Marvel Retro Review: Marvel Premiere #15
Roy Thomas, Gil Kane
In 1974 , Marvel comics used their Marvel Premiere comic series to start a martial arts epic that would ensnare and enervate fans for four decades and continues to do so today. Daniel Rand, the Iron Fist, made his first appearance in the story arc, the Fury of Iron Fist. Most notorious for his part in the Heroes for Hire franchise, Iron Fist has really come into his own with the 2006 Immortal Iron Fist and has a comic starting just next month. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to visit his not so humble beginnings.
Marvel Premiere #15 opens up on a suspenseful moment, a calm before the storm, if you will. Our hero stands before four enemies, preparing to defend himself against their attacks. What is most interesting about these early pages is the unique form of narration. Each text box of internal monologue is treated as if Iron Fist is both narrating and coaching himself, as if this is all a story being told by the warrior, after the fact. The combat is brief and filled with the practice of naming techniques, much like the martial artists in anime and manga.
After establishing Daniel Rand’s martial superiority, we are treated to a flashback to his origin story. The memory of the beginning of the Iron Fist’s storyline has the Rand family and a close friend marching across the Himalayan mountains. With a brief nod to the destination the expedition is looking for, everything takes a horrible turn as a slight mishap places the entire Rand family in dire peril. The situation goes from bad to worse as Wendell, the family friend and business partner, sends Daniel’s father on a fast trip down the mountainside, claiming the business as his own. In an endearing narrative panel, Roy Thomas mentions the strength and mettle of the senior Rand before his inevitable and tragic plunge. Wendell then offers to save Mrs. Rand and Daniel, claiming that he has loved her for years.
Interestingly enough, she denies him, replying to his trying to use Daniel as leverage with a venomous cry, “Let my son grow up to kill you with his own two hands, or let him die like his father!” I am not sure what this cry is meant to say about his mother, but it illustrates that Danial comes not only from the strength of his father, but the will of his mother as well.
Back to the present, the next challenge faces Iron Fist is a hulking behemoth by the name Shu-hu. This herculean character has strength, speed, and seems to be invulnerable to Danny’s attacks. With every advantage, Shu-hu begins to overwhelm Iron Fist and strikes him a staggering blow, leaving him senseless and leaving his mind to wander once more into the past.
Iron willed, Daniel and his mother climb up from their ledge and continue onward, looking for the city of Kun Lun and avoiding following Wendell and the certain death he represented. At the same moment they stumble upon the bridge they were looking for, hungry death in the form of a pack of wolves appear to drive them onward. In a panic they sprint across the bridge. The mother, realizing that they won’t make it if they run, casts herself into their jaws to buy her son as much time as she can. Kun Lun soldiers show up and save the boy, but tragically, his mother is already dead.
Iron Fist comes back to himself moments after realizing that his opponent is a robot, and a moment before having a dagger fired into his arm. The voice of his mother drives the pain from him, stokes the fire of his will and his rage. Iron fist returns to the offensive with a flurry of tremendous blows before his will hardens and galvanizes, making his fist “…like unto a thing of iron!”
His final blow, proving that he has truly become the Iron Fist, cleaves the automaton’s head from his shoulders. Daniel once more stands before the masters running the test, and claims what is rightfully his. What is his, however, must wait for the next issue!
The Fury of Iron Fist was written a care and talent not uncommon to the time, but the industry. The art is beautifully crisp and the narration brings to mind the calm voice of a narrator instead of the scrawl of a comic writer. This is truly one of the highest caliber early comics I have had the pleasure of reading and I have no problem understanding, having continued in this tradition throughout the decades, how Iron Fist has only gotten better with age.
My rating 5/5 (because we can’t get any higher)