traumatic loss after Danny lets a child literally slip through his hands and fall to his death. It’s the start to a story about self-doubt and discovery. This gives the story a cinematic quality that allows Chapman to call back to this moment and keep the reader invested emotionally. Things get royally f’d up when the child that Danny let die come back. Oh, and he’s inhabited by a demon from Hell!
There are ample things for Danny to kick and punch thanks to the hell minions of the demon, but the biggest factor in this story is how outmatched Danny is as he fights for his life. Chapman weaves in a nice Luke Cage cameo, but for the most part, we get to see Danny lose and lose very hard. The apt title of this trade is a hint as to what Danny loses on top of his pride. While he searches for some kind of answer in defeating a demon that seemingly can eat Chi for breakfast, there’s quite a cool concept thrown in. If Chi is a power of good, what if there is an equally powerful evil form? It’s a concept that I hope future Iron Fist writers delve into since it has a yin and a yang aspect that would work well. It also allows Chapman to ever so slightly discuss Danny’s desire to go to a darker side.
Sanna’s art suits the script which requires some freakish tentacle monsters, plenty of demons, and lots of fighting from Iron Fist. The fight scenes are well choreographed and the layouts help keep you at attention with every punch and kick. There are some very horrific looking beasts in this book that are so scary I’d recommend keeping little ones away from it. Sanna is that good.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The story doesn’t quite sustain all six chapters. About midway through we learn about a new kind of Chi and literally visit Hell with Iron Fist. From this point on there’s a lot of fighting, but really nothing new added to the battle. Customary of Iron Fist, and a bit of a cliche if I might add, he simply finds the strength against all odds. More could have been done with his new power especially with so many pages devoted to Iron Fist fighting the demon. The entire fifth chapter is devoted to this, effectively losing the reader due to the abundance of fighting.
Is it good?
I enjoyed this read and I might even add it’s the most entertaining of the first batch of Digital Original releases. Danny Rand must fight against a new kind of threat, look within himself to find a new power, and thwart evil. His power has always been tied to mystical elements which suit the villain in this story. If only Marvel could continue Danny’s story from here, or get Sanna and Chapman to write it!
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