Sunday, January 24, 2016

REVIEW: THE IMMORTAL WEAPONS


INTRODUCTION
THE IMMORTAL WEAPONS collects issues 1-6 of the comic series of the same name. It springs from the main series entitled, THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST and if you have not read that, then this graphic novel could certainly still entertain you, but will probably seem a bit random since it largely builds upon some of the characters in Iron Fist's series and one of the issues actually takes place after the events of THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 5. I have previously read and reviewed the core volumes of this series so I will be writing the review for this spin-off work with a pre-established bias toward these characters as well as the story space itself.

Effectively THE IMMORTAL WEAPONS is a compilation that features each of the six Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra, Bride of Nine Spiders, Dog Brother, Tiger's Beautiful Daughter, and The Prince of Orphans. Many of these characters were massively underdeveloped prior to this piece due to their being side characters in the tale of Danny Rand, The Immortal Iron Fist. Now each gets their own moment in the spotlight which makes this graphic work kind of like a collection of short stories. Each is self-contained though the issue featuring Iron Fist does take place as a sort of continuation of the story told in his main series. The Weapons are also fairly isolated for the most part with some crossover in one of the issues.

HOW I RATED IT 

 4/5 There are a couple of distinct problems with this volume, but as a whole, it is a marvelous collection of character pieces that shed new light on characters that fans of The Iron Fist will already be somewhat familiar with.

CHARACTERS 

The Weapons
As I mentioned before, each of The Immortal Weapons gets one issue that features them. That said, some of these issues actually don't really feature the character that much at all. One example of this is with The Bride of Nine Spiders whose issue sort of plays out like a horror story. The Bride is quite aloof and really only shows up near the very end. In her case, it was a little disappointing that I never really get to know all that much more about the character than I did before. In her stead though are a number of other characters whom the story gives more attention to and while they may not be super heroes, they were still pretty great. With characters like Fat Cobra and Tiger's Beautiful Daughter, there is more of an origin story treatment going on which makes for a far more personal angle. At the end of those issues, I definitely felt like I knew the characters far more than I did previously and while the origin story formula is a bit on the safe side, both issues were done in a compelling enough manner to feel worthwhile. Then there is Dog Brother who I dare not say too much about because his story has a few very interesting and rather morbid twists. Danny and John Aman, The Prince of Orphans, definitely have the strongest appearances since their issues really just tell a story. Both still paint vivid depictions of who these characters are and what they are about, but they do so by simply showing the characters in action rather than relying on the trusty origin story formula to convey the sketch.

A shot of some sexy warrior women led by Tiger's Beautiful Daughter! 
WORLD/SETTING 
The nice thing about a collection like this is that it brings readers to a nice variety of locations rather than relying on a set of backdrops. From the seedy city streets in Dog Brother's issue to the creepy mansion in Bride's story, and the exotic jungle in The Prince of Orphans's issue, there is just a lot of visual variety to be enjoyed here - perhaps more so than what readers usually get to enjoy in a super hero story-line. In most cases, the setting is just a place for the action to occur, but in some instances it also gives a bit more insight into who the character is. The harsh streets of Dog Brother's tale and the lush kingdom that Tiger's Beautiful Daughter calls home are both locations that added a lot to how I viewed those characters. They're teaming with life and character and were really quite unlike anything I'd seen before. It was also quite a treat to see the section of New York that Danny lives in again since that's where we left him last. Having just one more issue that brought me back there really felt like something special even if the city is by far the most dank and dingy location featured in the entire volume. The worlds that these heroes inhabit are as hostile as they are compelling and the full gravity of each is fully explored throughout the course of the story

Subway trouble
PLOT/TONE 
There's some nice variety in the types of narratives that are told within the pages of this book. There are origin stories, tales of adventure, a little survival horror, and a lot of stories that feature personal strife. Most of these issues probably won't make you feel very deeply since there is so little real estate in which you can really get attached to the characters. The two main exceptions to this are with Danny Rand, who most readers will already know and love by now, and Fat Cobra. In Danny's case what moved me the most was the intimacy of the conflict taking place. There's no grand conflict or global catastrophe, it's just a story about The Iron Fist trying to make a difference in one little girl's life and realizing just how hard it can be to face these smaller-scope challenges. Equally somber is Fat Cobra's backstory which is told in retrospect by a side character who has collected information about Cobra's life since he himself does not remember a whole lot of it.  Much to Fat Cobra's dismay, the story in reality is far from how he likes to "remember" it and it's rather heartbreaking to discover the memories that this hero has repressed. Really all of these stories are quite sad in their own way which definitely fits with who they are in THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST series. It was perhaps a bit naive of me to think that ANY of these stories would be at all happy, but that's not to say that they weren't also uplifting in some ways.

ARTWORK
No shortage of Kung Fu here 
The art in this collection is a mix of breathtakingly beautiful to downright hideous. Each issue is illustrated by different artists which was nice in that it gave each issue a distinct look. It was also neat that the different artists seemed to have mostly come from the original series so those who read through THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST will likely recognize at least a couple of the styles. But like I said, not all of it is really all that good. There are a lot of artists who make use of really flat looking rendering techniques that just don't feel very inspired. I think that in a lot of ways the artwork very much lets down the stories being told and I really don't understand why a company like Marvel couldn't pull together higher quality artistry. The only real standouts here come from the artists who worked on the issues featuring Fat Cobra and The Prince of Orphans. These were definitely done using painstaking shading practices and the panels in these issues pop off the pages in a truly epic way that heroes like this deserve. Basically I think most will find this area of the work to be either a hit or a miss in a rather extreme way.

CONCLUSION
If you read THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST from start to finish, then I would highly recommend that you pick this one up. It's not essential reading so far as continuity is concerned, but it is a fantastic chance to spend some extra time with these characters and learning more about them in the process. The artwork will either thrill or disappoint depending on the issue in question, but almost all of the stories were entertaining in their own right and the sheer variety of every aspect of this volume is definitely something that sets it apart from other graphic works.

THE IMMORTAL WEAPONS is available in print and digital formats on Amazon.

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