Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seth's "Clyde Fans" Books 1, 2

Gregory "Seth" Gallant is perhaps Canada's most prominent current cartoonist, turned graphic novelist. Since 1991, his work has been published in the "Palooka-Ville" one-man anthology, with new issues being published annually, due to the pressures of his day-job. And while working in advertising may take up most of his time, Seth has in recent years found enough acclaim to have his new project, "George Sprott" originally serialized in the prestigious "New York Times". Similarly to Chris Ware, Dan Clowes and Jaime Hernandez, published in the magazine's pages, his work is every bit as nuanced and personal, even if it may appear to be an acquired taste to the uninitiated reader.

"Palooka-Ville" started out with shorter stories, but quickly branched out to encompass Seth's first acclaimed work, the ambitious and memorable "It's a good life if you don't weaken". The semi-autobiographical story seemed to have more in common with a Woody Allen movie than a typical comic, but that didn't keep Seth from filtering through his unique style most of the major themes that he keeps focusing on. 

It was only two years later, that he started publishing his longest, and until today still uncompleted, work, "Clyde fans". Projecting to eventually release the tale in several editions, collecting the major chapters, Seth has in 10 years since beginning the work on the story, managed to finish only the first two, with the third and perhaps final book still uncompleted, despite his work on "Wimbledon green" and "George Sprott" graphic novels.

Structurally, each of the two finished "Clyde fans" books is formatted to take place in a short space of time, providing intimate focus on one of the Matchcard brothers, over a short period of time. The first entry is set in 1997 and centers on Abraham, now retired, but still living in the quarters of the company he once managed, while the second covers his brother Simon, and the time he spent outside of town in 1957.

Both men are their father Clyde's sons, with a particular isolationist streak in them, with the books serving as a fine delineation of the different ways they have dealt with it. Abe, the more functional of the two, was the more functional one, having managed to somewhat overcome his detachment from the daily life by immersing in a very real and methodical work. His story is the one filled with punctual dates, and recollections, both of his life and the company, with the focus seemingly on the dwindling fortunes of the family's once prosperous firm dealing in electrical fans. Yet, in 1997, Abraham Matchcard is a lonely man, set on recollecting his past with the goal that becomes more and more apparent while he tours the firm's former headquarters. 

Seth's artwork here is integral in revealing the truth at the heart of the never-resting old man, as it works in wonderful contrast with the narration to slowly depict the building as the hiding place of a man that is still in denial to his real feelings, despite his seemingly pragmatic tone. In all of Abe's recollections, he never meets a single man, nor does anyone come visit him, as the memorabilia-filled rooms he seems to attached to slowly appear for what they are, a cold comfort for the man longing for the loss of the brother he never truly understood. The creator's subtlety is essential in carrying over the complexity of an elderly businessman's feelings, as the close-ups on trivial details start losing their charm and power just in time as it becomes true that Abraham is going in circles in his wanderings around the house. It is then, that his similarly long-winded and oft-repeating story of the company's financial assets and difficulties in adapting to the new realities in air-conditioning breaks down to take the real turn for the personal.

By coming inside the rooms of his mother and brother, that he purposefully avoids, the older Matchcard brother admits to his feelings on Simon, who despite not being as business-minded has remained closer to him than his former wife that he only makes a passing reference to. Yet, even then, Seth is careful not to go overboard and depict his protagonist as breaking down, keeping his observations in-character and thus, seemingly centered around the financial prospects. For all the business-advice and the level-headedness, Abraham suggests he will remain his father's son to the end, a practical man albeit still trying to understand his erratic brother.

The skillfully depicted depth of emotion is nevertheless in keeping with the themes Seth keeps returning to, both as the man and an artist. Reading the first part of "Clyde fans" asks the reader to trust his storyteller, and adapts to his unique ways. It is only by patiently and intuitively studying the story that the full-extent of the author's vision can be revealed, particularly to a genre fan unaccustomed to the slow pacing and the lack of narrative "twists". Very much in keeping with the modern novel, Seth asks his reader to partake on a psychological examination of an ordinary figure, whose life is as common and as that of most people, filled with contradictions and unresolved issues. The cartoonish look of the art similarly excels in characterisation, with strong layouts, close-ups on charmingly elderly furnishings, and the antiqued buildings that reflect the light's passing.

