This first issue of Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon is clearly trying to do a lot of heavy lifting, setting up a mystery, a horrific army, and a dimension-hopping supervillain. In between all of that, the issue also squeezes in some gentle humor involving a babysitting Luke Cage. It’s an ambitious opening salvo that ultimately doesn’t hang together all that well.
The breakneck pacing of Larry Hama’s script actually works against it, resulting in a first issue that feels like it’s rushing to get to all of the best bits. Because of that, it can be easy to lose track of what’s going on. Not only is this issue not exactly friendly to new readers, but it may even be a bit too scattered for longtime Heroes For Hire fans.
Some of the dialogue simply feels off, with characters making quips that feel like they’re laboring for the punchline, or using words that are simply not within anyone’s vocabulary. For instance, Luke Cage literally uses the word “obstreperous” at one point, while Taskmaster says something is “fallacious.” While the back and forth between combatants makes for a fun and breezy throwback to old school fight comics in some spots, much of the banter feels unnatural. This ultimately makes it a little bit harder to go with the flow of the story.
A few of the comedic bits do work, however. In particular, the scenes with Luke Cage trying to entertain Pei while Danny is off on a job are endearing, albeit short-lived. Also, some of Fooh’s bumbling moments are worth a chuckle, especially since the story doesn’t lean on his schtick too often.
That being said, these fights throughout the issue are great. David Wachter lends a grittiness to the action that grounds the more mystical aspects of the story. A particular highlight comes when Iron Fist pulls the head off of one zombie and chucks it through another’s mid-section.
The kinetic energy on display is exciting to see, with a real sense of height and depth that makes the sequence where Taskmaster and Iron Fist are fighting over a giant pit feel all the more dangerous. It cannot be understated how important the artwork is to telling the story here, and this first issue contains wild fight choreography and heroic poses aplenty.
In other words, Heart of the Dragon #1 is a bit of a mixed bag. The issue as a whole feels like the biggest budget kung fu movie of all time, and the fights are truly gnarly, but it does feel like there’s a certain amount of character development and story coherence that is lost here.
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