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Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

In ‘Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist’, Byrne and Claremont brought new life to a one-off character

A testament to how even the House of Ideas needed fresh ideas itself.

In the 1970s, Marvel Comics was really living up to the term ‘House of Ideas’. Utilizing books like Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Premiere, creators were introducing new concepts at a breakneck pace, using the space as testing grounds for new characters. Perhaps fans might react favorably, leading a character to solo titles and major integration into the Marvel Universe at large. Alternatively, characters might fail rather spectacularly, becoming minor footnotes; even these, however, might find themselves revived much later and become major box office money machines.

Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
Did the Bugle pay someone for this?
Marvel Comics

However, for all that creative experimentation, there could still be a great deal of stuffiness to the stories, and a constrained stiffness to the characters themselves. Often created by a group of creators and editors and assigned to others, the stories could often feel non-committal, hollowed of their vitality by a paint-by-numbers script and circumstances. Step 1: introduce a hero. Step 2: introduce a villain. Step 3: pick up another assignment.

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Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
“I guess Batroc? Can kung fu battle *jumping*?”
Marvel Comics

In the case of Iron Fist, created by Roy Thomas, Bill Everett, and Gil Kane and debuting in 1974’s Marvel Premiere #15, on-page development for the character filtered between four writers and five artists over the course of 10 issues, most of whom did not concern themselves with advancing Danny Rand’s established motivations, dramatic arcs, or unique mythology. Until landing in the hands of overeager and young writer Chris Claremont in Marvel Premiere #23 (and, two issues later, equally eager penciler John Byrne), Iron Fist instead suffered a confrontation-first, plot-second style of writing.

Interestingly, it is for Marvel Premiere #25 that John Byrne drew for Marvel for the first time—Claremont, who was a fan of his work elsewhere, brought him in after the previous penciler, Pat Broderick, missed a deadline. Neither Byrne nor Claremont (only three issues into his monumental and medium-changing run on Uncanny X-Men) might have had the star power to propel Iron Fist from the pages of Marvel Premiere and into his own ongoing series, but their work almost certainly did.

Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
Marvel Comics

Almost instantly, the world of Danny Rand begins to open up and find depth. Near-incidental supporting characters Colleen Wing and Misty Knight gain character and purpose, and Danny himself loses his wooden, robotic quality. The dense, often florid second-person caption boxes begin to thin out, which has the effect of giving Danny an autonomy that convention, by nature, rejects.

Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
Before this she was just some dude’s daughter. And not even a *dragon* dude.
Marvel Comics

Byrne’s pencils, which begin in the cookie-cutter ‘house’ style preferred for Marvel books at the time, slowly loosen up to highlight his expressive sense of character. A subtlety of line is embraced, as is Byrne’s talent for dropping lines to accentuate highlights, movement, and softness of features.

Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
Byrne doin’ Byrne stuff.
Marvel Comics

Not all of the issues collected in Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist are stunners; there are clunky plot devices, dropped characters, and a clumsy integration of mythology. K’un-Lun never quite snaps into absolute focus, nor do the conventions of what an Iron Fist is exactly. Nonetheless, the contrast of old versus new, of the successful and the failed, perfectly highlights how much Claremont and Byrne must have felt like a breath of fresh air to the Marvel Universe.

The book provides an incredible contextual companion to Claremont’s X-Men and Byrne’s Fantastic Four and She-Hulk, illustrating how both creators flirted with experimentation here that came to fruition in those books. It’s a testament, likewise, to how even the House of Ideas needed fresh ideas itself.

While Iron Fist was canceled after only 15 issues, its indelible style and sense of forward-thinking could be felt in the era following, both in Claremont and Byrne’s continuing work and in the industry itself.  

Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist
In ‘Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist’, Byrne and Claremont brought new life to a one-off character
Iron Fist Epic Collection - The Fury of the Iron Fist
Kickstarting a lasting character, The Fury of the Iron Fist sees Marvel Comics gamble on both the comics and the creators.
Reader Rating1 Vote
8.6
Illustrates the earliest Marvel work of creators who would go on to change the industry.
Humble beginnings for an eventual powerhouse character.
Captures the medium's evolution in real time.
Clunky; never quite at its best.
8.5
Great
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