In short, it's both an examination of the title character, and the book's author, obsessing over the times past, and the lessons learned of post-war Canada. Yet, Seth's talent and willingness to return from his themes and examine them from a different angle is nowhere as apparent as in the follow, the second "Clyde fans" book. Set in 1957, it follows Simon Matchcard with the same constant focus on his, even at most mundane, but the approach varies completely with the change of the protagonist. Abe's brother, in his youth is a much more emotionally complex figure, whose particularities were only hinted in his brother's monologue. Indeed, Simon's direct inner thoughts are almost completely unrevealed to the reader, except for the times he writes a few lines in his diary. Thus, for long passages, the second "Clyde fans" book is completely silent, yet Seth still manages to bring out the deepest nuances of his character.

Following up from a mention made by his brother, Simon's journey is that of a very particular soul focused on trying to deal with the isolationist streak he shares with Abe. The business trip he takes is a perfect example of the emotional complexities hinted by the previous mention of the mother's influence on the younger sibling. Seth is truly at his best when depicting the strained emotions peering under the strained, sweaty face of the young man, trying to overcome his difficulties in communication. Thus, the book works as both a showcase of the cartoonist's strengths, such as when depicting the sweat sticking to Simon, and the flawless dialogue displayed in the rare moments of the man's mumbling as he tries to get through even the most mundane tasks.

Yet, Seth does not stop at offering a sympathetic character, hoping to overcome all of his insecurities and social awkwardness in a risky, salesman position usually reserved for individuals much more in tune with the average life. Simon is depicted as a man easily distracted by his surroundings, most apparent by his gentle nature being attracted to the architecture of a Canadian small town. Still, due to his decision, he is forced to interact with a myriad of seasoned store-owners, that are as distant to him as the passersby. Yet, the most intimate look in Simon's thoughts are the flashbacks he keeps having of his stern brother, always hovering above him, as he attempts to negotiate the sales of fans at the designated locations.

As Simon's journey unfolds, the unrelenting self-doubt is apparent in the young man's inability to contact his older brother, with his tender nature slowly tying the flashbacks together with the disappointing experiences of his latest sales pitches. Yet, to break the strain, Simon tasks himself with another complicated goal, that of attaining the attraction of the opposite sex. His efforts are as fleeting and light as the rest of his character, and perhaps best addressed in a scene where he tries to keep his mind on the techniques of making a sales pitch, before eventually breaking down for reading a novel. It is in this, short scene, that Seth foreshadows the whole tragedy of Simon's attempted coming of age, that is much more revealing than the somewhat-confusing dream sequences that follows later on.

The crux of the second "Clyde fans" book is thus not in the eventual end of Simon's search, which is clear from the start, despite the fear of his brother's authority leading the younger Matchcard brother to try and fulfill all of the designated business meetings. The harsh truth about Simon's salesmanship is dragged into the focus during a meeting with a veteran salesman, who stays in the same hotel, bringing into focus all of their differences in their only conversation. This disillusioning, coupled with the ultimate fate of his non-advance to the local girl, leads Seth's protagonist to the literal end of his journey.

Leaving the last of the city's buildings behind him, Simon finally turns his back on the changes he tried to force onto his character, and embraces the slight particularities he is much more in tune with. The solace he finds at the end of the story is bitter-sweet, as the reader is aware of his eventual fate, as explained by his brother Abraham. Yet, "Clyde fans" book two was never intended to be a surprising narrative in the factual sense. Despite this, the real story was always in Simon's emotions and the effect the short trip has had on his psychology, depicted so memorably by Seth. Paradoxically, the second book retains enough of the plot-oriented approach to make it a much more immediate read than the preceding volume.

By pitying his awkward protagonist with endless social situations, Seth manages to achieve a powerful contrast, delivering on the promise of spotlighting the difference between the two brothers. His approach to storytelling is much more multifaceted in depicting Simon's journey too, with the author never missing a beat while depicting flashbacks, the charming of the city, and the emotional distance on the faces of the busy people his expertly fleshed-out character keeps running into. All of the particularities of the young man's isolation, are fleshed out in detail, bringing a realistic portrayal of a completely different loneliness then that of his better-accustomed brother.

The story seems best summed up by Simon's alternating states of confusion trying to relax in bars, and tenseness while going from one business encounter to another, all depicted almost with savagery, explaining the brutal marks it leaves on his psychology. Still, Simon's eventual retreat back into the part of the world he feels solace in is in no way the end of his story, or of the larger "Clyde fans" epic that seems so far centered largely on him. Because despite Seth's talent, his most ambitious work also remains the only one he is still in the process of finishing, asking the reader to enjoy his other projects in the meantime.

