…he summons his chi — the essence of his spirit and strength, channeling its raw power down into his arm, into his hand until that hand becomes like unto a thing of iron!
A couple of months ago, I picked up Marvel’s The Essential Power Man and Iron Fist – Volume 1. I had taken one of my kids to the comic shop after a doctor’s appointment. He got a kid friendly book, which was tougher than it sounds (a rant for another day). I looked for a trade I was interested in, but didn’t find it. Then this thing jumped out at me.
I’ve been leading the Iron Fist brigade here at GonzoGeek so the purchase really shouldn’t come as a shock. I mean, I read an occassional issue of the book back during its run. The pairing always intrigued me, but I’d never really read a lengthy run on the title.
That’s the great thing about Marvel’s Essential line. They put together huge runs of a book, print them in black and white on newsprint and slap a color cover on them for a reasonable price. This volume contained issues 50-72 and 74-75. Why did they skip issue 73? My guess is that it featured Rom, Spaceknight and Marvel no longer has the license for that toy character.
All told, that’s 25 issues of Marvel’s original Heroes for Hire at a reasonable price.
Why did they start with issue 50? Well, the numbering on this series was always a bit disingenuous. Iron Fist’s solo book had been cancelled. Power Man’s book ran through issue 49 and then was changed to Power Man and Iron Fist with issue 50. So, issue 50 is, in all actuality, the first issue of this book. Its a minor quibble.
Power Man was Marvel’s attempt to cash in on the blaxploitation movies of the 70s. Likewise, Iron Fist was their attempt to cash in on the kung fu craze of the same decade. When sales of the two books fell off, Marvel decided to combine them. It worked. They got an additional 50 issues out of a pair of characters who would have then been relegated to guest appearances and Marvel Team-Up.
The story picks up with our heroes celebrating the clearing of Cage’s name for a crime he didn’t commit. Soon, with the help of an unscrupulous lawyer, the pair are set up with a suite of high rise offices as “Heroes For Hire.” They are put on retainer with several local businesses and begin to earn a healthy living. Cage wrestles with his new environs, worried that he’s a sell-out. Rand wrestles with his but for different reasons.
We spend some time with the Daughters of the Dragon, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, a pair of hard nosed female PIs. One is an ex-cop with a cyborg arm and a thing for Iron Fist. The other was trained as a samurai by her grandfather. Hey, it was the 70s.
Power Man and Iron Fist largely take on street level crime in arcs that seldom last more than a couple of issues. The X-Men make what, at the time, was not an obligatory appearance. NO WOLVERINE KIDS! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. The book ends with a trip to the fabled city of K’un L’un where a young Daniel Rand became Iron Fist.
The book also featured the original covers rendered in black and white. It was especially interesting to see several of the later covers were done by Frank Miller. Yes, that Frank Miller. Sin City. Ronin. Dark Knight Returns. A lot of the stuff he did later on he warmed up on here.
My main complaint is that in EVERY issue someone had to mention that Power Man had “steel hard skin,” usually after they shredded his trademark yellow shirt with a machine gun. Doesn’t the word get around to thugs? The other was the “like unto a thing of iron.” It was used EVERY time Iron Fist used his powers. We get it. Power up and smash something already.
As someone who grew up reading comics during this era, this was a fun time capsule. It took me back to a time when you didn’t have to read 80 crossover books to follow a story line. A time when you could walk into a grocery store, turn the spinner rack and grab a book that looked interesting and have a hope of figuring out the plot.
A simpler time.
If your interests run toward 70s kitsch give this one a shot. A lot of the references may not hold up, but the characters are solid and there’s some good stuff in here if you are willing to look for it.