Redemption.

A single word to describe the massive final arc of the Iron Fist.  Following ‘Rage’, ‘Redemption’ is the ideal complement to the series. The other half of the whole. The comeback story to perfectly accompany the fall.

I want to start this by saying that I had high hopes for this series. And yet, it exceeded all my expectations. I had initially worried that writer and artist Kaare Kyle Andrews wouldn’t be able to make his series measure up to previous series like Immortal Iron Fist. And, wow, did he ever prove my worries misplaced.  With all this series has to offer, it quickly became, with few exceptions, my favorite Marvel series of the past year.

Light spoilers to follow. You’ve been warned.

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The Story:

Broken and bleeding from his confrontation with The One, Danny sets about healing his body and mind. With the help of Sparrow and Foo, he faces the inner-demons from his past, hoping for some measure of catharsis before he returns to New York. But in some ways he only opens more wounds.  Despite this, Danny knows he must return to his city to face The Steel Serpent and unholy machination of The One: the shadow of the man that was once his father.

Danny’s story flows in the beautiful way I’ve come to expect of Andrews’ work, coming off the crushing end to Living Weapon’s first arc “Rage” in the most natural way. As I’ve stated previously, the first arc took everything from Danny. And with nowhere to go but up, “Redemption” becomes the story of his return; the story not only of his physical recovery, but his spiritual restoration as well.

From a snowy cave in the mountains to the underworld, and from the skies of New York to the heart of Rand Tower, the scope of this arc is huge, yet grounded in the world of the Iron Fist.  Each character and each location bringing the reader along with Danny on his journey of self-discovery.  Facing hurricanes of turmoil within and without, the second and final of Andrew’s arcs in this series is an incredible read.

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The Art:

The art continues to amaze, Andrews’ character close ups and two-panel spreads lending enormous amounts of weight to the powerful moments that punctuate this series.The various locations and cast of characters do much to keep the comic looking fresh, but it’s the way in which Andrew’s lays out his panels and chooses his images that makes the story so visually captivating.  As the series reaches the finale, he utilizes more and more two page spreads, or rather spreads the drawn contents of one page over two pages, giving each panel a wide-angle view of the unbelievable action sequences concocted for this series.

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Andrews goes the other way on the scale as well, showing less to imply more.  One of my favorite visual tools he employs, only twice, is the use of panels with the same framing of a character, the character relatively unmoving/unchanged, while the background shifts from one location to another. While Danny seems unfazed, the reader knows that much is going on in his mind, that he’s withdrawn into himself as the world passes by.  Even between the two different instances this is used in the series, the reader can see and change in Danny’s character, emotions, even his outlook on life.

Moments:

On the final page of issue #12, Andrews’ describes his approach to Living Weapon as a focus on moments. And is that ever apparent. Each arc, each scene, and every panel feels placed with such purpose and care. As if the removal of one would amount to the removal of a brick from an arch, weakening the structure and causing it to fall.  And maybe that seems like so much flowery language, but I really feel it to be true.  This series is made up of gathered moments from Danny’s present and past. Moments between enemies. Moments between friends. Moments between student and sifu. Moments between someone and their demons. Moments between mother and son.

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In each scene, you can feel a build towards a line, an emotion, or an action. And each scene can be felt building towards the climax of the series. Whether building to a cool pose and a cool line or a heartfelt moment of catharsis, everything had purpose and was part of the greater vision. even if that vision is shifting.  Andrews even admits to the ending of the series being fluid, altered upon reaching the end and realizing what you want and what you need are different.

“…what do you do when you spend a year and a half building to something that [is] no longer true? When you fight so hard to reach that one moment you want and it’s not the moment you need?”

Personally, I felt the ending somewhat out of place.  But I acknowledge that it’s on me as a reader, bringing my own baggage to the table in reading this series. Altogether it is a happy ending.  Perhaps it’s my own oversaturation of dark and gritty storylines. Maybe it’s that in this world of forever-sequels and never ending series, I’m not used to conclusion.  Maybe it’s my own underlying jaded perspectives.  Either way, happy endings feel strange to me.

But this was the moment that the series had been building towards at least since the halfway point, if not earlier. If anything the highest point of the series was the end of issue #11 or the first few pages of issue #12, the last issue being more of a true denouement, the lower point in the story, wrapping up the loose ends. Living Weapon ends on a high note. It’s a win.

And considering everything that Andrews puts Danny through in this series, he deserves a win. While it didn’t sit well with me initially, reflecting on the end makes it feel more and more satisfying to me. If you look at this as a collection of moments, the end is the moment they’ve earned. A moment of reflection in resolution with the knowledge that this is one moment of many. And there are many more moments to come.

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This series has meant as much to me as it has meant to Danny Rand as a character. More than most any comic I’ve read, The Living Weapon made me empathize fully with a superhero character. Not just for an arc. Not just for a scene. For an entire run of a series. Danny Rand’s problems, while masked in mysticism and Kung fu monsters, are human problems: Feeling controlled by anger. Feeling powerless. Feeling burdened by responsibility. Feeling as if you’re not enough. These problems, and the way Andrews approaches them make a superheroic person seem like the human they are. More accessible. And more than almost any other character, I felt connected to Danny’s problems.

And while I had said the story initially felt like a kung-fu-movie-turned-comic, it became so much more to me. Detail for the world and life of the Iron Fist was what I came for. Kung fu fights was what I stayed for. But it was the depth of character, depth of thought, that hooked me. A lot of thought and passion went into this series, and that is clear from the outset. But the series became an analysis of ‘self’. A lens through which we could analyze Danny, and in doing so, analyze ourselves.

From beginning to end, The Living Weapon is peppered with moments of unexpected wisdom. Honest moments that develop Danny Rand as a character in more ways that I had hoped for. And from the writing to the artwork, flashy kung fu to spiritual reflection, tense opening to cathartic close, this is not a series to miss.

And Luke Cage at the end. I like that. Hired.

Thanks Kaare.

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is available for purchase through Marvel, Comixology, and at your Local Comic Shop.

About The Author

Long time fan of comic books, video games, and movies. Zander is often no where to be found because he's marathoning movies and tv shows or playing video games till all hours of the night as most disillusioned twenty-somethings are wont to do. Polar opposites are the game: action/comedies and dramas, FPS games and turn-based strategy, science fiction and historical fiction. Why pick one thing when there are so many good things?

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