Seth is still careful to make both of the book's chapters self-contained, and even brave enough to depict the Canadian yesterday that he is so enamored of as being wildly different, when depicted through alternating viewpoints. Even in it's current form, "Clyde fans" a very bitter-sweet and realistic look on his favorite themes, done in the personal and authentic style, surpassing most of it's comic book peers by presenting an ongoing personal examination of the author's favorite subject in a way that is both direct and refreshingly sentimental.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Scalped" 25-29 - High lonesome

Jason Aaron and R.M.Guera's "Scalped" has just concluded it's most recent story arc, "High lonesome", thereby becoming the first "Vertigo" title in recent memory that has not been cancelled. The neo-noir series set on the Indian reservation has been consistent in it's slow pace and meticulous character work, set back against the wild western atmosphere.

It started out with the focus on Dash Bad Horse, an FBI agent going undercover back at his childhood home, and being faced with the decades-old secret and misgivings left by his mother. Having set up the central mystery, tying both the present and the past together, the series' brutal and very raw feeling has since gave way for the structure-minded vignettes fleshing out the supporting cast, while the inevitable vents realistically meander toward their final resolutions.

The "High lonesome" story arc is set up in a very unique way, with Jason Aaron's story spotlighting a different "Scalped" character every issue. Structurally, each of the chapters employs a specific view point, and their pace differs to provide the best glimpse into the narrator. "Scalped" has had a long tradition of telling side-tales that provide detail and color to the main plot, which in this five part tale serves to literally bookend them.

The story begins with the new player whose coming in the Rez', signifies the conflict directly continued and resolved in the fifth and last issue of the arc. The opening chapter, presented from his view is very active, showing all of the person's energy and intent in a somewhat manic way, rendered through a rambling and self-conscious voice of a unreliable narrator. The reader is forced to piece up the clues and forms his own theory of the individual, before the character's final actions demonstrate his true intentions in a very visual way. Even though Guera masterfully illustrates the moody and ambiguous issue, especially it's historical pages, his art is not to be seen on the pages of "Scalped" for the next two issues.

The subsequent episode does not up on the first chapter's cliffhanger, instead providing a side story, whose divergent narrative serves as the framework for the series' second look in the past of Diesel. Dash's erratic opposite number is a very different narrator, providing cold and unrelentingly sparse comments about his strange behaviour. Aaron trusts artist Davide Furno's soft earthy pencils set back against somewhat angular inking to present the reflection of the central event in the troubled man's life. The plot alternates with present days scenes acting as a parallel that reaffirms the change's lasting effect on the character.

The slight progress in the overall plot is addressed offhand at the beginning of the next issue's even more brutal story, featuring both Diesel and Dash's acquaintance, the hotheaded agent Nitz, whose drive from revenge has instigated the entire book's setup since the very beginning. Yet, it's only in the middle of the "High lonesome" arc that a more revealing light falls on the character, who was so far presented as being very one-dimensional. It's very revealing then, when the traditionally non-empathic Nitz, gets to follow Diesel, by revisiting his own past. Aaron contrasts the lawman's flashbacks to the defining moments in his life with their present-day after-effects. The agent's rare sentimental leave turning into a study of his bloody and violent underpinnings is brought to the reader by Francesco Francavilla's painterly hues. Francavilla's visuals only fail when portraying the difference in the characters' ages between the two decades, yet the colorist Gulia Brusco helps erase the confusion by alternating the blueish dream-like look of the thirty-two years ago with present-day's clearer, orange tones. Faced with some of the most intimate art the series has seen, Aaron counters with some of the story arc's most coarse and amoral moments. The character-work in the issue reads very access able and finally brings the Nitz some of the definition he desperately needed, concentrated as he is on the civil rights activist days of Dash's mother.

Despite being self-contained, the second and third issues of the arc work as reminders of Dash's perilous legal status, with Diesel and Nitz acting as comparisons. The stylistic changes in artwork provide for a different perspective on the viewpoints of characters away from the Rez'. The subsequent, co-creator Guerra pencilled tale once again rearranges the structure of "High lonesome", while still working in part as an intimate portrayal of a seldom-seen character. It brings back officer Fallsdown,who is forced to collaborate with agent Nitz's associate, providing the link between the chapters. The investigation calls back to the first, Guerra-pencilled issue of the story-arc, but seems mainly as a catalyst to finally reveal the truth that's been eluding agent Nitz for so long, about the bloody night from thirty two years ago. By focusing on the common past of all of the book's main characters, the issue's epilogue serves to set-up future events, recasting another series regular in the new light.

