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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 267: The Immortal Iron Fist #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Immortal Iron Fist #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2007. This scan is from the hardcover collection The Last Iron Fist Story, which was published in 2007. Enjoy!

Don't fuck with the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay!

Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s Iron Fist is a fine, fine comic, as I point out here, but we’re not considering the entire comic, are we? We’re considering the first page of issue #2, so let’s consider!

David Aja is the main artist on the book, but he didn’t draw this page, as you might perhaps suss out. Fraction and Brubaker wrote vignettes from different time periods and had different artists draw them, presumably because they knew Aja wouldn’t be able to draw 22 pages a month every month, so they wanted to give him a break. So for our flashback to 1545 and the Iron Fist of Pinghai Bay, Wu Ao-Shi, we get Travel Foreman, drawing in his more “traditional” style (after he became the regular artist in issue #17, he experimented a lot more) and not doing too much interesting with the page layout. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but he tells the story very simply, with four layered panels that don’t really lead us too much around the page – the first panel jumps out at us, 3-D, which is a nice way to begin the issue, but even the dude pointing is pointing at us, the reader, and not toward the next panel or over to the right. Foreman pulls back in Panel 2 to show the dude’s gang of thugs, who are about to get schooled by Wu, and by pulling back, Foreman easily transitions from the point of view in Panel 2 that shows the gang from the front and then swings around behind them so we can see what they’re seeing, which is the “fire off her mainsail.” The panel is nice and balanced, with Wu’s ship right in the center of the panel, the bad guy on the left, and the imposing cliffs on the right. Then Foreman pulls back even further in Panel 4 to show the Wu’s even more boxed in than we thought. Obviously, this is all a set up to show how bad-ass the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay is, as we discover on Page 2, but Foreman does a nice job laying the groundwork for her bad-assery.

Brubaker and Fraction are doing the same thing, naturally. The bad guy says they’ve run the “mongrel dog” into the bay (I guess I should give someone credit for not using “bitch” in this instance, as Marvel, I’m sure, would have grawlixed it out and made it look stupid), then that her sail is on fire, then that they’re going to teach the “cur” a lesson, then that they’re going to cut out her tongue so she can “gurgle for mercy.” Of course, the reader knows this just means that the person about whom he’s talking is going to turn the tables on him and kick some major ass, but just because it’s a tried and true method doesn’t make it bad. The writers don’t have a lot of time to make the bad guys act bad-ass before Wu takes them down, so they have to speak like they’re bad-asses. Yes, it’s telling and not showing, but again, this isn’t the main story, so they need to get to Wu kicking ass and then get back to Danny Rand, so it’s forgivable.

There are a few things I don’t like about the page – the computer-generated sky doesn’t really work, and I don’t know if Foreman or colorist Dean White is responsible for the flames, but they look a bit like ghost flames, added in post-production. Either Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, or White makes good use of blacks on this page, because it helps the fire stand out a bit more and makes Page 2, on which Wu uses flaming arrows, pop very nicely. Overall, though, the page does its job. Who doesn’t want to read about the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay? Come on!

Next: Man, this is a weird comic. I really don’t remember much about it, but I know it was weird! There are some other weird comics buried in the archives!


“Who doesn’t want to read about the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay? Come on!”

Well, without knowing what was in the previous issue, I’d have to say someone who bought a book called “Iron Fist.” Now, of course, a “flashback” isn’t something bad, but–especially for a “first page”–it’s not something you really want to see, especially when the first thing you see is JUST a place name with NOTHING that actually lets the reader know WHEN this is set. (Maybe a “Pinghai Bay–1402″ or whenever would’ve helped.)

Sure, I’ve read (even enjoyed) books that start off with a “flashback” bit but I know–from the outset–that the book will have more than just the flashback–that the flashback is setting up something in the story’s present. Just this one page doesn’t really say “Hey reader, we know the title of this book is Immortal Iron Fist, but just relax–we’ll get to that in a couple of pages.” All it does to me is say “Hey reader, we screwed up and put the wrong cover on this book–sorry about that–our bad. Wait a while and you can swap this at your comic shop for the real book.”

(I’m really trying to ignore the whole “We’re doing this silly format because we’ve got an artist we KNOW can’t commit to drawing a full 22 pages a month but we also know you won’t sit still for a monthly book taking two or three months to come out and we also know that people will let us at Marvel slide for something they’d crucify DC for doing because we know our readers like our dickish attitude–even when they go on chatboards and say just the opposite” aspect of doing this to help Aja but it’s really hard.)

