Editor's Note: Immortal Weapons #5 arrives in stores tomorrow, November 25.
"Prince of Orphans: The Loyal Ten Thousand Dead"
It's quite the shame that the regular Iron Fist series has gone on what looks like permanent hiatus, but while this miniseries focusing on some of his companions from the various Capital Cities of Heaven hasn't been perfect, it's at least a memorable reminder of the kind of crazy action and mystical concepts that await anyone who decides to venture back into its milieu at some point in the future. This last entry focuses on the enigmatic figure named Prince of Orphans, but while some of the other issues have delved into the origins of the characters, writer David Lapham chooses to leave this one a mystery, instead telling a present-day tale in which he confronts an ancient threat, with the help of Danny Rand, the Iron Fist himself. Danny gets called in to help defeat a dragon that is guarding an ancient temple which contains the souls of ten thousand soldiers who were wrongly sealed inside by a treacherous emperor, but the Prince of Orphans must defeat the main threat when the ghostly army rises up, and blinded by centuries of rage, decides to attack a nearby city. It's interesting and exciting, although it could have stood to be a bit more threatening. Thousands of deadly ghost soldiers make for a near-incomprehensible enemy, and while several pages are spent fighting them, the Prince never seems to be taking on more than twenty or thirty guys.
Artist Arturo Lozzi certainly does what he can to sell this bit of supernatural chaos though, and his art looks quite lovely throughout, with plenty of soft-edged, sumptuously detailed vistas of the overgrown temple, the city, and the army of marauding spirits. Colorist June Chung certainly helps out, lending an otherworldly blue glow to the ghosts and a contrasting green hue to the Prince's ectoplasmic form, as well as some gorgeous jungle greens, a bright red shade for the dragon, and plenty of urban greys for the city scenes. In fact, it looks so nice that one might not notice the clunky action storytelling, which is kind of hard to follow and doesn't flow very naturally, especially in the scene where Danny fights the dragon. The chaos of the army all attacking at once does make up for that though, as the Prince taking on dozens of soldiers at once is quite visceral and exciting.
It's still a good story overall, with some hints at the Prince of Orphans' backstory seeming deliciously creepy. The characterization of Danny does seem a bit off though; he's portrayed as somewhat inept and prone to corny wisecracks, a seeming attempt to liven up the serious story with some humor. It doesn't really work, but it's only a small aspect of the whole. On the other hand, the backup feature, which concludes the story that's been running throughout the miniseries, is a letdown, ending on a dumb moral and a boring climax. Duane Swierczynski had a good run on the main Iron Fist title, but he drops the ball here, showing that the cancellation of the title might be for the best now that the stories had shifted to urban stories of mentorship rather than supernatural adventures. Hatuey Diaz's art certainly doesn't help things; while he pulls off some decent effects in the portrayal of Iron Fist's powers, his portrayal of Danny makes him look like a hobgoblin with a smooshed-up face; it's pretty ugly stuff.
So maybe we shouldn't be too disappointed about the end of the series; it's been a fun ride, but not exactly essential, and it's set up some good concepts for anybody who wants to pick them up down the road. It's been nice having some good martial arts action in the Marvel Universe, so hopefully it won't be too long before somebody realizes what a cool character they've got sitting here. May his fists continue to be a thing like unto iron, pounding his unique stamp upon our subconscious.
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