Friday, March 17, 2017

The Boys Are Back (Marvel)
Power Man and Iron Fist #1 When: April 2016
Why: David Walker How: Sanford Greene

The Story So Far...
It's been many years since Luke Cage and Danny Rand operated as the famous Heroes for Hire. For a while they were underground heroes, and even charter members of The Avengers! Now they're just two guys reuniting with an old friend being released from prison.

Jennie Royce was the Heroes for Hire office manager until the apparent death of Danny Rand. In the years following she worked for Crime-Buster, but was convicted for a manslaughter committed under possession.

After five years of legal funding from Danny Rand,;Jennie is finally exonerated of her crimes and free to return to what remains of her life. Still feeling guilty about her fate, Danny offers to do anything to help her make the transition, and there's only one thing she can think of: her grandmother's necklace.

Now Luke Cage is reluctantly along for the ride with Iron Fist, and heading into Tombstone's den to find the lost trinket. Jennie says it was taken from Crime-Buster's locker by debt collectors while she was possessed (and killing him), but as the former Heroes for Hire are about to learn, there may be magic afoot!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Luke Cage 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Iron Fist 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Iron Fist 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Luke Cage 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Iron Fist 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Iron Fist 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Iron Fist 3 (Explosives)

Total: Iron Fist 28 (Metahuman)

He's baaack! It's the return of a Secret Wars on Infinite Earths favourite in his most contemporary incarnation!

In 2016 we find Tombstone firmly entrenched behind the desk of an urban crime boss. He commands a small army of street thugs and goons who seem to be doing most of his bidding. He's no Kingpin, but he's clearly carved out his niche in the busy world of New York organized crime.

Of course, there are many phases to Lonnie Lincoln - the man known as Tombstone. The chalk-faced albino started out relying on intimidation to cultivate his criminal persona. He emerged with plans to blackmail Daily Bugle editor Robbie Robertson early in his career. Wearing a crisp suit and jockeying for power, he became a target for Spider-man in Spectacular Spider-man #142.

An accident exposed Tombstone to experimental chemicals that gave him bona fide super-human strength and durability. These powers turned Tombstone into a more common super-thug for a time, finding an equal match in the solo Luke Cage seen in Cage #3! He went full super-villain as a member of the Sinister Twelve in Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11, reverting to a more classic mob enforcer when he clashed with Daredevil overseas, in Daredevil #90 and #91!

Only the former of Tombstone's two European vacations with Daredevil resulted in a victory. A losing record made all the worse given he was beaten as part of The Untouchables team when he faced one-half of today's opponents!

Luke Cage & Iron Fist aren't getting back together in 2016. They aren't doing the super-hero thing, they aren't Heroes for Hire, Cage isn't even Power Man. Just a couple of guys helping out a friend... Except they are back!

These two have been together through a whole heckuva lot. We've seen them tag team in the eighties against Constrictor & Sabretooth [Power Man & Iron Fist #66] and Man Mountain Marko & Eel [Power Man & Iron Fist #92], spend time apart in the 90s before restarting Heroes for Hire, then reconvene in the mid-2000s to fight Iron Man's pro-registration Avengers [Civil War #3], Skrull Queen Veranke and The Hand [New Avengers #27], alien symbiotes [New Avengers #36] and even each other [New Avengers #2]!

What does all of this mean? Nothing good for Tombstone! He might be able to go toe to toe with either one of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, but against both he's in real trouble. Numbers are the only advantage he has, but our heroes are well versed in smacking fools down.

History: Luke Cage (1-0-0)
The Tape: Luke Cage & Iron Fist Ranking: Luke Cage (#8)

What Went Down...
When inquiries sound like accusations - Tombstone gets mighty mad. There's one thing worse than being called a thief in his own house, though. That's a man bringing a living weapon with him to do it! Iron Fist may be sitting quiet, but he doesn't have the history Luke Cage and Tombstone do. Bad news.

Iron Fist warns masked goons shifting around him not to go down this path. Once they do -- the living weapon springs into action! An advancing arm bends the wrong way! Iron Fist's equally sturdy elbow collides with jaw! Blood sprays!

Cage has no choice but to join the fray. A trio of heavies come at him and he puts his one-time eponymous power to good use! They wrestle as the scene devolves into an all-out melee, Iron Fist still kung-fu fighting in the background!

Under cover of chaos, Iron Fist makes for the necklace that started it all, while Cage finishes off Tombstone's goons. With no more foot soldiers to rely on, the boss steps up to get in his old foe's face!

Tombstone warns the heroes they're being set up -- but it falls on deaf ears.

A shot from Cage sends double-tough Tombstone flying through the brickwork of his own establishment! He lands crumbled in the street amongst the rubble, still unheard as he tries to warn the heroes of the magic peril they're in for.

