Centuries ago, Master Yu Ti, ruler of K’un Lun, dreams of the Phoenix Force. He sees a young girl with crimson hair rise to fight the fiery destroyer with a dragon avatar. On waking, he asks his bodyguard, Lei Kung, if he knows of such a girl, but he does not. Unused to the universe withholding knowledge, Yu Ti scries in a pool and learns that the fire bird comes from the cosmos.
And one day, he finds her – a redhead born to an Asian mother and named Fongji – ‘bird of fire’. Yu Ti takes her back to the temple of K’un Lun, to be trained as the first Iron Fist in 75 years.
Today, the current Lei Kung, Iron Fist’s trainer, is trusted with knowledge of this past. The Phoenix’s history with K’un Lun has been a secret, but now the entity returns, and his own Master Yu Ti charges him with telling the latest Iron Fist, Avenger Danny Rand, the part he has to play.
So, not your average New Avengers issue. And certainly not your average Brian Bendis script – there are no superheroes or villains, the story is tight, the dialogue formal with nary a gag. I enjoyed it greatly, both as a change of pace from the usual superhero soap and a chance for Bendis to flex different muscles. I’d say he succeeds, finding and maintaining the perfect tone needed for this Avengers vs X-Men side story.
And speaking of perfection, there’s Mike Deodato and Will Conrad’s gorgeous linework, delicately coloured by Rain Beredo (click on image to enlarge). The trio bring a lyricism to the page for the K’un Lun scenes, while the Phoenix dream sequences are filled with fire and majesty. Their martial artists combine strength with grace, Yu Ti’s dark quarters reflect his mood, an angled shot of the ruler coming down among the K’un Lun people subtly tells us we’re on a mountainside … I could go on, but take a look at this book for yourselves. It really is worth buying for the artwork alone. And that includes Joe Caramagna’s letters, carefully worked to complement the visuals.
Where the story goes from here, I don’t know. If I were to be flippant, I’d venture that this strand of the crossover arises from something as random as Danny Rand sporting a Jean Grey-like sash. But this issue is a good stepping stone towards convincing me that the Iron Fist and Phoenix legacies are indeed linked. And if nothing else, it’s a tie-in that’s trying to do something different. And I like that.