The topic of Power Man & Iron Fist as it was then, and where it stands this month, actually does have a great degree of resonance. As despite the duo's frequent appearances across the publishing line of the day the series they themselves called home had been lacking a sense of direction and worth. An apathetic maliase that meant neither the publisher nor the readership tool much of any note or care over its content and potential for greater things. In 1985 Power Man & Iron Fist was a series that existed on the outer fringes of readers popularity, and yet come a fresh new creative partnership of Jim Owsley and Mark Bright was a series now experiencing a quiet creative renaissance...
There is little point in revisiting the content of Power Man & Iron Fist #121, I assume anyone reading this is familiar with the simple plot concerning the all-powerful Beyonder roaming earth and interacting with its heroes as he strives to understand basic human emotion and interaction. What sounds an intriguing scenario when put like that was rarely done with any actual success it has to be said, but that has as much to do with where comics were at at that time and the lack of writers who were actually willing and able to grasp the possibilities of The Beyonder's genuine curiosity in visiting the earth and meeting humanity on a one-on-one basis. Over the course of a year and a multitude of tie-ins many writers failed to seriously grasp the characters appetite for discovery and first hand learning, choosing reflexively the far easier to realise histrionics and immaturity of the character over anything thoughtful. Nevertheless, while the event was (and is) rightly dismissed as poor the concept behind Secret Wars II was something anyone coming into one of those tie-ins could quickly grasp and understand; a god arriving on earth and slowly corrupted by the worst experiences of the human condision and the society it has created. Contrast this ease of access to today's Civil War event and the latest Power Man & Iron Fist issue and the comparison could not be much greater. Grounded into a political and (ham fisted) ethical backdrop Civil War fancies itself as complex and multi-layered, posing a moral question to its cast and their audience the nature of the plot is not based on any one protagonist or enemy, and as this issue of Power Man & Iron Fist demonstrates well the results for the requirements of the summer Tie-in fare exceptionally poorly as in the span of one, perhaps two, issues the writer of a book has to somehow spin a story that stems from the event and make a complex scenario and its players comprehensible to an audience who may well not be familiar with it. In this David Walker's wordy style of writing meets difficulty as quite apart from Civil War and its complexity/absurdity he also includes a baffling procession of characters who really should have been left out of this issue. Some are series regulars. Others are a part the disturbingly authoritarian Carol Danvers superhuman police force. Still others are the inmates of Strykers Island Penitentiary, while others(?)
Anyone waitting for a dissection of Power Man & Iron Fist #9 by this point - I apologise. It isn't that I have nothing to say on its actual content, rather that the content involves too much confusion and fiddle-daddle for me to actually want to try and break down the narrative and go into any depth on why the book fails and how inconsiderate the nature of it being a Civil War tie-in really is.
Instead I found myself drawn back to that first tie-in back in 1985 and being quite intrigued by just how similar James Owsley and David Walker's approaches and attitudes to the situation and the material were. Owsley made little effort to conceal his disinterest in the Beyonder and in both his Spider-Man and PM/IF work makes light of the situation. David Walker's treatment is more subtla and wordy that Owsley's but by the books end the reader is left with the unmistakable sensation that the entire premise to Civil War has been shown as being irrational and foolish in its conceptualisation. But in both of these writers work on Power Man & Iron Fist the devil lies in the detail, the style and flow of the book between the two era's is a remarkable one to contemplate as between the two there exists a shared outlook that comics can and should be fun, and two men can be so close as to be brothers...
It is deeply regrettable that Civil War had to interrupt David Walker and Sanford Greene's Power Man & Iron Fist. The series has definitely suffered due to the weight of it. And yet despite an overheavy tone and much overly forced character confrontation it is Greene's superb layouts and attention to detail which raises it above where it might otherwise be. Imbuing the series with its own distinctive identity and a convincing everyman in the form of Luke Cage and his obligations to both friends and family.
A warm and generous spirit, both the man and the book as a whole...
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