The Hammer...
It's safe to say they're well on their way to being "back" -- and kicking butt like it never went out of style! Luke Cage & Iron Fist are our undisputed victors in a short, but very sweet brawl!

Cage had the honor of delivering the winning blow to old foe Tombstone, but Iron Fist was there beating up the gang, too. So it's a double-win. If you're interested to see what that means for the stats, make sure you check out the bottom of this entry.

As good as it is to be back talking about the one-time Heroes for Hire: the  real breakout combination here is David Walker and Sanford Greene!

They're the writer/artist collaboration responsible for this newest volume of Power Man & Iron Fist -- and it's one damn fine comic!

Issue #1 is deserving of particular praise! I would have to call it the single best first issue I've read in almost a decade! That isn't a very large sample size when compared with previous decades, but that's praise in and of itself. It's been an ugly seven years for Marvel and DC relaunches. This one clearly got it right!

The first issue wastes no time introducing the characters, their basic world, their basic connection, and the thrust of where they're going next. There's fun, feelings, a classic villain, plenty of action, and reasons to want to keep reading!

The first bite is with the eye, and this series makes sure it grabs your attention with a striking aesthetic style! I'm inclined to think back to the praise I heaped on All-New Ghost Rider, which didn't have the gravitas of Power Man & Iron Fist (or the immediate first issue thrust), but led with a strong visual style.

Sanford Greene has pencil lines that evoke a certain European flavor, something kinda like Kano, with hints of the funky physicality of a Paul Pope. There's an emotive range from the minimal to hyper-expressive that makes me think of the animation influences that creep in with more recent artists. The urban vibe and occasional deforming fish-eye close-up makes me think of Takeshi Koike. What ever Green is doing -- it's unique, suitable, and very cool!

Lee Loughridge as colorist is a major influence on the overall aesthetic vibe. Warm, golden colours play to a nostalgic hue that doesn't really reflect the Power Man & Iron Fist comics that existed in the 70s and early 80s -- but evoke the glow of their memory. This may be a 2016 relaunch with #1 printed on the cover -- but its of a continuum that started with Volume 1. At times, you'll forget the paper is slick and pricey.

Some of the way the series straddles the past and present must be down to David Walker. These days Marvel writers don't always seem to know the world they're entering, but I can believe Walker has walked these streets before. His use of Tombstone really hits my sweet spot. The gag about his trademark whisper -- sometimes overlooked, especially in other media -- got me giddy!

It isn't laid on too thick. You don't need to be a Marvel scholar to get a kick out of the series. If you know your stuff, you might just get a little extra out of it. Read between the lines and you can sense the history between characters. Tombstone isn't his old fist-fighting self, but it still feels like the guy who threw down with Power Man back in Cage #3. In the second issue, there's even a flashback right outta Power Man & Iron Fist #66! Superb!

Of course, just as the colours aren't really what Power Man & Iron Fist comics used to be, these versions of the characters aren't identical, either.

Cage has matured as a father and a hero, getting more serious (and well dressed). Oh, yeah. He says "fiddle faddle" now, too. Danny Rand has gone the other way, becoming enthusiastic to a point of goofiness. He's a little more sports-street casual in his style, too. You've gotta love the Bruce Lee jumpsuit by way of Adidas. I love the classic, but this is a very stylish design!

There are modern influences on the series that should please more recent fans. Cage's relationship with Jessica Jones delivers a couple of choice cameos and yucks about the impending reunion with Iron Fist.

With Netflix making live-action shows based on all these characters, they're at a premium. Right now, there are competing solo series starring Cage, Iron Fist, and Jones, as well as The Defenders team book that combines all three with Daredevil! Power Man & Iron Fist really does well to carve out a niche that I hope will sustain it at least throughout the boom of popularity, if not beyond.

With Marvel in the throes of a weird sort of identity crisis that's rumored to be shifting back to classic characters -- this book feels ahead of the trend! With or without "Generations", it definitely feels like the kind of pick-up-and-enjoy series Marvel Comics should be publishing! It's a fun time that hasn't got too tangled up in other events or series.

If you're looking to get a taste of Power Man & Iron Fist yourself, be sure to use the Amazon purchase link provided [right]! Doing so supports the site at no extra cost, and helps keep the wars infinite!

If you've got an appetite for more from these characters be sure to follow links littered throughout this post, or this week's Iron Fist Hero of the Week! You can also dive in to the Secret Issue Index to cross-reference hundreds of featured fights by publisher, series and issue!

Follow, like & share on Facebook and Twitter to get daily links to classic fights inspired by the topics of the day! March is a month of martial arts mayhem inspired by the official release of Iron Fist on Netflix today! We're done with Marvel's kung-fu hero for now, but he'll be back in August! Stay tuned!

Winners: Luke Cage & Iron Fist
#8 (--) Luke Cage
#16 (+2) Iron Fist
#373 (-2) Tombstone

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