Posted by: Brian Hibbs on June 30, 2008
It’s Marvel’s turn in the hot seat…
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #16 wraps up the Ed Brubaker/Matt Fraction run (though Brubaker apparently checked out two months ago, because he wasn’t credited for this issue or #15). As I’ve said before, IMMORTAL IRON FIST made a big impression on me, mainly because I’d never been interested in Danny Rand or the kung-fu-comics genre he represented until now. There was something new and intriguing about this particular interpretation, and I think a lot of it has to do with the way Brubaker and Fraction expanded the concept of Iron Fist into a trans-generational, trans-national identity. And something else began to emerge: not only was Danny Rand not the only Iron Fist, but pretty much every predecessor (with the possible exception of Orson Randall) did a better job of it than he did. The stories of Bei Bang-Wen and Wu Ao-Shi aren’t just there to parallel Danny’s life, they reposition the present-day Iron Fist as a neophyte, as someone who isn’t the master expert of kung-fu mysticism in the Marvel Universe. The whole dynamic of the character – as I saw him, anyway – changed, because suddenly he’s got so much to learn and there’s actually a direction he needs to follow, and there’s room for the character to grow and change.
Which he has, and this issue finally hits the pause button on the non-stop face-kicking so the dust can settle and the characters can come to the forefront. In the aftermath of the Ultimate Tournament of Fiery Bone-Crunching, Danny’s re-evaluating his life and his relationships with Luke and Misty, and there’s an appropriate sense of melancholy attached to that because this is both an ending and a new beginning, in that this issue also sets up the upcoming Duane Swierczynski run very clearly: the Living Weapons are running across New York, the question of the Eighth City is still up in the air, and there’s a rather nasty prophecy uncovered at the very end that will probably play out in the coming months.
So… VERY GOOD, because the timing was impeccable: this series really needed a calm character piece in-between the crazy action sequences, and now that we’ve had it, we can move on. Will I be checking out IMMORTAL IRON FIST #17? Not sure… Swierczynski hasn’t exactly knocked my socks off on CABLE. We’ll see, I guess.
We are now leaving the realm of anything even remotely connected to The Good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The last time I reviewed a Joss Whedon comic, I really tried to avoid discussing the lateness issue, despite the fact that it could (and probably did) affect the way you’d read the comic in question. I’m not going to cut RUNAWAYS #30 the same slack, because there’s no doubt in my mind that the delays played a huge part in how crushingly disappointing this finale turned out to be.
See, here’s the thing: Joss Whedon’s run, in the final analysis, amounts to six issues of an absolutely mundane and unimaginative storyline, in which there are X-Men and Punisher and God-knows-what-else analogues in 1907 for no clear reason that I can see; New York is apparently blown up but gets all better in the future; a new kid joins the Runaways and good lord she’s more annoying than the original Bendis version of Layla Miller. And at the end of the day it all goes back to normal.
I’m in “dude, what the hell?” mode here. I may have had problems with the way ASTONISHING X-MEN ended, but there was plenty of good to offset that. Here… well, honestly, there’s that one crack Molly makes about Klara’s “marital duties”, and that’s about it. I’m having issues with Whedon’s characterization of the Runaways, with the vast number of disposable secondary characters, with the anticlimactic ending (so, wait, it was all about that Irish ditz after all? Boo-urns!). And, yes, in this case the delays really aren’t justified, because I can’t see anything here that would require a six-month story to last over a year. CRAP.
And finally, YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS #6 is a perfect example of how the number of chefs is irrelevant when none of them are willing to turn to the next page of the cookbook.
Here’s the deal: I loved Heinberg’s YOUNG AVENGERS. The high concept of legacy characters stealing other legacies was wonderfully subversive, because it twisted around the whole “Teen Titans” formula – Teen Hulk is really linked to Captain Marvel, Teen Thor to the Scarlet Witch, Teen Captain America to Isaiah Bradley rather than Steve Rogers. No one is who you expect them to be.
And then Heinberg did what most TV/movie writers do when they get into comics: he disappeared. And here we are, cooling our heels two years later, waiting for Godot to turn up.
Now, on the one hand, I can certainly understand Joe Quesada’s reluctance to continue the story without Heinberg. He did a really good job with the characters, it was a great run, and Heinberg had some interesting ideas for the “second season”. Plus, there are so few writers at Marvel who’d really be up to the task of handling this particular book. On the other hand, conventional knowledge says the longer these kids are in publishing limbo, the less popular any future appearances will be. So what we’ve been getting for the past two years is a series of meaningless filler that doubles as exposition infodumps just in case you’ve forgotten (or never knew) the basics.
And this is exactly what neutralizes any possible interest in YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS. Despite the impressive list of writers and artists involved, all we had here was a strict, formulaic pattern applied again and again with virtually no change: a Young Avenger meets someone connected to their origins, they have a long and meaningful chat, the end. Patriot talks to Bucky about race in America; Hulkling gets to meet his “father”; Wiccan and Speed look for Wanda in all the wrong places and find Master Pandemonium instead (don’t ask because I don’t know) and so on. It’s all very dull, because by definition, these writers can’t do anything that could potentially conflict with Heinberg’s intentions (I get this mental image of Quesada doing the whole Sitcom Mom routine where he stares out a window for hours, and when Heinberg walks in he starts screaming “Where have you been?! Do you know what time it is?! I was worried sick!”).
The problem with that is YOUNG AVENGERS only ran for twelve issues, and to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there’s not a whole lot of there there. So YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS and the other place-holder miniseries are just spinning their wheels in a very, very small circle. Do you know what reading over a hundred pages of familiar exposition can do to a person?