Power Man and Iron Fist #6
Writer: David Walker
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Sanford Greene (regular)/Afu Chan (variant)
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
This week, mainstream comics chatter was all about the events of Civil War II #3 — the unexpected death, the ethical debate, the clash between commercial and creative decisions in corporate super-hero comics. It was certainly an interesting and even thought-provoking read, but it didn’t really advance the larger plot of the event all that much. But what seemed to go under people’s radar this week was another Civil War II-related title, one that poses its own engaging and challenging ethical questions and one that touched upon some real-world tumult and controversy. In many (perhaps most) instances, a crossover tie-in issue of an ongoing super-hero title can interfere with the larger plots, characterization and themes of a series, but Power Man and Iron Fist #6 is one of those rare examples in which the writer capitalizes on the crossover concept and does his own thing with it while also maintaining consistency with the concepts imposed upon him or her. I’ve enjoyed this title from the start, but writer David Walker offers up his strongest issue yet with something that starts out poignant and personal, shifts to something satirical and silly, and ends up delving into real and relevant issues.
Luke Cage and Danny Rand have decided to give the Heroes for Fire thing another go, but as they’re relaunching their tried and true venture, the Marvel Universe becomes embroiled in its latest crisis: an ethical one about dealing with what people could or will do that’s also claiming casualties among their friends and allies. Elsewhere, a group of New York vigilantes have decided to focus their anger and outrage at former criminals for what they might do in the future, and that sends some unlikely clients to the burgeoning Heroes for Hire outfit.
It’s not all that surprising that immediately following this title’s first full story arc that a fill-in artist who step in to cover for series regular Sanford Greene. Flaviano’s name doesn’t ring a bell, but he was an excellent choice, as he offers up a style that quite consistent with what Greene’s done in the previous five issues of the series. The loose, gritty approach to the linework suits the overall tone and setting of the story quite well. The exaggerated approach to the figures and faces works well with the comedic elements of the script, but it never goes so far as to make the protagonists seem ridiculous. There’s a grounded quality at place here, which serves the earlier scenes of grief and later politically and socially charged scenes well.
At first, I thought the Civil War II link in this issue was simply Luke and Danny’s reactions to the events from earlier in the crossover series, namely, the fates of War Machine and She-Hulk. Walker plays up the interconnected nature of the larger Marvel Universe here to great effect, showing that these disparate, heroic characters are close with one another. However, the real link to the crossover is Walker’s own take on the ethical themes, which shows up later in the issue when the titular heroes meet their newest clients. Instead of impossible precognitive powers driving a story of people being targeted for what they might do, it’s about regular but paranoid and angry citizens taking up arms against those with criminal pasts. They’re blinded by the prospect of recidivism, unable to see the potential for rehabilitation. In the process, Walker delves into Marvel’s past to cast some oddball villains in the roles of the victims, making for fleeting but cute moments of nostalgia and satire about what’s come before in this shared continuity.
What’s most important about Walker’s story is how it shines a spotlight on the targeting of people of color, not only by such misdirected citizen movements but by the police as well. By the end of this issue, #BlackLivesMatter takes centre stage in a thoroughly surprising but entirely plausible way. Walker never uses that terminology, but the parallels to real events in America in recent memory is undeniable. Furthermore, in light of even more recent developments in the United States, Walker’s story takes on an even more relevant tone, adding to the power of the message here. That Walker juggles such weighty fare with earlier scenes of humor and personal grief is more than just impressive — it’s masterful.
Power Man and Iron Fist just went from being one of the most fun comics Marvel is publishing right now to one of the most important comics in its lineup. 10/10
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