This was another book that I dug up in my local drugstore’s Big Bin of Somewhat-Older Comic Books, books that were reported as having been destroyed but were instead being sold off the back of the truck at five for a dollar–a great bargain for me. I was continuing to explore different avenues in the Marvel publishing line, and while I didn’t have any special interest in martial arts, Iron Fist had enough of the look of a super hero title that I sampled this issue. (Iron Fist being a bit of a crossover character was entirely intentional on the part of his creators.)
Another factor that caused me to pick this issue up was the creative team. If I’m not mistaken, this story represents the first time that Chris Claremont and John Byrne worked together. That team, together with inker Terry Austin, would go on to leave a huge mark on X-MEN before fragmenting thanks to in-fighting and differences of opinion. But when they were together, they were a phenomenal pairing. Claremont had taken over the Iron Fist series in MARVEL PREMIERE an issue or two before, and he and Byrne would remain on in residence after this as the series graduated to its own title. Byrne was a newcomer at this point, and IRON FIST was his first regular series at Marvel–before this, he’d done a bit of work at Charlton. But Marvel and DC were always his eventual goals.
As it was, though, this issue wasn’t good enough to get me to seek out any more of the series (though I can remember looking at and considering picking up IRON FIST #8 in that bin a few times–it had an especially iconic cover that really drew my attention.) The opening picks up on events from the prior issue. Iron Fist had helped save the life of Princess Azir . Unfortunately for Danny Rand, doing so dishonored her absent bodyguard Khumbala Bey in his eyes, and to redress this slight, he now attempts to kill Iron Fist in what he intends to make seem like an accidental death during practice combat. Typically, you’d expect the hero to come out on top in an encounter such as this one, but not this time. Iron Fist is on the ropes, and it’s only the sudden intervention of Princess Azir that saves his life.
But that’s just unconnected prologue for the remainder of the story. Iron Fist leaves the embassy along with his friend Police Inspector Rafe Scarfe, and the pair head to the apartment where Colleen Wing lives. There, Iron Fist finds her father Professor Wing almost completely out of his mind–he attacks Iron Fist with a sword–and Colleen missing. The pair heads to the offices of Nightwing Restorations where Colleen hangs her shingle, only to find Colleen being carted off by some police officers. When Rafe questions them, it turns out that they’re fakes, but they still manage to take off with Colleen even after Iron Fist goes to work on a few of them. He’s not really a very competent super hero or martial artist at this point.
Iron Fist and Scarfe give pursuit to teh faux cops’ car, but reality begins to warp and shift all around them–they almost plow into a crowd of kids before their car eventually smashes into a lamppost. This is all the work of the villain of the issue, Angar the Screamer. Angar is a bit of a dope, a caricature hippie with the power to create illusions and “bad trips” in the minds of his opponents through his sonic scream. He had fought Daredevil in the past, and so Claremont brought him back here for some reason. Iron Fist is knocked around from illusion to illusion, unable to get his bearings and forced, in typical Claremont tradition, to confront some painful memories as well as to conquer his own built-in fears.
Embattled, Iron Fist lashes out as best he can, at one point even exhausting the power of his Iron Fist on a nearby car that appeared to him to be a dragon. And then, as on the cover, the wall behind him extrudes and shapes itself into first a creature, and from there into Iron Fist’s old teacher, Lei Kung the Thunderer. He grapples with Iron Fist, telling his pupil that there is no way that he will be able to survive the Thunderer’s much-feared death-grip!
This, it turns out, is a critical mistake, because Iron Fist studied under Lei Kung for years, and he knows that the man possesses no grip of death. Using this tether to reality, Iron Fist clears his mind and can see that it’s really Khumbala Bey that he’s battling, and he’s able to dispatch both him and Angar thereafter in short order. Still, Colleen is yet missing, and the only clue that Rafe and Iron Fist have is an I.D. batch for Stark Industries found on Angar’s person. This sets up the Iron Fist vs Iron Man battle that would feature in the first issue of Iron Fist’s own title the following month (IRON FIST #1 was another comic that I looked at once or twice in that drugstore bin and passed on.) So this wasn’t a particularly great story, but it does work as a decent shake-down between Claremont and Byrne–they’d both improve issue by issue, month by month from here on in.