Daniel "Danny" Rand was a man. Just a flesh-and-blood man. He didn't have alien heritage, he wasn't a super-soldier, he didn't have an encounter with a radioactive spider or was given a trinket by a space cop. He was just a man. But he was a man with skills. Growing up in a mystical city allowed him to become one of the deadliest men on Earth. His mastery of martial arts also had a bit of a boost. He plunged his fists into the burning heart of a dragon, allowing him to charge his fists with chi, allowing him to punch hard enough to level a mountain. Danny Rand was a man on a mission. He would avenge his parents' death. And he would do it with a fist of iron...
Yup! We're going to take a look at the first appearance of the Iron Fist. Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Thomas was inspired to create the character after seeing a pre-Bruce Lee kung fu film that had a scene with a 'ceremony of the Iron Fist' in it., as well as drawing inspiration from a Golden Age superhero known as Amazing Man.
Over the next four decades, Fist would have many adventures, most notably being a Hero for Hire alongside his best friend Luke Cage. Like Fist, Cage was created to capitalize on the popularity on a film genre: Blaxploitation. In my opinion, the Fist/Cage Heroes for Hire title was genius because it allowed the two characters to become much more three-dimensional, allowing them to retain their popularity and fanbase long after the film crazes that inspired them fell out of fashion. Rand has died, been resurrected, he's been an Avenger, he's going to be a Defender, and he even recently discovered he was just the latest in a long line of Iron Fists, an Immortal Weapon.
With that, let's take a look at his humble beginnings.
The cover is a pretty neat one. Iron Fist beating down some men in gis. Fist's pose is bit funny, though. It looks like he was firing a backhand and a high-kick at the same time. We do get to see his chi-charged fist, though. Which is good, as that's why he's called Iron Fist in the first place.
"The Fury of Iron Fist"
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Gil Kane
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: L.P. Gregory
Editor: Roy Thomas
The issue begins with Iron Fist facing off against a group of attackers, a bunch of heads around him.
Evidently, Randy Orton is not the only one who hears voices in his head. A group of men in green hoods are watching the face-off. Iron Fist assumes a stance.
And the attackers...well, attack. Iron Fist is able to show his stuff. Fist walks his way through the attackers, using kicks and punches given fancy names like "The Blow of the Hammer" and "The Sword Hand" and "The Elephant Kick". During the fight, Fist looks up at the green-hooded council, and hopes for some approval from one of them.
The man give no expression...mainly because he has a mask over his face. But I can imagine him thinking, "Rand, you ain't done! Finish kicking those butts!" With a renewed fury, Fist returns to his thrashing of his opponents. After he's done handing the men a beating. Iron Fist turns to the council and states that he has prevailed in "The Challenge of the Many", and now he is ready to face "The Challenge of the One". Yu-Ti, one of the green-hooded men, asks him to do some contemplation on how he got to where he is. Basically, he's saying Iron Fist should remember his origin tale for the audience.
Danny Rand then thinks back, back to when he was a small boy. When he was in the Himalayas on a journey with his parents Wendell and Heather Rand, as well as Wendell's business partner, Harold Meachum...
Wendell is looking for the legendary land of K'un Lun, a Shangri-La-esque land hidden in the Himalayas. You know, I just realized something. The Inhuman city of Attilan was in the Himalayas for a while. I wonder if K'un Lun and Attilan ended up neighbors.
The narration states that Wendell appeared out of nowhere about ten years before this flashback, becoming a sudden entrepreneur with some mysterious funding. Is this a hint he himself went to K'un Lun? If so, why is he going back there?
Anyway, little Danny takes a wrong step and ends up falling over a gorge, causing his parents to fall with him. The rope that held them together snapped, which allowed Heather and Danny to tumble away on to a ledge. Wendell is left hanging over the gorge. Wendell tells Harold to throw another rope to Danny and Heather. Harold has another idea.
Harold, using his spiked boots, stomps on Wendell's hand, causing him to careen down the gorge. This is witnessed by a horrified Heather and Danny. Harold is proud of what he's done, saying now that their company is now his, and he gets a rock to the face. It was revealed the rock was thrown by Heather.
