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Iron Fist – Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch (Review)

Iron Fist draws its influences from the strangest possible places.

As a rule, the Marvel Netflix shows are heavily rooted in the reinvention of Marvel’s street level heroes that began around the turn of the millennium. There are generally two key creative figures associated with this era, artist-turned-editor Joe Quesada and writer Brian Michael Bendis. Working the bunch of street-level properties, these two figures invented and reinvented a number of characters and concepts that would become a cornerstone of this shared television universe.

Hitting the wall…

Sometimes the influence was rather direct. Jessica Jones draws fairly heavily and literally from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ twenty-eight issue run on Alias. Sometimes that influence was more conceptual. Luke Cage tells its own unique story, but it is heavily influenced by Brian Michael Bendis’ rehabilitation of the title character during his runs on Alias and New Avengers. In some ways, Daredevil is an outlier, drawing on the iconic eighties run by Frank Miller, but it is still heavily influenced by millennial runs by Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker.

Given this existing framework, there is a very obvious influence from which the creative team might draw. Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, and illustrated primarily by David Aja, The Immortal Iron Fist was launched in November 2006. The run was launched during the tenure of Joe Quesada and spun directly out of Daredevil. It was also praised by critics and adored by fans for its radical and thoughtful reinvention of the Iron Fist mythos. It was also just plain fun, with Michal Chabon summarising it as “pure, yummy martial-arts-fantasy deliciousness.”

More like bored room, am I right?

With all of this in mind, it seems like Iron Fist should not have to look very hard for an influence. The Immortal Iron Fist was a comic that reinvented a long-forgotten character in a way that made him accessible to modern audiences that had never latched on to Danny Rand. More than that, by focusing on the history and legacy of the title, Fraction and Brubaker had found (some small way) to defuse the potential racial controversy simmering beneath the production. Emphasising the tradition of K’un Lun, The Immortal Iron Fist diversified the mythos.

And yet, in spite of all of that, Iron Fist chooses to draw most heavily and most overtly from the original appearances of Danny Rand in Marvel Premiere and Iron Fist, a run largely forgotten by history and notable primarily as a stepping stone to much greater things.

Hardly gripping.

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Star Trek – Debt of Honour (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

By all accounts, Debt of Honour should be an unqualified success.

It’s a prestige graphic novel from DC comics, produced around the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek and the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It is written by celebrated comic book scribe Chris Claremont, fresh off his career-defining stint on Uncanny X-Men. An avowed Star Trek fan and comic book veteran, this should be in his wheel house. The art is provided by Adam Hughes, one of the most celebrated and respected artists of his time.

Talk about kicking off a comic...

Talk about kicking off a comic…

By any measure, Debt of Honour should count as some sort of hallmark for DC Comics’ Star Trek tie-ins. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case. A rather muddled storyline that is hopelessly devoted to Star Trek continuity while awkward interfacing with it,  Debt of Honour is just packed a little too tight. Charting a story from the earliest days of Kirk’s career to the aftermath of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Claremont bites off more than he can chew.

Over the course of Debt of Honour, Claremont introduces a vague alien threat that has apparently been haunting Kirk for his entire career, a new arch-foe or love interest for Kirk, and even a supporting role for Kor. Along the way, he packs in cameos and shout-outs to various parts of Star Trek lore. He even explains why Klingons suddenly had ridges around the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Ultimately, Debt of Honour is ambitious, but a little over-stuffed and quite over-cooked.

Warp speed ahead!

Warp speed ahead!

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X-Men: The End – Book Three: Men and X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Chris Claremont struggles with endings. As a writer, Claremont works very well within the structure of a continuing narrative. His stories tend to resolve in such a way that story threads dangle, allowing him to pick up those threads for more stories. Claremont is very good at telling an on-going story, at keeping the wheels spinning and moving. One story leads to another, and that story leads to another. As The Dark Phoenix Saga wraps up Jean Grey’s arc, it introduces Kitty Pryde.

