Immortal Weapons #1(of 5) - 'The Book of the Cobra' and 'The Caretakers Part 1' - Aaron, Suayan, Gaudiano, De La Torre, Evans, Lark, Lozzi, Swierczynski and Foreman'
Story - OK, I'm fired up, I've had 2 cups of tea, I'm going to rock the shit out of this review!
'Bring me my Victory wenches!', It was with these words, in Immortal Iron Fist #9, that Fat Cobra established himself as one of the best new characters to enter the Marvel Universe in the last 5 years. He had just summarily kicked the ass of our hero, and now he wants Wenches? Come on, what's not to love? Along with the rest of the Immortal Weapons, Cobra became a regular fixture in the title, helping Danny Rand fight off the forces of Hydra and then the demons of the 8th City. But he has remained a bit of a blank slate, only now are we getting his origin, under the capable hands of Jason Aaron. As a huge fan of what the writing team of Brubaker and Fraction and then Duane Swierczynski have done with Iron Fist and his crazy Kung-Fu world, I am pretty wary of seeing other writers enter the arena, but not so with Aaron, he has proven himself to be a fantastic writer, both on gritty real world stuff like Scalped or The Other Side, but also bat-shit off the wall material in his excellent Ghost Rider run, and the story of the Fat Cobra seems perfect for him. I have not read his Kung-Fu Wolverine mini, Manifest Destiny, but on the strength of this issue, I most definitely will. On top of the main story, we also have an Iron Fist back-up story by the regular creative team of Swierczynski and Travel Foreman, but I'll get back to that later.
The premise of the Fat Cobra origin is brilliant in itself, our hero has consumed so much booze and other intoxicants that he has forgotten his own life story, so he employs a researcher to find out for him, this framing device is brilliantly fitting with the character and allows Jason Aaron to show us how Fat Cobra's own perception of himself contrasts with what actually happens, and that contrast is large. Aaron takes us through all of the Cobra's history, and it is frequently hilarious in how it undercuts Cobra's mysterious bad-ass persona, his parents were not great Warriors, they were Pig Farmers, he was an Opera singer, he failed to defeat his version of Shou-Lao, it's a litany of failures, but Aaron also places it within real-world context, like World War 1. Fat Cobra's story is also woven into Marvel Universe history in a variety of fun ways, he worked with also-rans such as Ulysses Bloodstone and the WW2 Union Jack, and Aaron puts Cobra into some truly off the wall 'only in comics' situations, a Speed-Eating competition between Cobra, Volstagg and Hercules? Genius! Teaching Elvis Kung-Fu? Fighting Werewolf Communists on the Moon with Nick Fury? That is balls to the wall awesome, the type of crazy-insane stuff Aaron does with Ghost Rider each month, and it's the kind of imagination I want from a superhero comic. We also see Fat Cobra try to become an Immortal Weapon again, but fail and get ripped in half by the snake. But he grew his legs back! Awesome!
But this story is deeper than ironic wacky events, in one quite frankly brilliant and almost beautiful sequence, Aaron has Fat Cobra transition between a fight with a woman, to making love. Since Fraction and Brubaker launched Iron Fist, I've been a big fan of the silly kung-fu names they've used, and Aaron gets to unleash his inner Crane Master with some of his own, putting his own good ol'boy spin on it with the 'South Alabama Shin Stomp', which undercuts the pomposity of some of the names. In a clever move, these moves, which are the only words in this scene change into Kama-Sutra like sexual positions, it's a very clever idea, so instead of the 'Krakatoa Tigerstrike' we have the very exciting-sounding 'Tantric Thunder Thrust'. It's a brilliant use of language. The scene is expertly illustrated by Michael Lark, and is just genius, I cannot overstate this enough. This segment is set-up to the tragic reveal of Fat Cobra's life, this woman is one of many he has bedded, and this has consequences. We've seen him do whacky shit, but now we learn his dark secret. The only reason he was able to defeat the Snake Xiang Yao and become an Immortal Weapon was because he killed hundreds of his own children, who had come to kill him. It's a pretty shocking reveal, and one that seems to have split fans, some feel sorry for him, some see him as a mass-murdering almost villain. I'm not sure where I stand, but it doesn't matter, it's an incredibly ballsy idea, and a fantastic scene which makes the character fascinating to me, when Fat Cobra faces the enormity of his past, the silent page where he burns the book is heart-breaking. And in the end, Fat Cobra asks for more alcohol, perhaps to reblock his memories? Tragedy!
Overall, this was an excellent single issue, brilliantly fleshing out what was previously an awesome, but rather one-note character. Fat Cobra is now a part of Marvel History, in a way that makes sense, and we see all sides of the character, the fun-loving fat guy, but also a tragic figure, Fat Cobra is now a full, deep character, all in only one issue. Jason Aaron is a perfect fit for this crazy, brutal kung-fu world, and I would certainly not mind seeing him revisit Fat Cobra or Iron Fist himself again, maybe a Wolverine/Fat Cobra story? Let's hope the rest of these issues will do as good a job at exploring the other Immortal Weapons as Aaron does here.
The Iron Fist back-up story is a different type of Iron Fist story than we're used to, but a welcome one. Danny Rand has to deal with a troubled student of his, and the kidnapping of her brother by drug-dealers. It's a more grounded story, almost a crime story, and from his novels we know Duane Swierczynski is adept at these. For me, the character of Iron Fist has always been about a man who straddles two worlds, the magic insane fantasy Shangri-La of K'un Lun and the mean streets of 1970s Harlem. In the current volume we've seen lots of the fantasy, but not so much of the real world, and though this isn't the 70s anymore, it's still a good way for us to see this side of the character. It's too early to judge now, it's only 7 pages, serialised across each issue of the mini, but it's good so far, adding to the great package of this book. Could do with a bit more Power Man though.
Art - There are a lot of artists in this book, Mico Suayan handles the framing sequences of the Fat Cobra story, and his art is very strong, it is realistic, but not too realistic, and he handles the changing facial expressions of Fat Cobra well. The other artists are also suited to their sections, Roberto De La Torre handles the grittiness of the Cobra's early years and WW1 very well, and Khari Evans' bright cartoony style meshes well with the hijinks Cobra gets up too in his 'fun' years. I've already mentioned Michael Lark's segment, which is beautiful, I've liked his work for a while now, on Gotham Central and Daredevil, but this may be even better! Arturo Lozzi illustrates the scenes where Cobra kills his family, and he's an artist I'm not familiar with, and only a few panels at that, but he does a good job. One thing I did find interesting was that the flashbacks were done on a panel-by-panel basis, so on one page you will have art by 2 artists, Suayan in the present, and someone else in the past, it was an interesting way to go about the flashback structure and made the book flow very well.
Travel Foreman provides the art for the Iron Fist story and it's very different from his work on the ongoing, which was very kinetic and stylised, often to the point of being hard to read, but not so here, maybe it was the inks of Stefano Gaudiano which reined him in, but this is much better, it's still recognisably his style, but it's much more refined, I hope he continues to use this style.
Best Line - 'It was your kids'
Last edited by Punchy
on Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:24 am, edited 3 times in total.