Dark Horse Presents 20 (August 1988)

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This issue is a sixty-four page giant–only most of the extra is filler. They could have gotten away with a lot less pages.

The Mr. Monster story is real short (and lame). Gary Davis has a short space alien story showing he’s read some Arthur C. Clarke (it’s long, wordless filler).

Rick Geary’s got a nice two page story, which is filler but really excellent filler.

Then there’s the start of a Trekker serial. It’s incomprehensible if you haven’t read the Trekker series and probably even if you have.

Doug Potter has an excellent story about homelessness.

Oh, I missed Bob Burden’s Mystery Men and Flaming Carrot two page filler.

Then a real Mask story, which seems to be wrapping up. The narrative’s a little pat dramatically, but I’m not sure Badger cared.

Bob the Alien and Mindwalk have stories. Bob‘s hilarious, Mindwalk‘s weak.

Finally, even more filler.

CREDITS

Mr. Monster, The Thing in Stiff Alley!; story by Chuck Gamble and Michael T. Gilbert; pencils by Gamble, Gilbert and Chuck Wacome; inks by Gilbert; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. Anomaly; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. A Mother’s Tragedy; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Trekker, Vincent’s Share; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. The Mystery Men!; story and art by Bob Burden; lettering by Roxanne Starr. The Visit; story, art and lettering by Douglas C. Potter. The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by David Jackson. Concrete, Watching a Sunset; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Goes Birddogging; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Mindwalk; story by Randy Stradley; art by Randy Emberlin; lettering by Willie Schubert. Wacky Squirrel, Mixed Results; story, art and lettering by Jim Bradrick. Black Cross; story and art by Chris Warner. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 19 (July 1988)

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Finally; it only took eighteen issues, but this one is essential reading.

It’s not as simple as there not being a weak story… every single one of them is good.

I suppose, in this company, the weakest is Badger’s Mask. It’s starting to get old, with no real plot progression. He’s also doing the ink washes every other page, making it feel formulaic. Those complaints made, it’s still fine work. Though I notice the CIA’s no longer after a Cuban priest, just a South American one.

Rice’s Bob the Alien extended strip is really funny this time, not just amusing. I’m now looking forward to future entries.

But it’s all about Darrow and Geary.

Darrow’s Bourbon Thret is also an extended strip–sort of a Little Nemo without the bookends. The artwork is simply exquisite, seeing Darrow’s lines in black and white… breathtaking.

Then Geary has a great little mystery.

CREDITS

The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by Tim Harkins. Bourbon Thret, Sead; story and art by Geof Darrow. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Rides the Subway (and then gets off); story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. The Sack Murder of 1954; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Edited by Randy Stradley.

The Immortal Iron Fist 6 (July 2007)

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What Brubaker brings to his Marvel work is a retro vibe. His good comics feel like familiar seventies comics modernized. What Fraction brings is a smart blockbuster. His comics feel like big Hollywood movies written by John Sayles. Lots of set pieces, sure, but lots of humanity.

I’m not sure this issue is the perfect combination–I haven’t read seventies Iron Fist–but it sure seems like it. When the Heroes for Hire show up to save the day, when Danny and Misty reconcile in a sentence… it all feels like perfect Marvel Brubaker.

And the ending, when Orson sacrifices himself to give Danny the power to beat Davos–Steel Serpent, still not sure how it makes sense for him to have known about Orson but Danny never did (ah, the Brubaker retcon)–it works. Fraction makes the scene work. It’s not cheap, it’s not weak, it’s glorious.

Great issue.

CREDITS

The Last Iron Fist Story, Part 6; writers, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction; artists, David Aja and Russ Heath; colorists, Matt Hollingsworth and Laura Martin; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 5 (June 2007)

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The Travel Foreman back up art really does not work here. Well, some of it does, but when he flashes back to Orson’s origin… it’s awful. Ed McGuinness proportions. Yucky. It’s such an awkward flashback, it tears the reader out of the book.

The book needs the flashback to work not just for Orson’s emotional state or expository purposes, but also to keep up the action pace. Brubaker and Fraction open on a big action scene, then slow down to a talking heads book. The flashback needs to bridge. Instead it jars.

But the weak art isn’t just Foreman. Aja has a particular bad page with Luke and Misty and the girl with the sword whose name I don’t know. It’s far more rushed than the rest of Aja’s art, which is usually sublime.

There’s some good stuff (the Iron Fist mythology) this issue, but not without some definite problems.

CREDITS

The Last Iron Fist Story, Part 5; writers, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction; pencillers, David Aja and Travel Foreman; inkers, Aja and Derek Fridolfs; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 4 (May 2007)

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I expected more from the Buscema and Palmer pages. The art feels like they were supposed to be going retro instead of bringing a specific style.

It’s sort of strange how much Brubaker and Fraction skip here. The issue starts with Orson and Danny being big buddies. Orson’s been showing him tricks, which we also don’t get to see.

In some ways it works–it suggests time passing between the issues, so even if they read fast, it’s not like there isn’t more going on. A downside is missing important scenes. Not Orson showing off the Jedi mind tricks, but just some character development.

Brubaker and Fraction split the issue between the bad guy–I can’t remember his name after just one mention, Steel Something or Silver Something–and the two Iron Fists. The Iron Fist stuff is a lot better.

Aja’s visualization of Orson in costume is exceptional; Danny looks left out.

CREDITS

The Last Iron Fist Story, Part 4; writers, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction; pencillers, David Aja, Travel Foreman and Sal Buscema; inkers, Aja, Derek Fridolfs and Tom Palmer; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 3 (March 2007)

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I’m a little unclear on what actually happens this issue. Things do happen, it’s a good issue, but not many things happen. But Fraction–not Brubaker, because Brubaker’s Marvel work never makes an issue feel fuller than it is–manages to make it feel like a real experience, even though the only really important thing is when Danny meets Orson Randall at the end.

The rest of the issue is filled mostly with villain stuff. It’s not clear (to me anyway) whether Hydra is run by this bad guy who’s after the Iron Fist or if he’s just running some of Hydra. It’s also not clear if it’s important (isn’t Hydra just an easy villain organization to use, like SPECTRE?).

Brubaker and Fraction hint at Danny making a decision to be a businessman–they get distracted with the great conclusion of him meeting Randall.

A fantastic issue (where nothing happens).

CREDITS

The Last Iron Fist Story, Part 3; writers, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction; pencillers, David Aja, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath; inkers, Aja, Derek Fridolfs and Heath; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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