Or – “The Continuing Adventures Of The Golden Age Iron Fist…”


The invention of Orson Randall is one of the truly inspired portions of the new Immortal Iron Fist series (a book not lacking in inspiration and innovation.)  Marvel has long intimated that there have been other Iron Fists in history, but Fraction and Brubaker are the first ones to personify those previous wielders of the power of Shou Lao the Undying.  By taking a smattering of Doc Savage, a bit of Indiana Jones, and a healthy dose of booze, they’ve given us a character both new and familiar, and his stories are unlike anything else Marvel has to offer…

IF1.jpgPreviously, on Immortal Iron Fist: Our man Daniel Rand, the current bearer of the ceremonial title of Iron Fist, recently returned to K’un Lun, the city where he gained his powers, and found that there was much about his power that he didn’t know.  Through a convoluted circumstance, he encountered Orson Randall, the previous holder of his power, and came into possession of the legendary “Book of the Iron Fist.”  In protecting his successor, Orson loses his own life, and Danny is pulled into a mixed-dimensional martial arts tournament between K’un Lun and the other hidden cities where he finds that his own father, Wendell Rand, used to work with Randall and his associates.  More than that, it seems that Orson had a long and storied career fighting evil, clashing with Hydra, gathering his own band of allies a’la Doc Savage, and just basically being awesome in his own right.

This special issue starts in what feels like the 1930’s or so, in a speakeasy where mysterious mystic Shadu the Shady (Heh) performs his mentalist act.  The first wonderful thing about this sequence is the art by Mike Allred, and the second is the moment when he looks into the audience and finds a terrible man-shaped void.  Shadu collapses, only to awaken some time later surrounded by his friends: Iron Fist, Lucky Pierre, Wendell Rand, Chores and company.  Shadu explains that his fainting spell was caused by the strange man, and describes a whirl of green smoke…  Orson is shocked, and exclaims that there’s no way he could have found him here…  When asked who, he responds “Not a ghost, Wendell.  An angel… the angel of DEATH.  John Aman is here…  The Prince of Orphans!”  (I don’t know how many of you realize this, but John Aman was actually an honest-to-Pete Golden Age hero, the original Amazing Man…)  Orson panics, and prepares to bug out, but a swirling green mist blocks his was.  “Orson Randall…  At long last.  Prepare to die.”  Orson takes off down a hidden tunnel, then leaps through a mystic portal to escape…

They make it to the docks, and prepare to board a ship, but Wendell Rand refuses to give up his collection of extra-dimensional coins.  Orson tries to talk him out of it, but Wendell won’t budge.  He will not give up his treasures…  As they argue, the swirling mist again coalesces into the Prince of Orphans, but even the mighty John Aman is surprised that Orson shoots at him.  “Guns, Randall?  Really?  Dirty, I expected from you, but cheap?”  Orson barely escapes as Wendell drags him off the edge of the roof, and they escape on a cheapjack hang-glider assembly strapped to Wendell’s back.  Orson and his band of gypsies heads out for the old west, and I’m delighted to see a little old-school horse opera from comics legend Russ Heath.  Wendell clowns around in a yellow mask, pretending to be the Iron Fist, and gets a smack on the head from his pseudo-father.  “Dammit, Wendell!  I TOLD you…  You’re not Iron Fist, you’re not gonna BE Iron Fist…”  Rand is displeased, to say the least, as Orson and his posse ride into town to bail his friend Chores out of jail.  Unfortunately for him, the town is protected by the COWGIRLS FROM HELL!!!!

God, I love when Russ Heath draws hot women.  “Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their thighs!” cries Orson’s associate Contessa, and I have to smile.  Normally, I’d be bothered by such a blatant double-entendre, but combined with Russ’ art, the script totally works, seeming wholesome and innocent in it’s sex talk.  One of the girls coughs up a green mist, and suddenly, the Prince of Orphans is among them, attacking Orson with brutal force, demanding the return of his coins.  During the melee, circus strongman Chores is injured, and Orson laments that all his friends die in his arms.  Cut forward in time, as Orson carries a gravely wounded Wendell Rand through the forest to a castle.  He calls for help, as Wendell bleeds out, but it greeted only by Marvel’s version of the Frankenstein monster. The creature knows Orson, and leads him to his master, the son of the original Doc Frankenstein.  He agrees to save Wendell, who tells him to keep the coins if he doesn’t make it, just as the monster bashes Orson into unconsciousness.

