Friday, March 03, 2017

Snowfire (Marvel)
Iron Fist #14 When: August 1977
Why: Chris Claremont How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
A message from Colleen Wing sends Danny Rand trekking across the border to Canada in a dash to help his friend!

She's been employed as a bodyguard while Rand-Meachum lawyer Jeryn Hogarth investigates a plot to rip the company off. Good thing, too! Hogarth's getting dangerously close to the answers he seeks -- and someone isn't happy about it!

A thirty-minute helicopter ride over Banff takes Colleen and Danny to their destination: a remote chalet where the mercenary Sabretooth awaits their arrival! They escape the killer and his henchmen, but are forced to endure the cold of a night on the Rockies before they can make their return to save Hogarth! Death awaits as Iron Fist faces Sabretooth mano-a-mano!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Sabretooth 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Sabretooth 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Sabretooth 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Iron Fist 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Sabretooth 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Iron Fist 3 (Explosives)
Total: Draw 28 (Metahuman)

Everybody knows Sabretooth is one of Wolverine's deadliest enemies! A little less well known: that he started out mixing it up with a completely different hero! We're in for another classic Marvel milestone in today's feature fight!

There's a good chance you know the basics about the mutant called Victor Creed. He possesses an accelerated mutant healing factor, claw-like finger nails, phenomenal strength, heightened senses, and generally impressive physical constitution. He also has an uncanny acumen for violence and animal savagery.

Creed's true history is muddled. That's thanks in part to time spent with the Weapon X project - notorious for implanting false memories. It's believed he exhibited mutant traits at a very young age. He killed his brother, remaining chained in the family basement where his father would rip the canine teeth from his mouth. A repeated ritual thanks to his uncanny healing abilities.

This generally lousy childhood started Sabretooth on a blood stained path to a life of pain and misery. Some time after leaving Weapon X, he began applying his lethal skills to life as a mercenary. It was a job in the Canadian rockies that first brought him into conflict with his frequent foe: Iron Fist!

Danny Rand had his own troubling childhood experiences, but emerged a very different man! Born to a wealthy entrepreneur; Danny was the heir apparent to a fortune -- and a secret martial arts legacy!

His father Wendell was once adopted by Lord Tuan of the mystical city of K'un-Lun! During a pilgrimage back, Wendell's business partner sent him plummeting to his death. His wife Heather soon died protecting their son from starving wolves. Alone in the mountains, the boy was discovered and taken in by the denizens of K'un-Lun. There, he began training under Lei Kung the Thunderer.

Rand's rigorous martial arts training turned him into an immortal weapon! At the appropriate age, he was put through the rites of the Iron Fist, defeating the  great dragon Shou-Lou to be imbued with incredible mystic power!

We've seen Iron Fist use his super-charged punch to: Send tough guy Unus the Untouchable flying through the air [Power Man & Iron Fist #90], rip through a few Hand ninja [New Avengers #27], and kayo a giant Agamotto possessed Luke Cage [New Avengers #2]! We've also seen his martial arts take care of Sabretooth before - in Power Man & Iron Fist #66!

Sabretooth's hand-to-hand game definitely lacks the finesse of Iron Fist's kung-fu, but that doesn't mean he's outmatched. We may've seen him lose fights in Wolverine #50 and the X-Men movie, but he could generally be characterized as a more calculating combatant than the sometimes reckless Wolverine!

He doesn't have the healing factor Wolverine does to rely too heavily on it. Instead, Sabretooth favors his considerable strength and ferociousness to overwhelm opponents when he can. That was the plan when he stalked Jubilee through the X-Mansion [Adventures of X-Men #7] and went after Wonder Girl while fighting the Teen Titans [Unlimited Access #3]. This also demonstrates his tendency toward preying upon weaker attachments, which means Iron Fist's wounded travelling partner Colleen Wing could become a tactical target.

When all is said and done, it's more than likely to be a battle of skill and strength, fist and claw. Whoever finds the means to strike first with their special move will likely be the winner. Let's see how they managed...

History: Iron Fist (1-0-0) Ranking: Iron Fist (#32)

What Went Down...
With costumed minions preparing a massive chopper for extraction, Sabretooth toys with his target inside his chalet. The mission is almost over, but his hyper-keen senses detect something amiss with the body-suited soldier who should be Garrett. Gunshots outside confirm Sabretooth's suspicions.

The merc' sees Colleen Wing burst from their alpine compound, leading an escape of prisoners work for his target! A sudden slash of Sabretooth's claws exposes the chest of the suspect soldier -- exposing a winged dragon brand!

Recognizing his opponent for a super-hero, Sabretooth asks for a name. Iron Fist complies, introducing himself with a thrusting palm strike!

Sabretooth absorbs the blow and is on his feet in seconds! Iron Fist notes the villain's staggering speed as Sabretooth demonstrates his strength. He swats aside solid furniture like it was nothing!

The mercenary dashes forward and Iron Fist barely reacts in time to stay out of reach! Injuries from recent battles have taken their toll. Fortunately for him, action on the helipad outside has unforeseen results! The women working for target Hogarth destroy the massive hulk -- causing an explosion that shatters the windows of the chalet some fifty meters away!

