It's not fair. First off, there's no way that a book titled "The Immortal Iron Fist" should have been so thoroughly enjoyable. For that, I squarely blame Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and David Aja, who collaborated on most of the 16 issues (plus an annual and a one-shot) of this series to date. It was a thousand times more enjoyable than it should have been, a mixture of martial arts, corporate take-overs, hero legacies, and mystical cities that all came together in a collision of fun.
But even more not-fair, though, is that in Fraction and Aja's final issue (Brubaker's last was two months earlier) they've set up not only a great new status quo but a plotline that is just itching to be explored. And now it's being handed off to someone else.
To be fair, incoming creative team Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman may very well end up writing a good story, and that's something we'll start to discover next month. But it will certainly be a different story than Fraction had envisioned. Fraction's writing on his final issue is in top form, from a funny conversation about expense accounts in an elevator, to Danny Rand having to explain to his young students why they don't get to use nunchuks until they have a B average in math. It's sharp, it's clever, and best of all it always feels natural. He always has such a strong sense of dialogue and story flow, and it's especially on display in "The Immortal Iron Fist" here.
The story also does a good job of staying integrated into the rest of the Marvel Universe. It's easy to decide to just ignore other people's books when working in a shared setting, and we've certainly seen more than enough of that at all sorts of companies. Here, though, it's just another springboard for story ideas; if Iron Fist is a member of the New Avengers, then Fraction uses that idea to his advantage.
Best of all is that Fraction lays a sharp story hook in the final pages of the issue. Based on the title of the story, Fraction looks to be heading towards a certain destination. When he gets there, though, there's a nasty surprise in store for both the reader and the main character -- a sudden hiccup that changes everything. Hopefully Swierczynski is ready to follow up on that idea, because there's no way people who stick around for the next issue will stand for it being ignored.
Aja's art is also in good form here, drawing everything from Danny Rand's cheekbones to a swarm of kids attacking in a dojo with a sharp, decisive line. He has a nice sense of body language; just look at the scene in the elevator, for instance, and you can see how Danny Rand's facial expression and posture changes throughout the scene depending on what's being said. I don't know what Aja is bound for next, but I hope it's a project that plays to his strengths as much as "The Immortal Iron Fist" did.
"The Immortal Iron Fist" #16 ends this part of the series with a figurative bang; here's hoping the new guys can pick up the torch and do even half as well. I'm really going to miss the Fraction, Brubaker, and Aja era. I suspect everyone else who's been on board will, too. This was a great book.