Review: Immortal Weapons #2

Immortal Weapons

After Jason Aaron’s surprisingly excellent Immortal Weapons #1: Fat Cobra, I had extremely high hopes for the follow-up issue.  The format is novel: a brief, ongoing narrative, kin to DC’s current back-up features, links each issue, but each is otherwise a one-shot exploring a little-known character in the supporting cast of the Immortal Iron Fist.  Unfortunately, where Fat Cobra gave a sublimely melancholy look at the jovial martial artist, Bride of Nine Spiders settles into an awkward horror pastiche utterly lacking in martial arts… or in background on the still enigmatic character.

The Immortal Iron Fist was known as much for David Aja’s gorgeous martial arts fights as it was for Brubaker and Fraction’s pulp superhero extravaganza.  Some of that excellent design work and fluid art came through in Fat Cobra, particularly in Michael Lark’s brief segment.  Brereton, the sole artist on the main story, offers little of that personality to the book beyond stiff, awkward characters and a generic, if tolerable, rendition of any number of horror tropes.

Cullen Bunn’s story isn’t bad: the last time one of the Brides of Nine Spiders was on Earth, a single, living spider remained behind.  The creature proved to be immortal, and possessed mystic properties that, if used correctly, could summon and bind the Bride to Earth.  This, of course, does not go very well at all.  There’s little wrong with the premise, except that it isn’t a Bride of Nine Spiders story.  It isn’t even a story about the man who binds her to Earth.  It’s a story about a group of thieves stealing a mystical artifact, and that’s a good two steps away from where the action should be.

Swierczynski and Foreman’s back-up feature, continuing the story of Danny Rand and a troubled young student of his, fares better.  Though brief, the story gets to the point quickly, working overtime to complete the set-up started last issue.  Ending on a particularly chilling note, “The Caretakers” continues to set-up a potentially interesting story.

It isn’t fair to review something based on what you expected it to be.  I’m sure that there are many people who will enjoy Immortal Weapons #2: Bride of Nine Spiders.  Unfortunately, that story is in the wrong place, in a book marketed towards fans of pulp action and martial arts and purported to explore the backgrounds of these enigmatic new characters.  Bunn and Brereton don’t do bad work… they just don’t even remotely fit the title.

Grade: C

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Immortal Weapons #1: Fat Cobra

Review: Immortal Weapons #1

Weapons

I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja.  I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.

Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up.  And I have to say, I’m glad I did.  Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.

Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all.  To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book.  And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.

It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either.  Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself.  Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.

On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty.  The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.

Overall, this is an excellent first issue.  As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers.  Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend.  With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT