IRON FIST: HEART OF THE DRAGON #1 (OF 6)/ Script by LARRY HAMA/ Art by DAVID WACHTER/ Colors by NEERAJ MENON/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Cover by BILLY TAN & MONICA MU/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Iron Fist is not a character who has ever really interested me. I was never one of those kids who loved martial arts movies or went through a phase where I wanted to be a ninja. And let’s not get into the problematic elements of the character and the whole “white savior” thing that made the Iron Fist Netflix series uncomfortable even before we found out the producers were really racist towards the Asian actors behind the scences.
I wanted to like Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 more than I did. How could you not love something by the great Larry Hama – Creator of G.I. Joe (at least the version most of us know from the 1980s) and Master of the Action Comic? Alas, while the action of this issue is of the highest quality, I found myself running into all the roadblocks I usually found when trying to read Iron Fist stories.
If you aren’t already familiar with Danny Rand and the Iron Fist mythology, this comic isn’t going to hold your hand and explain it to you. This is something of a problem, as the plot centers around Danny uncovering a plot to kill the various dragons living in the Seven Heavenly Cities. It doesn’t explain why the hearts of the dragons being stolen is a big deal. It doesn’t even bother to introduce who Luke Cage, who is babysitting Danny’s ward as the comic opens.
That being said, Hama does a fantastic job of presenting the world and making the reader want to learn more about these characters with a minimum of dialogue and a lot of fighting. There’s just not a lot for them to work with here and I dislike the assumption that readers can just go on-line and look up who all these characters are.
The artwork is a larger problem. David Wachter’s gritty style doesn’t seem to be a good match for Hama’s script. This book doesn’t look bad but Hama’s writing demands big splash pages and Wachter tends to cram many details into many panels. The color art by Neeraj Menon also seems oddly chosen, using muted shades when the story demands vivid, bright, flashy colors.
Iron Fist enthusiasts may love this series, but newbies will find it unfriendly. While the story tries to offer an introduction to Danny Rand’s world, it abandons the reader just as the party is starting. The artwork also clashes with the story and it is not a friendly sparring match.