Iron Fist dives across the room to shield Hogarth from falling shards of skylight, while Sabretooth makes a break for the rear exit!

There's nothing but glacier beyond the chalet, but the hero rushes to make pursuit any way. His hubris is his undoing as he leaves the cover of the interior for the glaring white of snow and sunrise! Iron Fist is snow blind!

Talons slash across Iron Fist's back as he struggles to get to grips with the white void now engulfing him! The escape was all a ploy -- Sabretooth's plan to use the familiar environment to trick his foe. A tactic that worked!

Another swing of those deadly claws take a swatch of fabric from Iron Fist's abdomen. He can block out the pain, but without knowing where Sabretooth is there's no way to make superior technique his advantage against the speedy power house! He swings wildly, missing his mocking target by a mile!

Over confident Sabretooth taunts Iron Fist to try again. The pause gives him time to charge the living weapon that is his right fist -- but harnessing his chi for a single knock-out blow is risky. Still exhausted from past battles and a night on the mountain, he can't afford to gamble that much energy!

Iron Fist snaps out of his thoughts as Sabretooth moves in for another attack. A wild swinging blow clips the hero's hip! He's woozy and needs to act!

Remembering the training he received as a boy under Lei Kung, Danny reaches out with his other senses. He hears heavy feet cross snow and at the speed of thought he acts -- thrusting his leg into Sabretooth's unsuspecting body!

The blow forces Sabretooth lurching forward. Iron Fist keeps close, using their contact to send the villain flipping to the ground with a hip toss!

The sudden turn in the fight gets Sabretooth mad and that makes it all the easier to hear, smell and feel him coming! A charging attack becomes an effortless side step and throw for the master martial artist!

Sabretooth's own momentum sends him flipping onto his head and neck! He staggers to his feet with threats of evisceration - providing Iron Fist the audio guide he needs to pinpoint his target for an all mighty knock-out blow!

The right-cross chin checks Sabretooth into next week! For all his ferocity and strength, the mutant mercenary is out cold on the snowy mountain!

The Hammer...
Still blind: Iron Fist reacts to the sound of someone approaching behind him. He has no idea he's swinging wildly at Colleen Wing! She ducks the attack and finds out the reason for it. Hey, no sweat! The snow blindness is temporary! All's well that ends well! Mostly...

Iron Fist #14 may be memorable as the first appearance of Sabretooth, but the series only had one more issue before it faced permanent cancellation. An on-going sub-plot involving Steel Serpent would have to be picked up in Marvel Team-Up, before the flagging Power Man series was rechristened Power Man & Iron Fist with issue #50.

Power Man & Iron Fist gave us many great years of one of comics' greatest buddy teams, but its a bittersweet example of the harsh trials of publishing. Iron Fist actually ended after a pretty strong handful of issues that boasted The Wrecking Crew, Captain America, Boomerang, and the X-Men in guest roles!

It would've been interesting to see where the series might've progressed with this level of promotional integration into other Marvel properties. I'm particularly jazzed by Boomerang and Sabretooth appearances. Yes, I do have a particular taste for a certain brand of second string villain. It also sets a tone for Iron Fist as a developing character that just strikes me as interesting. I suppose that's what we saw brought out more when he teamed permanently with Power Man.

Sabretooth, of course, goes through significant development after starting out here. A year or two ago, Erik Larsen was soliciting suggestions for examples of villains who started with one arch foe, and made a lasting transition to another.

Sabretooth comes immediately to mind as one of the best examples of a villain exchange. He would be irrevocably become associated with Wolverine and the X-Men, but not before Sabretooth's rivalry with Iron Fist escalated into the tag team arena! If you were paying attention to The Tape section, you'll have already found the link to Power Man & Iron Fist #66 -- Sabretooth's next grudge match with the Fist, alongside new partner Constrictor!

That partnership would last a few more appearances, before Sabretooth began meandering his way toward the Mutant Massacre, and an enduring arch-rivalry with Wolverine. It won't surprise regular readers to hear me romance those early chronological appearances, spread across multiple series.

The ultimate elevation of Sabretooth is arguably a testament to the beneficial staying power of co-creator Chris Claremont. Admittedly, we've been romancing his considered approach to comics a lot over the last couple of years. Characters like Juggernaut and The Reavers have also benefitted from developmental through lines created by Claremont.

If you were here last month, you would've been enjoying four classic contests from the canon of Wolverine with heavy influence from Claremont! Which made today's spotlight the perfect way to advance to a March of martial arts mayhem!

With Logan in global theatrical release today; we're moving on to the immortal weapon in honor of his live-action debut on Netflix! The new series Iron Fist goes live March 17th, introducing the final piece of the Netflix Defenders puzzle!

In the coming weeks we'll be looking at a few more memorable moments from Iron Fist's past and present! If you can't wait until then - be sure to follow any of the various links provided throughout this post. Or dive in to the Immortal Issue Index to find past featured fights organized by publisher, series and issue!

You can get daily links to classic battles inspired by the topics of the day by liking and sharing The Comic Book Fight Club on Facebook and Twitter! If you want to read the featured issue for yourself, use the Amazon link conveniently supplied to help support the site at no additional cost!

Winner: Iron Fist
#21 (+11) Iron Fist
#867 (-4) Sabretooth

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