Son of Frankenstein awakens them some time later, and his strange actions reveal that not all is well.  He pushes back his hair to show the stitches holding his dome on.  “I AM Frankenstein!” crows the doctor, as he prepares to transplant his own brain into Orson’s super-powered body…  I am loving this whole “Saturday Morning Matinee Theatre” thing going on in this issue, I might add.  Suddenly, John Aman arrives, and the green mist fills Young Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronk-in-Steen!”) with a killing gas.  “You were brilliant…  Now you’re just a dead little ghoul,” pronounced the Prince of Orphans, before freeing Orson.  He reveals what we all know, that he’s been following the signature of Wendell’s coins, before saving the lad’s life with the combined power of Iron Fist and Green Mist.

Some time later, the two implacable enemies stand on the battlements of the castle, uneasily discussing their situation.  Aman tells Orson that he may not like him much, but he won’t hurt a child or watch one die…  Orson asks Amazing Man Aman how he even thinks the coins got to this dimension, and Aman stops for a moment.  He warns Orson that he won’t be this charitable again, and Orson exits on horseback.  Some years later, Orson receives a telegram indicating that his father is dying, and goes to his old friends Lucky Pierre and Contessa for help.  They create a diversion, and the Iron Fist sneaks into the hospital, only to find a green mist awaiting him.  Aman has taken Orson’s father to the jungles of Z’Gambo (?) and is mystically prolonging his life.  When he arrives, Orson finds not a fight, but… an apology?

Aman explains that he DID listen to what Iron Fist told him, lo those many years ago, and that he investigated the origins of the mystical coins, and found that Randall the elder had created magical gateways between the dimensions, the payment for which founded the Randall (later the RAND family fortune.  Orson and Aman stay by the old man’s side as he dies, and the two immortal weapons realize that they’ve been duped.  Iron Fist gives Aman the inside information on K’un Lun, indicating that Aman should seek out Lei Kung the Thunderer, who is amassing an army.  “When the time comes,” says Randall, “seek out my successor and FIGHT LIKE HELL.”  Orson shakes Aman’s hand, and Aman asks who the successor will be.  Orson only knows who it WON’T be, and flies off to save his “son” Wendell from facing Shou Lao and trying to be the next Iron Fist…

This… issue… ROCKED!  I really enjoyed all the tributes to the old cinemas, from the jungles to the cowtown gunfights, to the mysterious villain.  All the artists are completely suited to their portions of the story, which rockets us along as though on rails.  This is obviously one of the stories the creators had been DYING to tell, a real tour de force of Iron Fist throughout the ages.  I love Orson Randall, and I’m nearly as entertained by John Aman (though I love the return of ANY Golden Age hero, for that matter.)  It’s an entertaining diversion, and one of my favorite issues from Marvel (hell, from ANYBODY) this year.  Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and The Green Mist of Death earns a hearty 5 out of 5 stars.  You should consider picking up this, or any, Iron Fist issue.  It’s very much worth the read.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Randallw
    March 4, 2008 at 9:42 pm — Reply

    There’s not enough heroes called Randall.

  2. March 4, 2008 at 10:38 pm — Reply

    I’ve been all about this title since the get go, even before it was a regular series when we saw Danny Rand standing in for his good friend Matt Murdock on the rooftops of Hells Kitchen. It is the one title that I get legitimately giddy about when I find it in my pile each month. The Iron Fist Mythos that has been established is a fantastic read and genuinely exciting … something lacking in the Marvel U these days.

    My only hope is that we get to see more of these one-shots featuring not only Orson & Wendell, but the previous Iron Fists … like those issues with Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay. Wow. Great review Matt, as I’ve stated before, the popularity of Major Spoilers has spiked due to the increased Iron Fist love.

  3. The Enigma
    March 5, 2008 at 10:47 am — Reply

    Matthew, your reviews were responsible for getting me to start reading this series. Thanks a lot. It’s been a pleasure. I look forward to your reviews of the issues nearly as much as the issues themselves.

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