Marvelís Iron Fist (2017)

Marvelís Iron Fist (2017)

Created by Scott Buck

Rating: 2/5

I really, really wanted to love Iron Fist. I count myself as a huge fan of the comic book character, almost entirely due to the Fraction/Brubaker run on Immortal Iron Fist a decade ago. Frustrated by the tempest of controversy leading up to its release (largely due to fears of appropriation of Asian culture), I assured myself that good writers could use this as an opportunity to examine these very valid concerns. But evidently those good writers were missing in action. Any mishandling of Eastern culture was largely avoided by simply not confronting the issue, rather choosing to almost entirely skip over protagonist Danny Rand’s (the titular Iron Fist) time in the extra-dimensional Himalayan city K’un-Lun. As a result it’s almost entirely impossible to relate to Danny in any meaningful way—we don’t know what built him, we don’t know his struggles (despite the fact that he won’t stop mentioning them), we don’t understand the world he was a part of for the majority of his life. He only becomes likable when his incessant, unearned optimism is broken and the show finally admits that Danny Rand is just the worst.

We’re offered only a basic glimpse of the Iron Fist superpowers (martial arts and an ability to channel chi and punch real good). Frustratingly they’re almost never fully functional due to his emotional instability. There’s a reason most Incredible Hulk films have been terrible: watching someone with superpowers complain that they can’t use their superpowers is pretty insufferable.

It’s not all bad though; the show is watchable thanks to some excellent performances, particularly from female lead Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, and the absolute show-stealer Wai Ching Ho as the villainous Madame Gao. The show does see an upturn in quality in the second half, when the side characters come into their own and become more interesting than the central plot. Thankfully, the current creative team won’t be heavily involved when we see Danny next in The Defenders, and we can only hope for an improved second season. Hopefully, with confident writers, we might be able to examine the glaring issues behind a rich, white man saving a mystic Asian world, without being super super racist about it.

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2017.
Posted 12:36pm Sunday 30th April 2017 by Brandon Johnstone.