Marvel’s Iron Fist a Netflix Originals

Whatever Iron Fist have have had in terms of reviews, I’m loving it. I didn’t get the opportunity to binge watch it when it came out last month as I was too busy with work and external commitments (and we were watching Sleepy Hollow but sshhh, don’t tell anyone). It’s more enjoyable than both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, and, at the moment at least as much fun as Daredevil. Danny Rand is simply a nicer person than Matt Murdoch, which makes it easier to empathise with him. I love the fact that Danny is determined to be nice to everyone, despite their intentions for him, it’s unusual to see but I suppose reflect the Buddhist teachings that sit behind Kung Fu.

Iron Fist (resplendent in green and yellow) was one of the first comics I read when I was little. More specifically the Powerman and Iron Fist team up series. Of course Powerman is Luke Cage, and he doesn’t have the natty afro and headband his comic counterpart started out with but I would love to see Rand in his character traditional outfit.

Danny Rand is the lost heir to another Wayne Corp/Stark Enterprises type of tech company. His parent’s plane crashed, killing his parents, when he was ten, and he was rescued by mystical monks who trained him in the secrets of Kung-Fu. The series kicks off when Danny reappears, years later, to find many things have changed.

There are lots of visions of Danny sitting on a mountain top attempting to meditate to focus his Chi, and unlock the mystical powers his training has imbued his with (well, the training and a dragon, but that would be telling really), as well as some really great martial arts action.

A hero cannot exist in isolation though, and since there are obvious boundaries between who Rand can’t interact with at this juncture (there is a series called the Defenders out next year which brings all the Netflix heroes together in a not quite as good as the Avengers but bound to be more fun than the Justice League mini series), the job falls to Colleen Wing, a martial arts instructor (don’t worry, she definitely doesn’t do Kung Fu, so doesn’t get shown up by Danny), and Joy Meacham, his childhood friend who now runs Rand Industries with her brother (who always used to pick on Danny as a child).

The Marvel TV shows aren’t afraid to cast women in strong roles and it’s no different in Iron Fist. The series has, to my mind, garnered some unfair criticism over the cultural phenomenon of “whitewashing”, that is casting white Western actors in roles that traditionally should have been played by more appropriate ethnic people. When I read that an American network is remaking Monkey with an entirely white cast, I didn’t think that is appropriate but criticising Iron Fist for the same problem is fundamentally unfair.

During the 60s Marvel were at the cultural edge when it came to cultural diversity, with the Black Panther (1966) and The Falcon (1969). Powerman first appeared in 1972, followed a year later by Blade, and in 1975 by Storm, a black African woman. Even Iron Fist was preceded by a year by an Asian martial arts expert, Shang-Chi. Yes, Iron Fist is a white man, and in many ways he is a typical Batman analogue (much as Iron Man originally was) but part of the interest in the character comes from the clash of cultures that this creates. A chap sitting cross legged by a tree meditating while listening to Wu-Tang Clan influenced hiphop is a cultural hodgepodge and that makes for a more interesting character.

So, two episodes down, I’m loving it and intend to binge watch the rest over the bank holiday weekend. If you have Netflix you should join me, if you don’t, you should consider joining- Netflix spend more on original programming than you might think, and it’s not structured to sit around advert breaks either.