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This Iron Fist review will be fairly short as I am somewhat pressed for time this week. There are a number of other aspects of this show that I could certainly touch on before this one, but this is the one that I have wanted to write since watching the series in the first place. And it’s my blog, so I can do what I want!
I’m talking, of course, about all the comic book martial artists which were included in the series. Like the show, the martial artists run the gamut from the really well crafted and well thought-out to the (for lack of a better word) embarrassing. Hopefully future Netflix shows (including the potential Iron Fist season 2) will be more consistently good.
All that being said, there are three comic book martial artists in this series, and the portrayal improves over the course of the season.
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Bride of Nine Spiders
When I looked at iMDB (confirming that Lei-Kung the Thunderer really is Splinter from the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and saw that Bride of Nine Spiders was credited in Episode 6, “Immortal Emerges from Cave,” I was really excited. After all, I read the entire Immortal Iron Fist series, as well as the Immortal Weapons in the month before Iron Fist was released. That they were going to include another Immortal Weapon in the series sounded amazing: here’s their chance to give us a mind-blowing fight sequence ripped straight from the comics.
Instead, we got a Goth arachnologist who likes playing with needles. Wow. Pathetic.
At least she looks the part. That’s about all she has going for her, though.
The sequence was set up like every martial arts movie ever: the hero has to fight his way through multiple challengers to reach the top fighter and save the girl (they did the same thing on Spongebob one time, even). However, the fighters chosen for this “Grand Duel” do not live up to expectations. Using the Bride of Nine Spiders as a Hand champion was an interesting take on the comic book, but she doesn’t do all that much in terms of actual martial arts. Instead, she just dances around trying to seduce Danny and poking him with tiny needles filled with spider venom.
And who is she setting Danny up to face? It’s not someone powerful like John Aman, the “Prince of Orphans” (the most powerful Immortal Weapon in the comics). Instead, it’s some dude who likes swords and goes down like a punk.
Frankly, I was hoping for more.
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By comparison to the Bride, Zhou Cheng is positively ripped from the pages of the comics. He appears in Episode 8, “The Blessing of Many Fractures,” in which he guards the entrance to Gao’s factory in China. When Danny confronts him on his mission to find out what Gao’s doing, Zhou Cheng introduces himself as a disciple of Ch’i-Lin and the “Sworn Defender of the Hand.” He is a master of Zui Quan (“drunken fist”) and is constantly drunk because his master requires him to “keep his dragon sedated” (not a direct quote). He quite efficiently schools Danny throughout their battle until Danny gets worked up at being called out for leaving his oath to defend K’un-Lun and finally knocks him out.
This isn’t exactly the Zhou Cheng from the comics, but all the elements are there. Rather than the “Sworn Defender of the Hand,” Zhou Cheng is a warrior possessed by Ch’i-Lin, who is intent on devouring the heart of Shou Lao the Undying (the dragon which gives the Iron Fist his power). He does this by killing the Iron Fist and creating a portal through the Iron Fist’s heart directly into K’un-Lun. During battle, Ch’i-Lin can actually transform Zhou Cheng into his beastly form.
I really like the way that they hint at the power lurking within Zhou Cheng, which he must remain drunk to keep contained. The use of Zui Quan as his signature fighting style was very refreshing as a change of pace from Danny’s standard kung fu.
At the end of the fight, Zhou Cheng is seemingly killed by Danny, but I really hope they bring him back. And I hope he gets to be sober the next time they face off! I really want to see what Ch’i-Lin will look like!
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I think Davos was portrayed the best out of the three comic book martial artists in the show. He is the son of Lei-Kung the Thunderer who was passed over in favor of Danny Rand to face Shou Lao the Undying. However, the two of them remain good friends/brothers despite Davos’ rejection, and Davos swears to serve as Danny’s second as he defends K’un-Lun. However, when Danny left K’un-Lun, Davos felt betrayed and rejected and was sent by his father to bring Danny home. Though they fight together against the Hand, they eventually fight each other when Danny insists of freeing Rand International from the Hand rather than returning to K’un-Lun. The season ends with Davos conspiring with Joy to kill Danny, while Gao listens in.
This is almost exactly the story of Davos from the comics: he is Lei-Kung’s son who became jealous at never having been given the opportunity to face the dragon when Wendell Rand (Danny’s father) is chosen over him. He swears vengeance against Danny Rand when Danny becomes the Iron Fist, and battles him as the Steel Serpent. In the Immortal Iron Fist, Davos is chosen by Crane Mother (the character on whom Gao seems to be based) as her champion, the “Steel Phoenix.”
Davos is certainly given the most faithful adaptation in the series, though it does replace Wendell Rand with Danny for the sake of the story. Additionally, he looks poised to become a primary villain in the second season, exactly what happened with him in the comics. Davos’ role in everything is, I think, the aspect of the (unannounced but set up) second season that I am most interested to see.
Obviously there is no way for the Netflix shows to be perfectly faithful in their adaptations of comic book characters. However, I wish they had given a little more thought to the Bride of Nine Spiders instead of using her as a forgettable, throw-away character. They did a much better job with Zhou Cheng and Davos; they could have done her justice, too. I hope that moving forward, Marvel and Netflix will give some thought to including other Immortal Weapons in a more faithful and exciting manner—any of the other Immortal Weapons would be good options.
What martial artists from the Iron Fist comics do you want to see in the Netflix shows? Were you as disappointed by the Bride as I was? Let me know in the comics!