There have been storylines of Iron Fist losing his...iron fist before, it’s a version of a trope as old as the mystical kung-fu genre itself, but Kaare Andrews, as he so often does, managed to put an interesting spin on it when he had the entire connection to the chi and K’un Lun severed by a strange, mechanized...living metaphor, would be the easiest way to describe it. Now his arms are healing and he’s re-learning how to fight without the use of his chi, much in the same way Wolverine had to learn to fight without his healing factor when he encountered an enemy that could circumvent it. Danny Rand’s portions of this are by far the most interesting as we plumb into his distant and less distant past and see how the characters he’s training with now connect to his history. Rand and Sparrow are well-written and their master Fooh is another interesting spin on a well-worn trope: not a mysterious, inscrutable old man, but the mechanic who’s kept K’un Lun going across the years.
Andrews also handles the art from top-to-bottom and does a generally great job. There’s a version of Iron Fist we get to see near the end of the issue that I won’t describe partially because it’s a spoiler and partially because I don’t think reading it would do it justice, it really should be seen to get the full effect. Again, the training sections are well drawn and flow from panel-to-panel, like blinking frequently and long during an especially surreal martial arts movie movie.
Whenever the focus leaves Rand, Sparrow and the mysterious mechanic, the book loses a lot of momentum and focus. The machinations of the villains, and the attempts by Brenda Swanson and Detective Li to derail them, don’t make for particularly compelling storylines, unfortunately. I just had a hard time connecting or caring about anything that went on in that mysterious boardroom and Swanson seems to be falling further and further, motivation-wise, into doing what the plot needs her to do. I get that her character has developed in the last few issues, developed well even, but both her and her compatriot seem shoehorned into the storyline.
While I’m generally a fan of Andrews’ art, there are a few panels here and there where it falters. Characters look completely different than how they did previously or subsequently (leading to an especially confounding kiss) and some of the designs just don’t gel for me. For instance: I’m a big fan of how Sparrow is drawn, but not a fan of her design overall.
The story of Danny putting the iron back into his fist is good enough to hold this book up and recommend it, though this issue is not particularly new-reader friendly. Dig up some back issues and definitely check out the first trade if you feel the itch to get some unconventional kung-fu in your superheroics, or whatever genres you particularly enjoy. This is still a good issue overall, but considering the previous ones it falls flat.