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Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword’ recalibrates its concepts

A compelling and effective marriage of two distinctive properties.

Establishing a character, their motivations, and the tone of their narrative is sometimes an unsteady prospect in superhero comics. Does a character get an instantly recognizable, Bruce Wayne-esque tragedy, so innately tied to their central idea that they’re reiterated and reexamined by creative teams for decades to come? Or, like the original Iron Fist, Danny Rand, are they simply a loose concept that might take a dozen or more issues to fully flesh out?

Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword
Marvel Comics

A similar concern faces a major rebranding of a character. Jean Grey’s transition from Marvel Girl to Phoenix was so momentous that the story is officially titled a ‘saga’. On the other hand, Carol Danvers’ transition from Ms Marvel to Captain Marvel, while powerful and important, happened with the efficiency of a press release and costume reveal.

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New Iron Fist Lin Lie debuted as the Sword Master only four years ago, in the digital, Chinese-market Warriors of Three Sovereigns before making his way stateside the following year. Despite spending those four years with significant guesting roles and a short series under that name, Lin Lie hasn’t exactly been blessed with a deep and richly explored back catalog. Despite a strong appreciation from fans, the character’s origin—from a publishing standpoint—is more Iron Fist than Crime Alley.

Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword
Marvel Comics

His move from Sword Master to Iron Fist is also more Captain Marvel than Jean Grey—the character was more announced to be Iron Fist than organically taking on the mantle.

This is perhaps much too cynical a framework to look at Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword, Lin Lie’s first outing as an Immortal Weapon. The book does an amazing amount of work to not only introduce Lin Lie’s new role, but to rocket him into a conflict uniquely his own, and while it stumbles a bit in expository establishing dialogue—a sad necessity due to the book’s all-too-brief five issues—it elegantly establishes unique voices for its characters and plots the trajectory for their future.

By streamlining Lin Lie’s quest with video game accuracy (gather the collectible sword shards, prevent the breaking of three temple-like seals, stop an evil brother), writer Alyssa Wong frees herself up to jump from establishing beat to establishing beat, cramming each issue with as much narrative anchoring as possible. Supporting characters are established, relationships defined, and Lin’s relationship to legacy is explored.

This means that every issue feels somehow jam-packed with not only action but an earnest heart and seeming care for the core properties; Lin Lie’s interactions with new BFF Mei Min’s family, natives of K’un-Lun, ensures the direct impact of the Sacred City on the book. Lin Lie is spiritually mentored by Shou-Lao, the dragon whose heart bestows the Iron Fist powers, while Immortal Weapons Fat Cobra and Bride of Nine Spiders play a part in the action. And, yes, of course, Danny Rand must have a presence.

Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword
It might not be a sword anymore, but he’s still ostensibly its master.
Marvel Comics

These all tie Lin Lie to the Iron Fist mythology, but his own unique concerns—the essential parts of his superheroic presence—ensure that he isn’t held down by them. The titular shattered sword interacts incredibly with the Iron Fist, and K’un-Lun’s narrative gravity cannot redirect his sacred, familial duties to battle his own (literal) demons.

'Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword' recalibrates its concepts
Marvel Comics

All of this is delivered to us in incredible style by pencillers Michael Yg and Sean Chen, who manage to capture the characters mid-action, snapshotting the martial arts roots of the book; the sword-fist feels ethereal and vicious. There’s an unfortunate sameness to the demonic element of the book, but the demons aren’t the reason we’ve come—we’ve come for the Iron Fist.

The Shattered Sword is a compelling and effective marriage of two distinctive properties, an incredible cultural realignment of a glaringly white-washed property. It’s brief and busy, but it’s a promising start for what might eventually be a major epic.

Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword
‘Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword’ recalibrates its concepts
Iron Fist: The Shattered Sword
The Shattered Sword is a compelling and effective marriage of two distinctive properties, an incredible cultural realignment of a glaringly white-washed property. It’s brief and busy, but it’s a promising start for what might eventually be a major epic.
Reader Rating1 Vote
8.8
Makes beautiful work of the powers at play.
Plays with the two mythologies in remarkable tandem.
Establishes a new normal for Lin Lie without discarding his old truths.
Covers a lot of ground too quickly.
Is sometimes forced to tell rather than show.
8
Good
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