By David Walker, Sanford Greene, Lee Loughridge, and Clayton Cowles
Fans are surely going to be delighted with Power Man and Iron Fist #4, but there is still some fiddle faddle to work out to make this book worthy of true fan admiration. There are a few things this issue got right, that will make fans happy they picked up this fourth issue. Firstly, we are rewarded with a look into Jennie’s backstory and unlikely friendship with Mariah Dillard (Black Mariah). The dive into the past also helps readers understand the psychology of Jennie and why she would be attracted to the appeal of the supersoul stone. Secondly, underlying this is tons of action and some great classic banter between Power Man (aka Luke Cage) and Iron Fist (aka Danny Rand). This issue also answers the question on every former Heroes for Hire mind: Are Luke and Danny officially teaming up again?
The composition of this book is done in such a smart overlap between past and present that you are learning about Jennie’s backstory amidst a huge fight scene. As the supersoul stone consumes Jennie, we are readers become more empathetic and understanding of her plight. David Walker has brilliantly transitioned a story over four issues to build empathy around the supposed villains, Jennie Royce and Black Mariah. By the time we have the final confrontation between the two ladies and Power Man and Iron Fist, it is not an easily discernible good versus bad conventional superhero comic set up. This type of dive into the psychology of what makes a “bad guy” bad is interesting and quite a switch to what is delivered in most comics, especially in some early Power Man and Iron Fist comics of the 1970’s – 1980’s. Walker seems to be intentionally touching upon some familiar scenarios from the early Power Man and Iron Fist comics, such as even using a villain like Black Mariah, but gives them a contemporary feel by adding some compelling morality-bent storylines.
In the same vein, Walker has not done enough to move the storyline between Luke Cage and Danny Rand enough to get readers’ investment by issue #4. The story feels like the early Power Man and Iron Fist comics; there is a level of sitcom humor between the banter and exchanges of the two heroes, but there is no contemporary feel. The relationship between Danny and Luke still screams buddy cop film or cheesy cop show sitcom with the two arguing about whether or not they are officially back together in between fighting some bad guys. The pull between Danny not being able to move on from their glory days and Luke having completely moved on from them has not been fully explored to give each character the appropriate depth. Also, Jessica Jones is not utilized in a way worthy of her character, especially at this time with her rise in popularity. She is used as a nagging wife, calling Luke and demanding to know where he is, criticizing his fashion choices. Danny is consistently trying to win her approval, to no avail, but this is a far cry from the Jessica Jones we are seen in other formats like her MAX series from Brian Michael Bendis, or even her namesake Netflix show. This decisions to write these characters with little dimensions or any depth has robbed the readers of the eventual fulfilling reunion between the two former tag team heroes or a great separation full of drama and feelings.
The art in this issue does deliver consistently from page layouts, colors, and pencils, they all come together and deliver a consistently cool style every page. Sanford Greene was on pencils this issue with colors from Lee Loughridge, and letters from Clayton Cowles. The style of this comic does harken back to the classic 70’s Marvel style, but with some contemporary shifts. This book uses lots of color (and an underuse of color) to distinguish time period, action, and emotion. In flashbacks, there is a grayscale used in the colors and the character design that was done fantastically to make familiar characters appear younger, while also remaining recognizable. Even the lettering, the font and colors used for dialogue, was influenced by the characters mood and also was used to distinguish between flashback and present time. The action in this issue also jumps off the page between Iron Fist punching through a falling big sheet of metal and Power Man demolishing an entire car, there are plenty of cool action scenes that are composed to perfection. Each action panel has the appropriate action word spelled out to adequately capture the exact sound you image would emanate from the scene. Even the character reaction shots we are given throughout this issue are great, between Black Mariah’s emotional journey splayed out between every action panel to the emoting we get from Iron Fist’s mask, it is great every time.
This book is so close to greatness, but there is no amount of having Luke Cage saying “Sweet Christmas” that can get past the lack of character development we have received for our two main heroes. Power Man and Iron Fist #4 does have promise, and future issues can rectify this and give us more relatable versions of Luke Cage, Danny Rand, and maybe even Jessica Jones if we are lucky. This book does deliver in fun action panels that show great team ups from Power Man and Iron Fist that also incorporates a psychological dive into the apparent bad guys. All of this makes this a fun read, but this book has potential to be so much more by just giving these characters a storyline that really makes us care about them.