Yet, it's only after spending three issues on subplots, that Aaron and Guera use the arc's concluding chapter bring the sense of closure to the initial plot of "High lonesome", providing definition to the whole, disparate experience. Bringing the focus back on Dash, the writer is uncompromising in structuring the story to reveal the truth of his present state, and challenge the character to change, in the light of the catalyst memorably depicted by his co-creator. In effect, bringing Dash's hidden identity to the forefront of the heist-oriented plot is a very welcome idea, capable of sustaining the violence that surrounds it. Despite hinging the starting point of the drama on a coincidence, in the end Aaron offers no easy answers, in keeping with the book's return to the more grounded scenario.

In fact, perhaps "the Scalped"'s greatest strength might well lie in it's characters, and their decisions to acknowledge the events that shape their lives, sometimes taking the very long and life-like periods of time to come to grips with what their decisions should be. The story unfortunately loses some of it's focus due to the shift to other characters in it's three central three issues, making it appear as though they were intended for publication after the two parts that ended up framed around them. Strangely, Diesel, agent Nitz, and officer Fallsdown effectively make no direct impact on the main plot, making it appear that their stories could have been published verbatim after the events of thus much-shorter "High lonesome" arc.

It seems like no coincidence then, that the first two of these character pieces are pencilled by Furno and Francaville, with Guera's highly detailed and atmospheric style returning for the concluding issue in the story-within-a-story seeming almost misplaced. The fill-in artists are a necessity with the editorial's preference for the monthly publishing as a way to ensure the audience's enthusiasm doesn't decline for the relatively new title. Taking into account that "Vertigo" titles are traditionally strong trade paperback sellers, a more relaxed publishing approach could have perhaps made "High lonesome" a different reading experience.

In any event, with Jason Aaron as the constant, the book keeps it's gritty edge, most bluntly by various atrocities commited by the characters, that permeate the issues. The arc's negativity works to keep up the book's balance between wild-west inspired shoot-outs, and the carefully depicted acts of crime with long-lasting dramatic consequences, such as the tragic event in the Dash's mother past. No matter the artist, the grittiness and depression never seem to stop gnawing on the characters of the Rez', acting as both an explanation for their anti-social behaviour, and a catalyst for their further deterioration, with all of it's implied consequences.

As rendered by Guera, Dash is a perfect example of all the book's philosophy, trying to make sense of his violent tendencies colliding with long-suppressed emotions. Forced to endure a situation as traumatic as the one his mother faced thirty-two years ago, by the issue's end it's still unclear how will he proceed, given all that has befell him since coming to the FBI assignment. Still, the renewed focus on Bad Horse's exploits could only benefit the book as it comes closer to the inevitable resolutions it's been building up to, since the beginning.

Because, despite the many players influencing the events in Prairie Rose Reservation, and orchestrating random acts of violence on their own, "Scalped" never stops being a classical tale of a man trying to make piece with his past. Hopefully, it will end as it begun, with Dash getting past the details, to deal with the most important man in both his and his mother's life.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"BPRD: the Black goddess"

"B.P.R.D.: the Black goddess" is the name of the recently-concluded mini-series, featuring characters Mike Mignola created as Hellboy's colleagues in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, before taking the protagonist into a more fantastic and mythological direction. Dark Horse has decided to publish the spin-off title as a series of mini-series, with the gaps between stories enabling co-writer John Arcudi and artist Guy Davis to further develop new stories, while having more time to dedicate to other projects. After the first couple of tales featuring the team, pencilled by Mignola-inspired Matt Smith and Ryan Sook, the Hellboy creator used the B.P.R.D. oneshots by various creative teams, as a means of finally settling on distinctively talented Guy Davis as the penciller/inker. Arcudi joined soon, and since then, the creative team has kept up with perhaps the most solid and reliable title in the "Hellboy" line, doing mostly standalone tales, that tied with the overall story arc featuring the characters. 

Still, since the previous mini-series, the creative team has been focused on tying up almost all of the loose ends, resulting in the "Black goddess" being highly inaccessible to new readers. The mini-series is in fact so continuity oriented, that it even references "Lobster Johnson: the Iron Prometheus" project, luckily Dark Horse has kept most of their "Hellboy" titles in print. The publisher has always been a huge supporter of manga, so it makes no surprise that they look at B.P.R.D. in the enduring format as a series of tradepaperback collections.

