A new defender of K’un-Lun rises in Iron Fist #1—and it’s a familiar face with a new, much more dangerous purpose.
Marvel has been cagey about the new Iron Fist’s identity since they were announced months ago, and while some people have guessed them to be Shang-Chi (which never made sense to me because he already has an ongoing series and is newly popular thanks to the movie), this issue finally confirms what some of us have deduced: it’s none other than Lin Lie, AKA Sword Master, last seen falling off a cliff in Death of Doctor Strange: White Fox. His fate there was left ambiguous, but now it’s apparent he not only survived the fall, but it also led to a rebirth of sorts for the blade-wielder.
But wait, what about Danny Rand? Has he been replaced by an Asian person to appease the woke social justice warriors who want to ruin comics for nefarious reasons TBD? Firstly, shut up, and secondly, Danny is in this issue, and it appears that he’ll be present in the series moving forward (according to solicits). As for why he’s no longer Iron Fist, refer to last year’s Heart of the Dragon. He’s still a badass martial artist, but he no longer possesses the chi of Shou-Lao the Undying, effectively bringing him down to normal. The issue explains how Lin Lie becomes the new Iron Fist through flashbacks, but that’s not the main thrust of the plot. We learn that the pieces of his now-shattered magic sword have fused into his hands, which sounds awesome, but it also means he’s left the world vulnerable to an entity that the sword is meant to keep at bay. That seems to be the guiding throughline of this series, or at least part of it: find the missing shards of his sword before it’s too late…and maybe become a badass martial artist like Danny Rand in the process.
Iron Fist #1 is a very fun read. By making Lin Lie the new Sword Master, it helps mitigate some worry among readers that his run as Iron Fist will be inconsequential or momentary. He’s already an established character of the Marvel Universe thanks to his time with the Agents of Atlas, but his previous iteration is fully incorporated into this concept with the shards of his sword helping fuel his power, which makes the Iron Fist feel more novel and unique. And by having his predecessor around as a mentor of sorts, it’s not ignoring previous canon or sweeping Danny under the rug. (I say this knowing some people will still act as though he’s been deleted from continuity regardless of the reality, and to that end I let out an eternal sigh of exhaustion.)
Writer Alyssa Wong continues her work on Asian mythology-inspired Marvel tales with this series, directly following the aforementioned White Fox one-shot, and I’m interested to see how this series progresses. Her script never drags and always moves along at a clip, which you would expect in an Iron Fist series, and the tone is light but with a peering edge of darkness in the corners. But as with any comic featuring martial arts, the art needs to be similarly dynamic, and Michael YG delivers on that front. A lot of this issue is spent fighting and in various states of motion; visual stiffness would ruin the vibe. But he also successfully conveys Lin Lie’s youngness in comparison to the older (and slightly grizzled) Danny, which is important because of their burgeoning mentor/protégé dynamic. All in all, Iron Fist #1 is more than worthy of your time.