Harold pleads Heather to stop as, well, he has a bit of a thing for her. Yeah, way to impress her by killing her husband right in front of her. And she herself may have died, so...yeah. Way to go, Harry.
Meachum asks Heather to come with him. Heather, enraged, tells him that she'd rather risk dying of frostbite than go anywhere with him. Heather should've let Harold rescue her and Danny, then figured out some way to go from there. But Meachum, being a evil jerk, decides to let her and Danny freeze to death on the ledge. She encourages Danny to save his strength, and prepare for a climb. The flashback ends in the present, where Danny announces he is ready for the Challenge of the One. His next opponent is revealed...
Shu-Hu! The man with fists like thunderbolts! Shu-Hu! His punches have shattered mountains! Shu-Hu! The silent destroyer! Shu-Hu! The purveyor of fine beatdowns since 1968! And he's single, ladies.
Shu-Hu and Danny bow and begin their fight. Shu-Hu no-sells Iron Fist's attacks, and backhands him into a wall, but Danny's training allows him to avoid becoming a splat on it. Taking advantage, Shu-Hu takes the offense, beating Iron Fist down like he owed Shu-Hu some money. Danny finds himself flashing back again.
Heather and Danny manage to climb up the mountain and they decide to go forward.
I have to give kudos to the Rands here. They are a tough bunch. they managed to, without equipment or supplies, climb their way up a mountain and get this far. However, they're weakened, and there are wolves after them.
A miracle occurs. The two find a bridge. They don't know where it came from, but the wolves bearing own on them give them no choice but to cross it. The wolves pause for a moment, but Heather knows the bridge won't stop them, so she runs at the wolves.
A horrified Danny watches Heather get torn to shreds by the wolves, and runs back towards her, but the monks at the other end stop the boy and take him in, bringing him to K'un Lun. The flashback ends with Iron Fist back in the present, asking who Shu-Hu is, as he is so able to take him down so easily.
In response, Shu-Hu fires daggers from his hand. Literally fires them from his hand. One hits Iron Fist in the shoulder, and he hears his mother's voice. The issue doesn't say what he hears her saying, but I imagine it's some form of encouragement. Fist pulls the blade out, and the pain seems to make hi go berserk and find his second wind.
He attacks Shu-Hu with fury, nailing him with kicks and elbow strikes, but the big man won't go down. Fist then lets himself grow calm, so he can deploy his ultimate weapon. He calls upon his chi and will, and draws it to his fist, until it becomes...like unto a thing of iron.
His fist charged with chi, glowing like the sun, Daniel Rand, the Iron Fist, nails Shu-Hu in the kisser with one mighty blow.
Shu-Hu turned out to be a robot. Yup, they have robots in K'un Lun, too. Wonder where they got it from. And who maintains it?!
Danny stands before the green-robed council, and states that he is ready for the final challenge: The Challenge of Oneself. He is bloody, but unbowed, and he is ready. The August Personage of Jade, one of the council, agrees that the right to take the challenge is his: The right to choose between immortality...and death. Not much of a choice, who wouldn't choose immortality over death?
You know, I wonder something. Since it has been established Danny Rand is only the latest in a long line of Iron Fists, I wonder if any of the previous ones had been through tests like this to show their worthiness? I'd love to see how Orson Randall or Wu Ao-Shi dealt with trials like these.
This origin story was...pretty enjoyable. The last comic I reviewed that was essentially a large flashback was Marvel Fanfare #10, and I have to admit, the two comics do share a similar structure: A little bit of action dominated by flashback.
However, I think that works better here than in the Marvel Fanfare issue. It works better here because this is the first appearance of Iron Fist, so it is perfectly fine to use flashbacks this much to explain how Danny Rand got to K'un Lun and give us glimpses of the place he has called home for the last ten years, which can be further explored in future issues. The flashbacks also help plant seed for future storylines, particularly Rand's desire for vengeance against Harold Meachum. Gil Kane does some fine artwork on this one.
Next time, in honor of the release of Kong: Skull Island, I thought I'd take a look at a comic that featured a giant ape. So, join me as we look at Superman shedding some Tears for Titano...