This is what’s funny about the way my mind works. I had actually written down my own little twist on the famous TS Eliot line (in this case, “this is how the comic ends, not with a whimper, but with a BANG”) before I realized that I had just commented on that line changed in a similar way by Brian Reed in Ms. Marvel #28 in my review of all those Secret Invasion books. And I’m aware that commenting on it as such pretty much accomplishes the same silliness as the original intent. Except with more words. And commenting on this addition of words is wasting yet even more words. And now I’m rambling. And wasting YET EVEN MORE words. So I’m just going to move on, refuse to self edit and get on with the comic review.
This is Matt Fraction and David Aja’s last issue on Iron Fist. It’s a bridge issue. It wraps up most of the loose threads left from The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven (which, admittedly, there weren’t too many) as well as set up a new status quo and series of problems for incoming writer “Guy with a really long and confusing last name whose first name is Duane” (AKA Duane Swierczynski, or that guy who’s writing Cable) to solve. It’s a bit of a thankless task at face value, but you can tell that both Fraction and Aja really care about Danny, and it’s just not right for them to finish their run on a flashback one shot. We get to see Danny come down from his last adventures and deal with the aftermath, as well as just live his life for a while. There’s no fighting. There’s no kung fu. In truth, there’s no real conflict until the last page. Unless you consider Danny trying to turn Rand Corporation into a not for profit charity organization. And you get to see fun little moments like Danny teaching martial arts to the local children while preaching the importance of math, in a scene that plays as kind of, well, adorable, which is somewhat amazing coming from the mind of the guy that created the relationship between Casanova and Zephyr Quinn (and I’ll leave it at that. All confused by this statement need to READ CASANOVA. And yes, I put that in bold as a way to subliminally affect any and all that only skim this review. Ha!)
Now, I’m going to devote a pretty solid chunk of this review to the last four pages of this book. I’m not going to actually give away what is discovered on the last two pages (just that it’s a very interesting way to go about things that is going to allow for a lot of story potential for that Cable writer whose name I refuse to reproduce, despite the wonderful power of cutting and pasting), and I really want to deal with the two pages before that in more detail. How exactly do you wordlessly evoke the process of meditation? Well, if you’re Matt Fraction and David Aja, you create 26 sequential panels of the mind’s free association while in such an altered state. An eye becomes a lotus petal becomes an egg becomes a skull becomes a frog jumping into a pond, whose ripples become a linked chain, which breaks apart to morph into Chinese characters, which become the book of the Iron Fist, which leads into the revelation of the last page. We live in an age of big, expressive panels done with a widescreen sensibility. Sure, there’s reasoning behind that, and quite a lot of the reasoning involves movie option checks, but it remains a very arresting experience to turn a page and see so many panels. And they flow so effortlessly and beautifully into and out of each other. I don’t know who was responsible for that, whether it came from Fraction’s script or Aja’s mind or a combination of both, but it is the absolute highlight of the book (and in a book that features Fat Cobra, that’s an accomplishment). And really, what this issue does is make me wish Aja didn’t have to pull back so much on the second arc. He’s a superstar. Beyond the amazing work on what is basically a dream sequence, you’ve got the hypnotic effect of the wallpaper in Misty Knight’s bedroom and the little character tics and reactions simply involved in Danny and his accountant having a conversation in an elevator (which itself was very reminiscent of a beat from the recent Buffy Season 8 arc). All of it is wonderful. And it’s all Aja, which I believe is a first for the entire series.
I’m going to miss this team on this book. I would have been perfectly fine if Brubaker left and Fraction and Aja stayed on, but once Aja’s schedule became impossible for a monthly book, it’s fitting that they all left at once. Do I wish that this team could have become the next Bendis/Bagley collaboration of over 100 issues? Of course. I really think this was easily one of the strongest creative teams for a single book at Marvel Comics, and was right up there with the Geoff Johns/Ethan Van Sciver/Ivan Reis work on Green Lantern and Sinestro Corps. I’m the type of guy that can easily be swayed by one incredible section of a book, so the meditation sequence was enough for this thing to be five stars for me, and short of reading Casanova (Ha ha! That’s two!) this might be the strongest single issue Fraction’s put in at Marvel. Oh, and I dig the hell out of that cover.
So I put a little more of myself into this review than usual (from the perspective of stream of consciousness parenthetical asides that don’t automatically have anything to do with the task at hand…Ooh! Like this one!). I think a little of it has to do with being a bit punch drunk from a full Monday of work. Who knows the cause? But I would like to know if I pushed it too far or it got distracting for the folks who actually take the time to read this blog and read my posts. I’m here to please to the best of my ability, and I’m always looking to improve my writing. So let me know. Comments, please!