Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 Review

by Charles Martin on January 20, 2021

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 Review
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: David Wachter
Colourist: Neeraj Menon
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

With communications and travel opening up between the Heavenly Cities, Iron Fist and his stumpy old pal Fooh go on a road trip to check things out.

And wouldn't ya know, on their first stop, they find zombie-ninjas assaulting the Under City and successfully stealing the heart of its dragon.

Ain't that always the way in the Marvel universe? 

So now we've got a miniseries going, with Danny racing to protect the mystic dragons that power all of the cities. He's opposed by those zombie-ninjas as well as some random-not-random supervillains.

Villain selection is one of the things this comic does right. This issue features Taskmaster and Lady Bullseye -- great choices for baddies that can put up a respectable fight against the world's best martial artist.

Exactly how they signed on with Team Zombie remains a mystery, though.

Creatively, this comic is a great big throwback. David Wachter's art is EXTREMELY 90s and Larry Hama's writing is EXTREMELY 80s -- or more accurately, extremely Larry Hama. The man found his groove in the 80s and he's sticking with it.

The visuals are finished well, with intricate character anatomy picked out in sharp hash-shading. And Mr. Wachter does a great job drawing zombie violence without resorting to full-on gore. A whole lot of heads go flying, and it's consistently impressive.

It's in panel composition and character proportion that the art is unmistakably retro. There's always room for a splash pose, regardless of what the script is doing. And there's a chunky roundness to everybody's head that strikes me as a hallmark of the 90s.

Neeraj Menon polishes off the visuals with a fine muted colour palette. The settings are a little drab, but that serves to push the characters into sharper focus, which is appropriate for an action-heavy kung-fu comic. Contrasting colour schemes keep the characters distinct from each other without having to swamp the spectrum with high intensity.

Over on the script side, Larry Hama delivers a solid (though hardly ground-breaking) plot. It's a perfectly workable story for a short Iron Fist adventure. The pacing is gauged well for an action story: fast, but not too fast to keep up with.

But oh, the language choices. Put the word "obstreperous" in Luke Cage's mouth? Fine. Just don't expect me to call it smart or mistake it for natural-sounding human speech.

It sounds like what it is: Larry Hama dialogue, striving a little too hard and using a few too many syllables in a non-stop attempt to make the characters sound clever.

In fairness, there's nothing wrong with the words beyond their pretension. And to a certain sort of adolescent reader, this comic will sound wickedly sharp. I was that kind of reader in my youth -- I bet fifteen-year-old me would LOVE this comic.

So I wouldn't say this comic is without an audience. A younger reader who likes straightforward action, zombie decapitation, and dialogue sprinkled with the occasional "grab the dictionary" word will have a field day here.

But the retro style of storytelling does throw a limit on the book's full-market appeal. Folks who have grown used to more nuanced, subtle characterization will find this brassy dialogue grating. And I'm sure the 90s-tastic character art will trigger some traumatic flashbacks for many readers.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon is an uncomplicated action comic, aimed squarely at an audience that wants to see Danny Rand knock zombie heads off and isn't interested in subtlety. The words and art both feature extremely retro storytelling techniques, though, which will be enough to turn off a lot of readers and limit the book's appeal.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
There's a riff where Danny tries to rephrase "don't count your chickens before they hatch" and it's positively painful.