In the midst of a Danny-Rand-in-Hell epic, Duane Swierczynski gives us a one-issue interlude in the form of "Li Park, the Reluctant Weapon vs. Unstoppable Forces of Evil." If that name alone doesn't grab your attention, maybe Kano's artwork will.
Kano, who is no stranger to "Immortal Iron Fist," having worked on this title a bit during the Brubaker/Fraction era, comes in for an issue that's a refreshing change from the angular artwork of Travel Foreman. I like Foreman's work a lot, and his work on the most recent arc has been stylish, but Kano's soft faces and delicate brushwork provide the perfect contrast for a one-shot departure into the past of the Iron Fist legacy.
He draws horses and dragons really well, and that's nice.
Set in the 8th century, "Immortal Iron Fist" #24 tells the story of Li Park, the "reluctant weapon" from the title, a young kung fu student who prefers using his powers to generate images rather than to kick people really hard. He's an artist, not a fighter (in fact, he calls himself a pacifist), but he's training with the Thunderer, and fighting is what he's supposedly learning how to do.
When a plague hits K'un Lun, leaving only two students unaffected by the sickness -- Li Park and his younger brother, a boy who is much more pugnacious than his sibling -- the Thunderer has no choice but to call on the reluctant weapon to accept the ultimate challenge. It's time to face the dragon Shou-Lao.
As we know from our Iron Fist lore, a man gains the title of the "Iron Fist" by claiming power from the heart of the dragon, and you can probably imagine what happens to Li Park. But how it happens gives a new spin on the Iron Fist archetype, as the pacifist Li Park is unlike any challenger before or since.
Kano (as strong as his artwork is throughout most of the issue) does stumble a bit in one of the panels when the words of the Thunderer echo through his head -- Obi-Wan Kenobi style. "Focus!" yells the disembodied head of the Thunderer, and the position of the head within the panel looks silly, as if it were cut and pasted into an already well-composed frame.
But, boy, can Kano draw the heck out of the dragon.
The story doesn't end with Li Park's battle with Shou-Lao, even though it seems to be the climax of the issue. It's just the first climax, though, as Li Park must face another challenge and discover that his unique approach doesn't always succeed. And he deals with the consequences of that.
"Immortal Iron Fist" #24 is another good installment of Swierczynski's best Marvel series, and though the internet was abuzz with the news that this series was headed for cancellation (information that turned out to be erroneous), this series seems to have a long life ahead of it. Or it deserves one, anyway, because it's still a comic worth reading.
(Check out Kano's artwork in CBR's preview.)