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By Tim Stevens
Unexpectedly, the Immortal Iron Fist's birthday celebration this year will also be a going away party.
After 16 issues plus a handful of one-shot specials, the writing team of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction—as well as artistic collaborator David Aja—brings their run to a close in a story with a story entitled "Happy Birthday, Danny" that revolves around, according to writer Fraction, "kung fu, sex, and cake."
Fans need not worry, however, as the team leaves the book in capable hands. With issue #17, writer Duane Swierczynski (CABLE) and artist Travel Foreman (ARES) come on to make sure that the face-kicking action continues.
Already well ahead in his scripting duties on the book he will take over with July's issue #17, the incoming Swierczynski remains pleasantly surprised at the opportunity to become the new IMMORTAL IRON FIST writer. Even the knowledge that editor Warren Simons specifically selected him for the task does not diminish his disbelief.
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"[It] was a little like Gisele Bündchen calling one day and asking me out," jokes the man best known for novels like "The Blonde." "I mean, I just didn't think it was an option."
While Swierczynski only recently became familiar with the character, he views this as little more than an error on the part of history because, "it was a book I should
have been into, since my 1970's childhood was all weird blob monsters, kung fu epics and superheroes."
History has a way of fixing its mistakes though, and this situation proved no exception.
"I've been devouring Ed and Matt's [IMMORTAL IRON FIST] since issue #1," explains Swierczynski. "[It's] an incredible story machine. It fits into the Marvel U proper, but these guys have taken us down all of these insanely cool cul-de-sacs, all of which enhance and energize the main story. [I had to go back] to the [ESSENTIAL IRON FIST] collection to catch up on what I've been missing."
The departing duo of Brubaker and Fraction, for their part, happily reflect that admiration right back at their successor. "We both wanted Duane to come on the book, and Duane's pitch was the IRON FIST book I actually wanted to read," Fraction assures readers.
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"I wouldn't have wanted Marvel to continue publishing IRON FIST if I thought we were putting out an inferior product," reinforces Simons. "I really do love our Iron Fist fans and I promise that I wouldn't move forward if I thought we were taking a step down."
As for where the book goes from here, Swierczynski scoffs at the idea of shaking things up:
"A bold new direction? Hell no. I'm just loving the chance to have a crack at this story machine, which spans times—the present, the 1930s, World War I—and genres—action/adventure, pulp heroics, war stories, historical epics—without losing an ounce of forward thrust. I think the book is the place you come when you want to get your freak on, for lack of a better of term. [My goal is] add[ing] to the legend that is the Immortal Iron Fist in an entertaining and meaningful way."
In order to do that, he plans to retain a lot of the elements that Fraction and Brubaker introduced into the book in the first place. For one, the "interlude" issues that fill in the legacy of the Iron Fist mantel will continue. Swierczynski plans to "have a crack at pulp-style one-shots with Orson Randall—as well other incarnations of Iron Fist. Maybe even future Iron Fists." First up? An Iron Fist "who was around to protect the exploited Chinese laborers who built the Central Pacific Railroad in the Old West."
As for the supporting cast, "Iron Fist fans needn't worry," Swierczynski pledges, "Cage, Misty and Colleen will definitely be around." He additionally teases, "just because the Tournament of Heavenly Cities is over, don't think we've seen the last of Fat Cobra and the other Immortal Weapons."
Asking for specifics on the beginning of Swierczynski's run, though, will yields little information as the writer chooses to stay cagey for the time being: "All I can say is that Ed and Matt cue up something pretty devastating in [IMMORTAL IRON FIST #16], and my first arc spins directly out of that. As Matt said, a lot of it has to do with cake and sex."
Similarly, Simons offers little by way of hints.
"Mr. Fraction, who's a mensch in every sense of the word, gave Danny Rand a helluva birthday present, and Duane's taken that idea and really run with it," teases the editor. "Danny's being hunted by a mystical…whoopsy. Almost let that one get out."
Tight-lipped though they may be neither Swierczynski nor Simons hesitate to talk about talents of Travel Foreman. The writer, who has peeked some of the art already, promises "it's amazing—intricate, powerful, eye-popping." Simons agrees: "He's got a remarkable imagination, and his work is perfect for insane kinetic kung-fu action."
Tomorrow we'll take a look back at the first leg of the IMMORTAL IRON FIST journey with Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, but right now you can catch yourself up with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.