Power Man and Iron Fist #1–5 by Fred Van Lente and Wellington Alves
This mini-series launched out of the Shadowland crossover, with ‘The All-New, All-Different’ on top of the logo – the new is Victor Alvarez, the new Power Man, a young man with the power to absorb chi from the environment to make him super strong, who is like an arrogant teen Luke Cage. As a fan of the recent revival of the ‘kung fu billionaire’ Danny Rand in The Immortal Iron Fist by Brubaker, Fraction and Aja, and a fan of Fred Van Lente’s work, I thought I’d give this a try.
It’s a strange story – it starts off with the Commedia Dell’Morte (the Comedy of Death, also the title of the trade paperback), then a Mexican gangster called Don of the Dead (‘I kill your face!’), which suggests a more off-beat and oddball approach to the book, perhaps similar to Van Lente’s work on The Incredible Hercules with Greg Pak, but the rest of the story is played fairly straight as a private investigation story. The plot begins when Daniel Rand is told that Jennie Royce, who was office manager for Heroes For Hire, has been convicted of murder. After Heroes For Hire, she worked for another hero for hire called Crime-Buster – when he was killed, her fingerprints were on the gun. Daniel swears to get to the bottom of it, but Victor impulsively starts without him and gets into trouble with a character called Noir in Crime-Buster’s apartment, and then with Commedia Dell’Morte (Europe’s greatest assassins).
Daniel investigates Commedia Dell’Morte in the second issue while Victor is studying at the Alison Blaire School for Performing Arts (cute), which leads him to a secret auction of a Commedia Dell’Morte mask held by obvious villain Pokerface, who has a poker through his head coming out of his eye (are we that short of villains now that it has to be so literal?). An aside: half of this issue is drawn by Pere Perez, who also draws half of issue three, which isn’t a good sign for a mini-series. He is a solid artist but has a different style from Alves – Perez is a sharper line with simpler colouring compared with the dirtier line and murkier colouring of Alves.
The third issue finds our heroes on Twilight Idol, an underwater base, for the action that that turns into an Arcade-like concept, as Pokerface makes a bet with Iron Fist for the information that Iron Fist needs involving the number of drug-transformed vagrants beaten by Power Fist in a combat situation, while Power Man is told another story by the villains. The next issue reveals that the masks of Commedia Dell’Morte are cursed – Baron Mordo trapped the souls of the originals in the masks, which possess people to do the crimes, which it does now: Joyce Meachum, Daniel’s girlfriend and current executive director of the Rand Foundation, wears one and believes she is Columbina (which explains the death of Crime-Buster and the innocence of Jennie Royce). After help from a cameo from Luke Cage, the final issue is set up for the big fight when the head of the Penance Corporation (who are taking over the running of prisons) takes Victor prisoner and releases all the prisoners in Riker’s Island to attack Iron Fist.
The story is a bit of a mess – the plot is explained in the last two pages of the book, revealing the identity Noir and the head of Penance, how everything happened and how Crime-Buster was truly killed. I don’t know if the attempt to do a complicated, twisty plot in the confines of a five-issue superhero mini-series was too much for the book, or if trying to do it under the confines of requiring fights scenes meant that it didn’t have room to breathe, or if Power Man and Iron Fist isn’t the best fit with the material, but it doesn’t quite work. I liked the interaction between these characters, a new dynamic for a new team, but there isn’t enough of it to enjoy. Alves has a tough job following David Aja, who redefined the style of Iron Fist, and his fight scenes come off badly in comparison – they are functional and uninspired when they should be stylish and invigorating. I wanted to like this more than I did, but unfortunately I didn’t. Perhaps next time for the dysfunctional dynamic duo.