Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja’s critically acclaimed run on “The Immortal Iron Fist” won fans over for many reasons: stellar art, witty writing, a rejuvenation of the concept, and the addition of a large cast of characters, including six other Immortal Weapons in additional to K’un-L’un. By far, the most popular Immortal Weapon is Fat Cobra, a sumo-looking fighter with speed and agility beyond his appearance, and a large appetite for food and women. He’s been a cult hit with fans ever since he first appeared, beating Danny Rand to a pulp in the first round of the Immortal Weapon tournament.
So, it makes sense for Fat Cobra to be the focus of the first issue of the “Immortal Weapons” mini-series, which will spotlight Iron Fist’s comrades in arms, and shed some light on their pasts. Jason Aaron tackles Fat Cobra’s origin and frames it by having the robust warrior hire a writer to document his life, one that Cobra himself has little recollection of thanks to his age and many years of hard-drinking -— or, maybe, he’s just allowed himself to believe the legend, preferring the myth of Fat Cobra to the man he truly is.
Aaron subverts expectations by, first, having Cobra not born to warriors but farmers, soon given over to an orphanage and, then, banished from Peng Lai where he grew up to be... an opera singer? However, continuing on this obviously opposite path too long would grow tiresome, so Aaron manages to give Cobra’s life a very interesting ebb and flow of heroic battles and absurd low points. Just when you think the story is going one way, it suddenly shifts. This is Jason Aaron at his most inventive and one of his strongest single-issue stories at Marvel.
One area where it does get to be a bit much is how Aaron feels the need have Fat Cobra interact with other Marvel characters. While the time in which he does so is much less documented in comics than current adventures, new characters suddenly having a longstanding history with characters that have been around for decades is always a stretch. Thankfully, Aaron keeps these interactions brief and mostly suggested.
Aaron delivers a Fat Cobra origin story that is, at times, very, very funny, and, at others, heartbreaking. One of the best gags is when Aaron takes the technique of naming the fighting moves used in combat and applies it to sex. My favourite is “Heaving Tiger Love Hug.” At the other end of the spectrum, the truth of how exactly he becomes a good enough fighters to defeat the Great Xiang Yao, the giant snake of Peng Lai, who is akin to K’un-L’un’s Shou-Lao the Undying, is brutal and something that leaves Cobra visually shaken.
The art here is a nice mix of differing styles for the present sequence by Mico Suyan, who carries the bulk of the emotional weight of the storytelling as Fat Cobra faces his past for, perhaps, the first time. The flashbacks are handled by the likes of Michael Lark and Roberto de la Torre, and work well to illustrate different periods of Cobra’s past.
Also in this issue is the first part of a story that will run through this series by the regular “Immortal Iron Fist” creative team of Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman, which focuses on Daniel Rand’s ties to the community, and the obligations those ties carry. It’s a good beginning to a story and features a very inventive scene.
“Immortal Weapons” begins very strongly with the true history of Fat Cobra, one that will surprise, entertain, and wow readers.
(Fat Cobra! Who doesn’t love Fat Cobra? CBR’s preview has lots of Fat Cobra!)