Skilled in the ways of kung-fu, as taught in the mystical city of K’un-Lun, and powered by the heart of a dragon Iron Fist has been wowing comic book fans since the mid 70’s. Over 40 years his stories have ranged from street-level to the mystical, but have one thing in common – martial arts action, and plenty of it.
With so many stories over the decades and a variety of tones it can be a little daunting to know what to read or where to begin. To make reading simple, I’ve put together this list of Iron Fist comic book stories you should read.
Mixing early stories, modern classics and fan favourites this list is an essential reading list for anyone who is interested in Marvel’s premiere kung-fu character.
he Fury of Iron Fist!/Heart of the Dragon!
Written by Roy Thomas and Len Wein. Art by Gil Kane and Larry Hama.
The origins of Iron Fist! In these pair of back-to-back stories, in fact the very first two, we are introduced to Danny Rand aka The Iron Fist. I’m counting these two as one story as they connect thematically and structurally.
Both stories are framed with a challenge that Iron Fist must master – either in the form of a formidable foe, street thugs or ancient test – which is then inter-cut with backstory. In the first issue we get to see how Danny arrived at K’un-Lun and the tragedy which motivated him to became the living weapon. In the second we get insight into his training and how he took the mantle of Iron Fist – which involves fighting a dragon!
If you’re looking to read into Iron Fist’s origin then these stories are the best place to start. They give you everything you need to know about the character through his past and present in a neat two-issue packet.
The Fury of Iron Fist!/Heart of the Dragon! is told in Marvel Premiere #15 and #16 and is collected in Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist and digitally.
A Duel of Iron!
Written by Chris Claremont. Art by John Bryne.
After ten issues in Marvel Premiere Iron Fist graduated to his very own series in 1975. In this debut issue, we pickup on of the plots from the Marvel Premiere run in which Danny is searching for the kidnapped Colleen Wing. But don’t worry if you haven’t read those issues, Chris Claremont (who is the king of exposition) brings you up to speed in the first few pages. In his search, Iron Fist is directed towards Stark Industries and into the home of Iron Man himself. In what is Marvel tradition when two heroes meet, they fight each other until they realise that neither them are the real enemy. It’s a spectacular fight which sees kung-fu take on technology with some great art from a very young John Bryne.
If you enjoy this issue and want to know the resolution to the Colleen Wing kidnapping I definitely suggest reading further issues in this first Iron Fist solo series.
A Duel of Iron! is told in Iron Fist #1 and is collected in Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist and digitally.
Fist of Iron — Heart of Stone!/Seagate Is a Lonely Place to Die!/Freedom!
Written by Chris Claremont. Art by John Bryne.
If you’ve read the Luke Cage list you’ve probably have noticed that this trilogy of issues was on that list too. While it’s a Luke Cage story it’s just as much an Iron Fist one too. Back in 1978 the pair’s respective comics were on the verge of cancellation. Instead giving both the comics the boot Marvel decided to combine them together with to form Power Man and Iron Fist! The result is a mixture of street level toughness and kung-fu fury and formed the greatest duo in Marvel Comics history.
Bursting with action from the get-go, this classic story shows Cage burst into the home of Danny Rand to kidnap Misty Knight – Rand’s partner in their detective agency. After the customary superhero fight between the pair, Cage comes to his senses and it’s revealed that he has been blackmailed by the villainous Bushmaster. Bushmaster has some of his close friends as hostage and is threatening to kill them if he doesn’t bring Misty Knight to him. Iron Fist and Misty decide to help him out and embark on a mission to Bushmaster’s lair at Seagate prison. It also happens to be the place where Cage was incarcerated and was given his powers. By the end they will have not only saved the day, but formed a new alliance that will be Marvel’s greatest bromance.
Fist of Iron — Heart of Stone!/Seagate Is a Lonely Place to Die!/Freedom! are collected Power Man #48-49 and Power Man and Iron Fist #50 and collected in Power Man & Iron Fist Epic Collection: Heroes for Hire. They are also available digitally.
The Last Iron Fist Story
Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. Art by David Aja and Travel Foreman.
There has always been some mythology around Iron Fist this debut story to the much loved Immortal Iron Fist blew it wide open. It introduced the idea that there has been many who have had the mantle of Iron Fist, something that had only been suggested until now, and the idea of the different cities which sat secret just like K’un Lun. It’s fantastic world-building in a space of the Marvel Universe which has rarely been explored, full of interesting ideas and opening the character up to new situations beyond the street-level exploits.
There’s also plenty of martial arts action, with dynamic art thanks to the always great David Aja. Each move is striking with emphasis on it’s power and force. You can feel the strength behind each blow!
The Last Iron Fist Story is told through Immortal Iron Fist #1-6 and is collected in The Immortal Iron Fist – The Complete Collection Volume 1 and digitally.
The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven
Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. Art by David Aja, Kano and Tonci Zonjic.
In the The Last Iron Fist Story it was established that there are seven cities that exist on the same heavenly plain as K’un-Lun. This story takes the idea one step further and reveals that every 88 years these cities converge and the champions of each city, known as Immortal Weapons, compete in a tournament. But with Hydra attempting to enter the heavenly plain on one side and corruption on the other there’s more worrying things on Iron Fist’s plate.
Overall, it’s a massive story full of action, mystery and drama. Along the way it will continue to widen the Iron Fist mythology, while also introducing some great characters, in the form of the Immortal Weapons. It will answer some questions, but leave you with a whole new set that will want you reading more.
The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven is told through Immortal Iron Fist #8-14 and Annual #1 and is collected in The Immortal Iron Fist – The Complete Collection Volume 1 and digitally.
BONUS RECOMMENDATION: If you like the idea of the Immortal Weapons there is a five-issue miniseries which focuses on these characters called Immortal Weapons.
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon
Written and art by Kaare Andrews.
In the most recent of these picks is this 2014-15 series which takes everything that has been established and burns it down to the ground. K’un-Lun has been attacked by a mysterious foe, who marries mysticism and technology with deadly results, but by the time Iron Fist arrives it’s already too late. In a series of flashback sequences we also get to see the secret origin of Danny Rand, which expands of what has already been established almost 30 years ago.
While The Living Weapon is a story of rage, death and revenge, which bubbles out onto the page in big action sequences. Andrews goes all out with his style to show it, with action bursting off the page. He’s also not afraid to experiment with the page layout, which often moves the action forward in new and interesting ways.
As with many stories involving rage, death and revenge, Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is one of the more violent reading options for the character. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more extreme then this comic is for you.
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon was a 12-issue series which is collected in two trade paperback collections and is available digitally.
You can sample the first issue with this preview.