There are qualities inherent to the production to David Walker and Sanford Greene's Power Man and Iron Fist that stand as unique to the series and result in a month-by-month production that is set apart from anything else I currently read from the various comics publishers. If I had to tribute the book and the people who deliver it to me then I can offer no higher plateau of praise than that.
One of the building themes in David Walker's work on this series derives itself from the fact that the two main leads have a knowable past, a history. While never dwelling on, or even referencing, the late 70s/80s heyday of Power Man and Iron Fist Walker still embraces the possibilities and strengths offered by the series' distant past. No more self evident is this respect for the established history of his cast than the sight of this tale of low rent gangsters and wannabe-somebodys opening with the very first words being are an unapologetic 'Back In the Day...', as we are (re)introduced to the story of downtrodden dreamer and failed gang-leader Dontrell. Dontrell obsesses over the perceived wrongs inflicted in his life and with David Walkers keen ear for authentic dialogue even this half burnt out minor career crook can gain some small measure of convincing reality. Dontrell's lingering fixation on the failure of his 'Fang Gang' is entirely pointless given the events were so many years ago and the players so disparate. And yet as Walkers tale progresses the various threads that weave through his cast all share much the same sense of us meeting men who are at least partially being defined by their past. The failed opportunities. The nostalgia for better days, no better represented by Walkers use of reformed old-school 70s villain The Disco Devil, still peddling the same act and wasting no opportunity to remind all that he once beat Black Goliath one-on-one back in the day... Why even the forward looking Luke Cage is caught momentarily in this zeitgeist, challenged by Disco Devil over why he keeps the old Power Man gear. As a wink to the readers who recall all of this, or have some sense of history, the method used is undoubtedly well received and appreciated, but no newer reader can be left behind by the veiled references as Walker is cleverly framing such eater eggs as being a part of the here and now, by using yesterdays gangsters and hustlers as props to move the plot Walker can write whatever reference to the past he likes and have it be relevant to the character concerned, if not the unsuspecting reader.
Power Man & Iron Fist succeeds in working on a number of differing levels, the art courtesy of Sanford Greene in itself is well capable of telling its own story, but in hand with David Walker the books identity is firmly rooted in the streets of modern Harlem and the daily struggles of making a living when your chosen profession is, or was, crime. And moving from the self justification of Dontrell we are presented with the untenable position facing onttime supervillain Carlos Cabrera, and shown just how challenging that position as ex-criminal wanting to reintegrate into society, especially the district of Harlem, can be. Faced with nothing but uncertainty and a future with no apparent hope for better things Carlos' even the usually super-positive Danny Rand can only be blunt in privately summing up Carlos' options - "He's either going back (to prison), or he's going on the run". And so events seem to support Rand's prediction. At least initially. But Carlos' plight is by no means a lone example withing the neighbourhood of Cage and Rand, in as much as they are Heroes for Hire Mssrs Cage and Rand are also self appointed social workers it seems, and yet it is a reality of which both men seen curiously ignorant of. Perhaps an understated sign that the fact that their social conscience seems to be something they do not consciously recognise or acknowledge speaks about the strength of character of both me. For all of the mercenary nature underpinning the Heroes for Hire format it would be far less a palatable or worthy read of a series if we had not two leads who cared about the people surrounding them and what the many big and small events in their neighbourhood meant to them personally.
It is this sense of decency and human nature which informs David Walkers approach, when we meet the first character of the book in the form of Dontrell the purpose is for a subtle exposition piece as the mans grievances over past disappointments ties in with many of the figures weaving their way through the ongoing plot. But even in the self centered Dontrell we recognise a basic empathy as despite his petty criminality this is just a man trying to get through life by resorting to what is available to him. In this sense Dontrell then is no different to the rather more honest but no less desperate Carlos Cabrera. And there is the sadness, and the humanity, in Walkers scripting of the series.
Decisions and paths open to the hopeless and the desperate are one thread in Power Man and Iron Fist #11. In truth David Walkers scripting is so dense and multivariable I could spend another 500 words on the various cast and plotlines developing. A combination of hope, hopelessness, human tragedy, the hilarious absurdity of people in general, and of approaching-middle aged men yearning to regain some of the missed opportunities of their past.
In attempting to sort out my attitude to Kieron Gillen's latest volume of Uber the arrival of Power Man & Iron Fist #11 worked well as a contrasting force as it highlighted the strengths and values that come with a piece that offers a convincing and realistic degree of shading for its characters and their situations. Gillen's Uber is undoubtedly, in its own context, well crafted in terms of character scripting, but that scripting also lacks any of the convincing depth of which Walker brings to his cast of characters. Power Man & Iron Fist places itself not as some radical concept book desperate to grab attention any vicious way it can, but rather as a more human story. Just the simple story of Carlos and the moral dilemma he faces absorbed and moved me in a far more meaningful way than an alternate history's version of Super-powered Nazi's tearing up the world unopposed... and all comes thanks to Walker's artistic and creative partner, Sanford Greene. Both men deserve praise for their work on this small but ferociously charming little book Marvel puts out month by month.
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