This isn’t really a problem on mainstream comic books. After all, Claremont wrote Uncanny X-Men for seventeen years, and it was structured as an on-going and evolving story. There are obvious “cut-off” points for certain sections of his run – The Dark Phoenix Saga and Inferno come to mind – but they never feel like they resolve everything. There are always just enough plot points carried over for the book to keep moving, to the point where saying “this run ends here” would involve chopping off significant story points.

.. in the name of love...

.. in the name of love…

Claremont’s difficulty with endings is reflected with the closure of his run on the titles in the early nineties. He left Uncanny X-Men with a minimum of ceremony. The book was handed from Chris Claremont to Fabian Nicieza in the middle of The Muir Island Saga. Claremont’s big goodbye to the title was the opening three-issue arc on adjectiveless X-Men, a story that found itself functioning as both a beginning and an end. In those three issue, it seemed like the only character arc Claremont resolved was that of Magneto.

So, it isn’t a surprise that Men and X-Men is a glorious mess. It is essentially one giant and protracted fight sequence between the X-Men and Shi’ar, drawing in cameos from across the breadth of X-Men history. The fact that this should be the last story told featuring these characters feels a little arbitrary, with quite a lot of Men and X-Men feeling like Claremont is running through a laundry list of things he needs to resolve before the curtain drops.

Flight of the Phoenix...

Flight of the Phoenix…

At the same time, there is something quite charming about Men and X-Men, as Claremont seems to suggest that this final gigantic superhero battle actually means very little in the grand scheme of things. Various plot points and threats resolve in whimpers rather than bangs, while Claremont suggests that this is an elaborate six-issue misdirection. We are not looking at what we should be looking at.

It’s the smaller moments that feel earned, even if the larger story around them is a complete mess.

One last stab at fixing everything...

One last stab at fixing everything…

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part V (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

It’s hard to imagine Chris Claremont having too many regrets, something he readily concedes.

His work on the X-Men remains iconic and influential. His relationship with Marvel has provided an incredibly pay-off for the publisher.

“The benefits are still playing out in other media,” he explains. “The brutal fact of the matter is that there have been seven movies derived from the X-Men. My fingerprints in terms of characters, and circumstances and the approach to storytelling are all over them.”

xmenfirstclass8

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part IV (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

Seventeen years is a long time in real life. It’s an eternity in comic book publishing.

Chris Claremont remained on Uncanny X-Men for seventeen years non-stop from 1975 through to 1991. Even Stan Lee only wrote The Amazing Spider-Man for a decade. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment, particularly in an industry where that sort of creative stability is uncommon.

Did Claremont have any idea at the time that he would be working on the title for that long? “I never thought I would stay on for seventeen years,” he freely admits. “I just never ran out of ideas. It was too much fun. They were my friends, I didn’t want to dump them and run away.

xmen-claremont2

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part III (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

The heart of Chris Claremont’s storytelling is character.

In talking about the iconic X-Men characters he helped to shape and define, he’ll often use their first names. Even minor characters like Thunderbird get referenced using their proper names.

“People are not picking up the book to see the action,” Claremont explains. “People are picking up the book to see the characters.” For Claremont, one of the keys to writing Uncanny X-Men for so long was remaining true to the characters.

wolverinesavethetiger7

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part II (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

It’s hard to talk about Chris Claremont’s X-Men run without discussing his collaboration with fellow comic book superstar John Byrne. When Uncanny X-Men shifted from a bi-monthly schedule to a monthly schedule, John Byrne took over from Dave Cockrum as artist on the title.

Claremont and Byrne are responsible for one of the most celebrated creative runs in mainstream comics. In hindsight, the two seemed well suited. Both were born in the same year, and Byrne had also been born in England. Byrne’s family migrated to Canada when he was only eight years old.

“The point is that John and I had the advantage of originating out of the same cultural stew pot,” Claremont explains. “When I would throw in conceptual reference to something I’d seen in Eagle…”

xmen-claremont5

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