The series works as a modern pulp horror team title, defined by offbeat characterisation and a caricatural esthetic. By establishing a paranormal investigative agency as the center point, the creators strive to present their work as a somewhat derivative piece of fiction, but only in order to embrace the many established monster conventions, putting their own spin on it. Preseting a military operation the book takes an urban approach, yet without stepping too far into the science fiction aspect. It's chief assets are the well-developed approach to structuring the stories, fast pace and a strong individual voice, focusing on unique characters, that are only enhanced by the expert use of continuity. Even though many of these elemets were already present in the parent title, it's surprising how quickly and effectively Mignola and his collaborators have managed to turn the book into a fully functional and distinctive experience in itself. It was only due to the hard work and unrellenting vision that his creations have managed to stand side by side with "Fables" and "Walking dead", as some of the strongest creator-owned genre titles in the superhero-oriented American mainstream.

"the Black goddess" story, despite being geared towards the long-term fans, is a great example of many of the "B.PR.D."'s strengths. Functioning primarly as a character piece, it works to finally complete Liz's years in the making character arc, by bringing it to the forefront. After witnessing Abe coming face to face with his past, the readers are finally treated with the culmination of the slowly built subplot featuring the pyromaniac falling under the influence of an Eastern mastermind. Fittingly, she spends most of the arc on the sidelines, as all of the obscure history of her mysterious benfactor is revealed to her infuriated team-mates. Nevertheless, it's her decisions that help resolve the matter in the end, amidst a wall of tension caused by the monsters trying to breach into the lair. Despite the presence of long-time players, Abe and Kate Corrigan, it's Johan who once again plays the most interesting role, as his emotional conflicts have recently turned him into a very passionate and unpredictable character, despite the cold, featureless look of his containment suit.

Still, the authors are careful not to let the flashback-heavy story function only to fill in the gaps in the antagonist's background, as the characters' strained and nervous state, leads to many twists and turns in this expertly-paced story. All along, the larger "Hellboy" set-up simply refuses to be deffered by dwelling on the past, as the lair is besieged by literaly hundreds of monsters that have played a role in the spin-off since the beginning, hoping to commence the end-times Mignola has threatened for so long ago. Despite Davis' talent for showing emotion on the character's expressive faces, his layouts really stand out in those sequences, providing the reader with endless hordes of mindless monsters, that the military tries to keep at bay. The designs for the were-creatures typical of the locale is once again original and in keeping with the book's style, while Dave Stewart's colors provide their standard atmospheric effect. Yet, the complicated battle set-pieces reveal that Davis' natural sensibilities still lie with the more intimate scenes. Employing another penciller to further detail the visuals would work to bring to stylings the definition they could have. 

Yet, it's clear that the emotion is once again not in the climatic war of the netherworld on human civilization, as the story is grounded by a single person's position, and the decisions he has made in his long life, spotlighting all of Davis' best strengths. The team negotiating the best course of action against the complex figure around whom rage conflicts both personal and all-encompasing, set in the distinctive geographical region, works to give perfect distinction to a tale devoted to history. 

The creative team are already at work on the follow-up, "the King of fear", that should bring some of "B.P.R.D."'s longest subplots to an end, focusing most likely on Captain Daimio.  Utilising the cast of characters that have matured considerably since their somewhat limited roles as Hellboy's former colleagues, it stands to reason that the book will be at least as gripping as "Black goddess", or for that matter any of the mini-series that preceded it. Before Dark Horse starts to serialize the new entry, the follow-up to the prequel "B.P.R.D. 1946" will take it's publishing slot, along with more specials detailing the long conflict with the frog-like monsters that the initial stories centered so heavily on. Competing with Hellboy's own title, a new Lobster Johnson adventure and the recently announced mini spotlighting sir Edward Grey, it stands to "B.P.R.D."'s strenght that it has become such a reliable title, that can always be counted upon for quality entertainment by John Arcudi and Guy Davis, working closely with Mike Mignola.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the Immortal Iron Fist #22-25 "Escape from the Eight city"

Marvel's "the Immortal Iron Fist" has just concluded it's latest story arc, featuring the talents of regular writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Travel Foreman. 