As for Foreman’s artwork here, I actually prefer a “traditional” look if this is, in fact, traditional. His artwork was the one thing I most hated about his work on “Animal Man.” I do see a bit of similarity between this “tradtional” look and what he was doing on “Animal Man.” I’d like to know who was inking him here. A lot of his “Animal Man” pencilwork was self-inked but some of his non-self-inked work was done by inkers who were just as heavy as his own inkings.

Joseph: Well, I was engaging in some good-natured hyperbole, but I see your point. If you had bought the first issue, you’d see that Brubaker and Fraction are setting up the idea of several Iron Fists throughout history, so for the first few issues, they had flashbacks to various other ones. Sure, if this was the first issue you bought because you missed issue #1, it might be off-putting, but the flashback is only four pages long, and then we get to Danny Rand kicking butt. That might be too long for you, but the flashback doesn’t take up too much space.

This is Foreman’s more traditional look – the stuff on Animal Man is definitely his more “experimental” stuff, and while I do like it, I like this style too. I mentioned his inker, Derek Fridolfs, but didn’t single him out as the inker, so sorry about that. Fridolfs inked him on this page!

I still don’t know if you’re picking on me because you think I’m so anti-DC or if you’re just speaking generally. If you read my review of the Swamp Thing trade, just to pick out a recent example, I thought Marco Rudy did a fine job filling in for Yanick Paquette and I was glad that DC got an artist who was similar to Paquette without just aping him. I have no problem with comics coming out where a flashback – for instance – is done by a different artist to give the “main” artist a break. If things were planned better, that might make some of the egregious examples less annoying. I do hope you’ve been noticing how angry I am at Marvel for double-shipping their books and causing an artistic merry-go-round in the process!

I like a flashback done by another artist. Does it work as well starting at page 1? Maybe not, but hey, I’m usually willing to give something like this a try.

One thing I’ve liked about this feature this year stems out of a conceit of yours that I found silly.

Lemme explain.

You often talk as if someone will decide whether or not to continue reading a comic based on the first page. If I’m flipping through it at the store, I’m flipping through, so I’m not judging just based on the first page. If I’ve bought the book, I’m reading the damn thing. I can’t think of any comic I’ve bought that I haven’t finished reading at least once.

Also, reading page one is usually a very short experience — I’m on to page 2 sometimes before I’ve digested page 1.

BUT, that’s where I’m really enjoying this feature. That short experience that you seem to claim will make or break someone’s reading of a comic (that minute or less to read page 1) gets slowed down a lot by you here.

By analyzing these pages and breaking them down quite a bit, you’re forcing me to slow down and look over the page shown more, and really notice the details. There are things you point out that I don’t notice, and I’m delighted that they’ve been shown to me.

But the notion JosephW is suggesting, that people will be confused and angered over a book that doesn’t immediately have the title character in it, that doesn’t feature everything explained outright right away? I don’t get that attitude. I dunno, I don’t mind a bit of mystery.

And as to the notion that Marvel gets a pass about using other artists to help Aja get a book out monthly while DC…doesn’t get a pass — if you’re talking about the nuDC stuff, where it’s artist (and writer) musical chairs with no seeming plan, well, DC deserves to get slagged for it. Just like Marvel deserves the slagging Greg and others have given for the artistic round robin with their new double shipping shit.

Where Iron Fist (and other books that have done this) gets a pass is that the use of multiple artists is, as they say, not a bug but a design feature. If you’re going to do a book with multiple versions of a character in multiple time periods, it makes perfect sense to use multiple artists.

Unless you’ve got a stylistic chameleon like R Sikoryak (did I spell that right?). And damn, what a book that’d be!

Travis: It’s a completely silly conceit, stemming from the idea that in prose fiction, you need to have a good first page because many people WILL only read the first page (I don’t; I tend to read the description on the book jacket). But yeah, comics are so easy to flip through that the conceit is a bit silly. But like you wrote (thanks for the compliment!), it’s fascinating to break a page down, because even if consumers flip through a book, the writer and artist are working on these one page at a time, so I’ve found it very interesting analyzing how they do one page (and think about how they do it for every page). It’s a neat process, and I don’t know how well I’m doing examining it, but it’s fun!

I’m enjoying them, and you’ve highlighted things I haven’t always noticed, so it’s pretty good!

Even if everything is a bit too “portentous” at times…. :)

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