Mark: The question at the heart of this comic, Power Man & Iron Fist #1, is “are the Heroes for Hire back together?” While that’s left up in the air, there’s no doubt that the force of Mark Raffalo has reunited to review this joint. Tell us, Raf, how’d this comic find you today?
Raf: (Future voice) THEM BOYS MARK RAFFALO UP TO SOMETHING– bantering about comics. Mark, this comic opens with a fist-bump between two bros so empirically it is the best example of the medium in this year of our Lord 2016.
Mark: Whoa, whoa, slow your roll! This comic might not even be the best of this week. Artistically, I’d be willing to give that to this book but the writing is a whole other story.
Raf: Listen if a piece of bread is accelerating I will NOT intervene. I have to confess something: I am tired of the cape-driven majority of comics. I actively avoid crossovers and I detest this term but I live in the “fringes” of the mainstream comics world. I found this issue a warm and welcome reintroduction and honestly it was a blast to read.
Mark: That’s the difference between you and me. I’m in the trenches day in and day out. And while I had some fun with this issue, a lot of what I saw in it was the same shit just drawn better. We get two pages of Danny and Luke talking about a character like they’re the most important person in the world only to get the reveal that it’s… a character who was in Heroes for Hire when that was being published thirty years ago and showed up once again in 2011 only to disappear again. No old school popularity pops! Especially if there’s no popularity. Superhero comics do this all the time, man, they talk about someone like you should have guessed who they were before just loading them off on you without any idea who they are or why they matter.
Raf: Boy, you stand there like a good cloud while I prepare my yelling voice. Actually what you disliked is what I found interesting– the small sphere of this comic in particular is what drew me to it. For the intents and purposes of the story this character IS the most important person in the world and it does a nice dual job of giving us insight into the personalities and values of this iteration. And to the credit of this issue I was unaware of this character’s perceived irrelevance- I appreciated the ride without needing to dig through back issues to understand the significant. I really respect the ability to convey shorthand and it’s clear both David Walker (a VASTLY underrated expositionist– read his Shaft series for a proper ‘70s blaxploitation story done in comic form) and Sanford Greene are fans of the ’70s title and I think they manage to do a good job of keeping their vision without falling to the trap of needing to treat readers like captive seals and throw them the fish they see in the bucket.
Mark: Man, I’m with you on the vision and the conveying of significance without needing to know shit about shit. I like that. What I take umbrage with is the structure. Withholding the identity of Jennie (the former receptionist of our Heroes for Hire and the character being alluded to) in the build-up to them picking her up serves no purpose. It’s treated as a reveal but it’s actually not because we (the uninformed) do not know her. It’s an unnecessary trick designed to build anticipation minus pay-off. The same thing actually happens again at the end with the reveal of a villain who definitely isn’t pulling Doctor Doom brand recognition.
Raf: I’ll grant you the latter most definitely- the last minute reveal felt so forced. I may be giving this book a little more of a pass due to the inclusion of my dude Tombstone, who I have missed in comics on the regular. The book’s strongest draw (and the reason for my championing of it) is the dynamic between Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Their relationship and dialogue felt natural and clever without that “snap” of artifice you get from bad Bendis or others.
Mark: It’s true that their rapport is strong and their dialogue is unique to each character. You definitely wouldn’t confuse the characters for each other unless you were the letterer and the editor who let a panel get through where the characters were speaking each other’s dialogue. Embarrassing.
Raf: Oof. That’s not great at all. I think my eye glazed it but that’s not chill at all. Frankly amateur technical error aside, I think we can hit the praise hard for Sanford Greene. He has a style I very much dig and is very much in line with the ‘70s with a splash of modernity vibe the book is going for. Reminds me a lot of Jun Lofamia and that Filipino ‘70s style that was really prevalent in the Black Dynamite series. Regardless, Greene kills it through and through- fights are fluid and objects and people have a gravity to them. Also big-ups to to Lee Loughridge’s colors. I don’t think he’s capable of doing a poor job and his palette reminded me a lot of the one he used over Matthew Southworth’s art in Stumptown but without looking like a retread.
