Or – “The Leader Of The Pack…  And Now He’s Gone.”

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When the other celestial cities debuted a couple of years ago in Iron Fist, I doubted that their champions could really hold a candle to the might of the Iron Fist.  I figured that we’d see the brief Mortal Kombat competition end with Danny Rand’s ascendence and that would be it.  I was pleasantly surprised by the brilliance of Fat Cobra, and each issue of this series has been interesting to varying degrees.  So, how does Dog Brother #1 size up?

IW2.jpgPreviously, on Immortal Weapons:  When Iron Fist lost the tournament of the Cities of Heaven, it seemed that all was lost.  Thankfully, he was able to rally the other Immortal Weapons behind him to save the day, and returned to Earth with them at his side.  Fat Cobra, Dog Brother #1, The Prince of Orphans, The Bride of Nine Spiders and The Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter accompanied Danny Rand on his trip to the lost EIGHTH city, a land that turned out to be pretty much hell (in a literal, not merely metaphorical sense.)  Iron Fist and his compatriots had to work together in order to escape from the city, all the while enduring torture, repeated beatings and general unpleasantness.  So far we’ve seen the story of Fat Cobra (a fascinating run through the history of the Marvel Universe, featuring Elvis, opera singing, and 400 pound babies, all delivered with a palpable sense of tragedy) and that of the Bride of Nine Spiders (a creepy tale featuring Otter Disaster’s worst nightmare, a spider as huge as a platter…)  Now, we turn our attentions to the enigmatic Dog Brother #1 and his pack.  How does one become a war dog, anyway?

Our story begins in Hong Kong in the mid-1800’s, with two young street urchins, orphaned by the Opium Wars.  The elder boy keeps his younger companion going with a combination of theivery, stealth, and tales of the legendary Dog Brother #1.  “He fights for the weakest among us,” goes the story, “for the abandoned, the lost and the forgotten…”  The two lads endure the cruelty of fate, beatings from gangs, abuse from the police, and scorn from the merchants that they’re forced to pilfer from to survive.  Though it all, it’s the stories of Dog Brother that keep young Sidai from falling completely into despair.  Soon enough, though, they fall in with a bad crowd, being pulled in by opium smugglers to serve as mules for their drugs, pulled into a vicious circle.  The smugglers provide food, but the more they eat, the slower they are.  The slower they are, the more likely they’ll be caught and possibly killed.  But, if they fatte up, they carry more, allowing them to get more food.  Thoughout it all, the stories of Dog Brother keep them centered and help them survive…  This whole sequence is awesome, and the art by Tim Green captures the mood of the period perfectly.

Things turn ugly when they’re ordered to smuggle kegs of gunpowder, which leads to an explosion, and to Sidai breaking a leg.  The cycle becomes darker, as he begins smoking opium for his pain, and the injury causes them to slow just enough to get caught.  Sihing saves his younger partner by knifing a cop, and both boys earn a beating from their masters.  When Sihing tries to keep his friend alive with a Dog Brother story, Sidai forsakes the Immortal Weapon, and the strongest of the drug runners snorts ath their story.  “Take a good look,” he sneers.  “I’m what you become when he never shows.”  That moment literally took my breath away…  Sidai is killed, and Sihing snaps, using all he knows about Dog Brother’s fighting style to take down his tormentor.  They are prepared to kill him when the real Dog Brother swoops in and slashes them to bits.  When asked why he’s doing it, what he wants, Dog Brother #1 replies, “I want that dead boy to be alive.”  The Immortal Weapon takes the boy with him to his ship, and they discuss how the mantle of Dog Brother #1 is passed.  Sihing understands, taking the sword and beheading his predecessor before sailing off to become the new Immortal Weapon.

There’s also an Iron Fist backup, but this chapter is pretty much forgettable, with some truly bizarre art and a short fight sequence, but the real treasure comes in the main feature.  There’s such power and pathos in every moment of the story, two boys fighting against poverty and starvation with only the thought of their hero to sustain them.  Rick Spears’ script is wonderfully handled, and the art is note-perfect throughout, especially the reveal that the actual Dog Brother #1 is pretty much another scrawny war dog under his armor.  I really like this issue, as much because of the setting and tone as the characters, tying into a portion of history that you seldom see in comic books in a highly creative manner.  The Immortal Iron Fist relaunch has been an amazing success creatively, and issues like this remind us of exactly why.  Immortal Weapons #3 earns 4.5 out of 5 stars, only losing points for the strangeness of the Iron Fist episodes’ art.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted a comic to be…

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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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4 Comments

  1. Crash
    September 29, 2009 at 12:34 am — Reply

    I agree completely. This comic was amazing. Fat Cobra was amazing and this one is just as good. The one I’m really interested to get to is Prince of Orphans.

  2. typhoidhater
    September 29, 2009 at 8:14 am — Reply

    While I certainly enjoyed this issue and like you rank it above Bride of 9 Spiders but below Fat Cobra, I was left with a lot of questions. Considering we saw no evidence/mention of a mystical city and if the mantle of Dog Brother #1 is passed on through ritual beheading, how exactly does Dog Brother get the tournament invite? Or are we to assume that the whole of earth, or at least China, is Dog Brother #1’s mystical city?

  3. Ricco
    September 29, 2009 at 9:35 am — Reply

    I liked the twist at the end, we believe it’s a random story about Dog Brother 1 when in fact it likely the origin story of the current Dog Brother 1.

    @Typhoid: like all the other weapons it seems Dog Brother 1 travels all over the world, but he is the first weapon we see that tranfers its powers to someone who doesn’t train at a mystical city. It a different school of combat all together, you have the “train your body, learn techniques one” and this one the “go out and fight”. Since the city and the tournament are magical in origin he probably got his invite through some form of mystical Fedex or something like that.

  4. typhoidhater
    September 29, 2009 at 10:31 am — Reply

    Ricco- I get the world traveling angle as well as the different way of training, but we’ve been told that every 88 years all seven cities appear on earth. So why no mention of Dog Brother’s city? I’m not complaining about anything in the issue other than the lack of information pertaining to his mystical ties. Earth bound training and earth bound succession is all fine and dandy, but without a mystical aspect he doesn’t fit in with the other weapons. Even the Bride’s mystical city got a mention and she hardly appeared at all in her issue.

    I want another Dog Brother #1 story dammit!

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