By Steve Morris

Spoilers below, of course: we’re talking about the last issue of the run!

Issue #16 of The Immortal Iron Fist comes halfway through the run, with the creative team jumping off to eventually go write about the Hawk fellow. Originally a book co-written between Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, with David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth as the primary artistic team, by issue #16 Matt Fraction is sole writer of the series, and he takes his sign-off issue as a chance to re-centre Danny Rand and offer a primer for anyone who is interested in the character.

The issue spends its entire time standing back at the previous fifteen issues, admiring them from afar and pointing at all the bits it thinks should remain in continuity once the creative team are gone. Fraction offers a greatest-hits run through Danny’s life, confirming the existence of the Immortal Weapons, return of Danny and Misty Knight as a couple, deconstruction of Rand Industries, and so on. There’s something quite refreshing and enjoyable about a comic which luxuriates in itself for a little while, somewhat indulgently.

Around this point in his career at Marvel, Matt Fraction had a “type of guy” he liked to write, and several characters were pushed in a particular direction. Danny Rand was most prominent, although Tony Stark, Cyclops, and Warren Worthington all borrow elements: the business leader who turns his attention from profits to the holistic. Here, Danny is shutting down his organisation in an attempt to somehow get rid of all his money – a hard task, he notes, when his business is so rooted in other companies across the world – and focusing on activities like food banks, youth community centres, and the like. That could feel a little hyper-fantastic, the billionaire who wants to help the needy, but Fraction makes sure that Danny’s new mission feels a little scrappy and not completely realised – despite his mediation and the calming of his life, his charitable side is shown to be driven by an insomnia-driven mania.

Crucially, though, the comic pauses to allow in a new creative team next month. This calm before whatever new storm blows in with Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman is somewhat unusual in the world of superhero comics. At this particular time, however, the idea of an outgoing creative team setting up the incoming team was a little more popular at Marvel – Daredevil was quite notable in this regard, as well as comics like Uncanny X-Men. Nowadays a creative team ends to come in with a fresh #1, but there’s something far more interesting in seeing the team completely switch from one issue to the next, mid-run.

And the most entertaining part of The Immortal Iron Fist #16 is that Matt Fraction throws out a challenge to Swierczynski at the end. Having established everything in Danny Rand’s life in a rational, “day in the life of” style, where he tags in to every friend or ally he has, touches on every aspect of his world – the comic then ends with the detail that every Iron Fist dies when they turn #33.

And it’s Danny’s birthday today.

Fun! It’s a choice which catches the reader off guard, and sets up the next issue far more strongly than if the series simply rebooted itself. This approach offers not just the feeling of continuation in story, style, and character, but tells the reader that the next issue is worth sticking around for. A new #1 would mean that #16 is a jumping-off point, but an issue #17 means that #16 is a prologue to whatever adventure comes next. So this isn’t even really a finale! You could understand the idea that every toy which Brubaker, Fraction and Aja brought out in their run would be placed back in the box and largely forgotten about, as that tends to happen with superhero comics – this approach means we know the new team will have to continue on with all the new characters and conceits which the previous run has made integral to Danny Rand.

It all helps to reinforce the character, rather than make this feel like a singular moment in time when Iron Fist “was good for a bit”. Many characters get a reinvention for a short while and are then forgotten about for stretches (I’d argue America Chavez seems to be in this position right now, with her origin being retold every year for some reason and no internal consistency) but with issue #16 we’re being told that everything from the last year or two was not only important, but it’ll be continued. It’s a long-term investment in the character rather than a reboot and reconception every few years.

I don’t know how the cliffhanger ending was conceived (either editorial asked for it; Swierczynski asked for it; or Fraction decided to throw in a spanner and see what happened) but there’s something wonderful about expecting an ending and instead receiving the offer of a beginning.


The Immortal Iron Fist #16 “Happy Birthday Danny”
Written by Matt Fraction
Drawn by David Aja
Coloured by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Dave Lanphear


Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.


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