Mark: Sanford Greene drew some cool shoes on Iron Fist. I want those shoes. He drew a cool shirt and a cool vest on Luke Cage, a shirt and vest combo I’m sure you’d stab a man for. Clothing and shoes are often massively important parts of a character that get overlooked in the grind of monthly superhero comics. The pantheon of recent greats is small (big ups to Ramon Villalobos for upping the superhero shoe game) but Greene is already indicating that he belongs there. Luke Cage dresses like a grown man but a grown man who hasn’t completely lost his sense of panache. Danny Rand, well, he dresses like he doesn’t have the money to turn the lights on in the morning. These characters are dressing themselves and that’s an injection of personality that makes this book interesting even with its failings.
Raf: Definite shout-outs to Ramon for stepping that game up, even if his Adidas > Everything stance is controversial. And you’re absolutely right about the clothing being a step many people don’t think about but it’s all-too crucial, especially when you recall these are street-level heroes. They’re going to be out and about. Also glad Iron Fist is wearing shoes because I do not like feet and Mark, Danny Rand’s shoes look like Adidas ZX-750s or Saucony Jazz. I own a pair of ZX 750s and they’re great for longevity and for kicking thugs around. I still don’t rescind my previous comments because this book did open with a fist bump but while it does have its shortcomings and the seemingly inevitable first-issue checklist to get through, there’s enough meat on the bones to keep me interested. Even getting Luke Cage to say “Sweet Christmas” (something I’m actually not a fan of) came off as organic and relevant. That said, man, Jake Thomas and Clayton Cowles, how do you fuck that one panel up so bad?
Mark: I mean, that’s not even getting into how bad of a look it is to have Marvel Comics’ break-out female character of this century, Jessica Jones, appear in four panels sitting on the couch and watching the baby. She got a show on Netflix and she’s still being used as wallpaper in the year of our lord 2016. It’s hard for me to ignore something like that even with how enjoyable it was to see Danny and Luke getting into shit with mobsters.
Raf: Just to play Devil’s Advocate, it’s not called Family For Hire and technically Luke is the one being parently minus the phone call BUT yes I concur. I enjoy the mature relationship of Jessica and Luke as a post-nuclear family and I actually hope that Walker delves into it more. I’ve really got a hard line stance against damsels in distress/ women being harmed or killed as a call to action. Here’s hoping Jessica maybe gets her own fight scene somewhere down the line or maybe insists on going on patrol- could be an interesting shift in the dynamic of the series.
Mark: Yeah, it’s a well-written dynamic and wouldn’t be a problem in a vacuum. It’s just a major disappointment that this is the only comic Jones is appearing in in any capacity. That might be more indicative of an editorial problem.
As for final thoughts, I thought this was mostly fun if disposable. The art is really the whole reason to pick this up. The writing never really grabbed me even though I liked the way the book just sets aside the Avengers stuff to give the characters their own unique world colored to their experiences. Luke Cage walking into Tombstone’s office isn’t played like a superhero walking into a supervillain’s lair. And that’s to the book’s advantage. There’s a lesson this book has learned from the success of Hawkeye; ditching the overtly superhero stuff does everyone a favor.
Raf: Both my young, white compatriot and I agree at least that Power Man & Iron Fist #1 is worth a read, especially in these days of seemingly interchangeable titles about superheroes on their days off or saving the universe in a 97 part series. It’s a solid, fun title that has room to grow and ripen and there’s enough laughs and fists to hold my fickle-ass interest. This comic isn’t going to start the revolution or tear the fabric but it was fun to read and I look forward to seeing these two knock heads around town. Definitely show Sanford Greene some love– artists need to know their importance to realizing this medium. If you pick it up for him that’s totally fine but you might stick around and have a good time. All right, Mark, any final thoughts? I have one- FREE GUCCI.
Mark: Just that I’m going to buy those damn shoes.