Last time in Marvel Firsts, things got all types of macabre with Gerry Conway and Gene Colan’s The Tomb of Dracula #1. We’re switching it back to superheroics this month with the first appearance of Iron Fist, just in time for the upcoming release of his eponymous Netflix series, which drops March 17th – so you’ve got a month to get familiar with Danny Rand and his particular brand of ass-kicking. First, we’re taking things all the way back to the Bronze Age with the release of Marvel Premiere #15.
How graceful does that leg look? Jesus. Iron Fist with the développé! 10 out of 10.
Marvel Premiere #15 is written by Roy Thomas, drawn by Gil Kane, and – whoa, hold up. Okay, so, I’ve written extensively about how I was raised on modern comics, so seeing the lack of credits for letterers and especially colorists in the classics was a bit of a culture shock for me. The first thing I noticed in this issue, though, is that the entire team gets credited, which makes me feel as if I’m seeing the treatment of creators progress over time as I delve into this history of the medium. It’s pretty awesome. But anyway, most of you aren’t here for inside baseball, so I’ll get to the meat and potatoes: Dick Giordano inked the issue, with Glynis Wein on colors and Gaspar Saladino lettering under the pseudonym L.P. Gregory.
I’ll say this up front – I’ve enjoyed most of the classic comics I’ve read for Blastoff, but this is my favorite by a mile. I didn’t expect that, because I don’t have any specific affection for Iron Fist above any of the other characters I’ve read, but Thomas’s writing is unique, emotionally riveting, and stylistically brilliant, and not just for its time. What I noticed right from the start is that in Thomas’s narration, you are Iron Fist. Take a look here.
The use of the second-person narrative is, in my experience, a rarity at best and a death sentence for a story at worst. I don’t purport to be as well-read in the backlogs of superhero comics as most writers in this industry, so I could be totally off base about how uncommon this technique is, but I’ve only ever really seen it used in experimental short prose – and normally, it flat out doesn’t work. The thing is, when a writer is telling you what you would do, nine times out of ten I bet the reader is left thinking “No. I wouldn’t do that.” Not so for Iron Fist’s introduction, because we’re not given a chance to question our choices. We’re instantly on the defense against a flurry of attacks as we face our final test before becoming the legendary Iron Fist, and Thomas expertly keeps us in this moment of heightened tension throughout the entire issue.
Throughout the battle, we get a few devastating flashbacks into Danny’s past, giving us just enough to care about his journey without slowing down the pacing of the issue. It’s incredible, because on the surface, the issue is one long fight and a handful of flashbacks – a deceptively simple structure designed to put you in Danny’s shoes, dodging both the immediate threat of the punches, kicks, and headbutts coming your way, as well as the cold dread of a lonely, violent past. It’s more than effective – it’s just damn good.
All of a sudden, I’m excited for March 17th.