Following the publication of a one shot "Tales of the Iron Fist" issue designed to give the penciler more time to spend on the arc, Marvel believed that the publication of "Escape from the Eight city" will be less troubled than it's similarly-titled predecessor. And while "the Seven capital cities of Heaven" remains so far unequaled when it comes to delays and fill ins, the publisher still had to place an inventory story in the middle of the story arc, in order to give Foreman more time to pencil the remaining chapters. The result turned into a strange coincidence, as both "Tales of the Iron Fist" stories link thematically to the "Escape from the Eight city" epic in an unintended way. Ostenably dealing with the Chinese history (and future), the two short stories provide interesting context which highlights the ambitiousness of the multi-part tale's creators.

Namely, both one shots deal with unlikely champions that bring salvation to their people using their special talents. The longer piece poses a much more complex moral dilemma to the title character, when compared to the legends of the warriors who whore the same mantle. In fact, it's easy to understand Foreman's delays and Marvel's decision to hire fill-in artists on the portions of the story not featuring Danny Rand himself. The scope of "Escape from the Eight city" is just as broad as it's morality, featuring complicated set pieces with dozens of characters, with most of them being new designs to further complicate things on the artist's end. Foreman manages the responsibility, in that his work features a lot of energy and stronger definition than before, thanks to the use of more traditional layouts.

Compared to the previous "Immortal Iron Fist" stories, this one is the most straight-forward, taking place chiefly in the eponymous Eight capital city of Heaven, actually a hellish, nightmare realm, only hinted at before. This effectively turns the book into outright fantasy, with only the Iron Fist's re imagined mythology to balance the experience. Taking a cue from the aforementioned Brubaker/Fraction story arc, Swiercyznski centers the conflict on the dishonesty pervading the legend of Iron Fist. The difference in the first creative team's approach is most evident by the absence of Orson Randall, with the current writer substituting him with the first Iron Fist, an individual no less complex than the Golden Age Iron Fist.

The hard choices forced upon Danny Rand, and his need to sort out through the half-truths to make a difficult decision regarding Kun' Lun are always the narrative center of the book, with to the detriment of the book's famous kung fu fights. The unique challenges that are forced on Iron Fist and his allies in their hellish surroundings are actively centered around their fighting abilities, due to the story's focus  for most of the time remain afterthoughts. The signature moves and their over the top names have always been part of the title's charm, which is the greatest indicator of the seriousness that pervades the arc.

The particular focus is also the reason why the storyline doesn't cohere. The nightmare Eight city needed to be much better developed, for the authors to try to present it as ages-old, retroactively fitting with the Iron Fist origins. The inhabitants are visually varied and consistent in some of their various factions, but due to the lack of space, only their leader gets the definition needed to feel like a physical presence. 

Of course, in the plot-oriented story tying back to the very first Iron Fist, the setting doesn't have to be as prominent, when the book sport such a colorful supporting cast. Dispensing entirely with Luke Cage and Misty Knight, the creators deliberately stayed away from Marvel Universe at large, in order to exploit the title's premise to it's best, hence spotlighting the seven Immortal Weapons. Danny's cohorts are perfectly placed, starring in the story that keeps believing in the book's particular mythology, instead of focusing on the publisher's current "Dark Reign" event direction. Still, the fast pacing and focus on Danny mean that his fellow warriors get very little time to develop beyond their background role. The obvious favorite Fat Cobra is once again the most prominent, while most of the others admittedly have a role, it's a very light one. Perhaps Marvel would've been better advise to have published the soon to come "Immortal weapons" mini-series before this arc, because as of right now, the champions feel little developed since their remarkable debut.

That may have been the book's biggest problem, that it jumped to follow up what was presumably one of Brubaker/Fraction's last ideas. As in the last arc, Swierczynski gave his best to flesh out the idea to it's best, but this time around, he may just have hurried too much with the execution in the first place. Spotlighting the Eight Celestial City would have worked much better if the other planes adjacent to Kun' Lun have been already developed, along with their respective champions. By showing the reader the last mysterious realm first, the creators seem as in hurry to get to the next high concept idea. Ideally, marrying the concept of the Eight city with their original take on the first Iron Fist, seem like a well-founded move, but it comes to the expense of ignoring major parts of the recent mythology.

"The Immortal Iron Fist" is poised to release only one more issue before the book goes on hiatus, to be continued by the previously-mentioned mini-series. The title's future is to be determined by Marvel's future publishing decisions, but they would be well advised to keep the current creative team, as the book is currently one of their most interesting and original offerings, showing no signs of stopping to both interest and entertain it's readers in the character that was long considered to be out of fashion.