Sabretooth: Round Two (Iron Fist #74 Comic Review)


The Book of the Iron Fist has been stolen, the thief a seemingly living Constrictor. Danny Rand enlists the help of one his once rival, and Constrictor’s old partner, the savage Sabretooth in tracking down the returned villain.  In addition Choisin and the Masters of Liu-Shi have resurfaced in New York likely to further their plot to seize control of the Mystical Ku’n-Lun and it seems their conspiracy and the return of Constrictor may just be linked.

Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Cover Artist: Jeff Dekal
Colorist: Andy Troy
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:

The last 10 years of Iron Fist have expanded on the mysteries of K’un-Lun in a number of ways. The now missing, Book of the Iron Fist was one such addition, containing the histories of every previous Iron Fist as well as their fighting styles and ancient techniques. However, Danny Rand has discovered a lot of dark sides to the heavenly city, the corruption of Yu-Ti, the existence of the Eighth City and destruction of K’un-Lun. The most recent of K’un-Lun’s secrets to be revealed has been the existence of the city of Liu-Shi, a colony of made up of K’un-Lun natives who fled the city during the reign of the corrupt Yu-Ti. This colony has spent a century honing their own distinct Kung Fu styles, training fighters skilled enough to rival the Immortal Iron Fist, aiming to take back the city that they once fled and with K’un-Lun in ruins, Danny Rand’s chi and the power of the Iron Fist have seemingly begun to fade. This arc is part of the Marvel Legacy renumbering and in homage to the original run of Iron Fist, Sabretooth (A character who first appeared in Iron Fist #14, sorry Wolverine you’ve got competition) appears, working alongside Danny to discover who has taken on the mantle of his former partner in crime Constrictor.

What You’ll Find Out:
The issue opens with some good old-fashioned grave robbing with Danny and Victor digging up the grave of Frank Payne, the villain turned hero known as Constrictor, to determine if Constrictor has returned from the dead. However, in probably one of most brazen moves in comic’s history, Payne remains deceased leaving Creed and Danny with the question, who is the new Constrictor?


The next stage in the investigation leads them to the Bar with No Name, where the majority of the street level villains head to socialize. Sabretooth finds that because of his inversion (in AXIS) and subsequent switch to the side of good, he is no longer welcome amongst the villain community which results in a fight with Bruiser and then later leads to a brawl with Tarantula and a majority of the bar patrons. In the aftermath of the fight Tarantula reveals that Constrictor had previously been at the bar attempting to put together a crew for a heist, but the villains ignored him  because they realized that it was not the Constrictor that they had known as a friend, however Tarantula gives Danny and Victor their first proper lead, an associate of Constrictor’s called Soapy…


This then leads the duo to a laundromat. Despite Danny attempting to take the lead in talking to Soapy, he tries to flee but is quickly caught by Victor who stuffs him into a large washing machine. This leads to a good-cop/ bad-cop moment where Victor attempts to turn on the washing machine with Soapy still inside.  This tactic works and Soapy cracks, revealing the location of Constrictor’s hideout and the book of the Iron Fist.


The second of the two arcs in the issue revolves around Chosin and his plot to take over K’un-Lun. It opens in a Bronx warehouse that is likely going to serve as Chosin’s base of operations for his plot. Chosin is joined by the Rat of 12 Plagues, one of the 7 Masters of Liu-Shi, who kills and presumably devours a homeless man living in the warehouse, while Chosin explains to one of his henchmen that the Rat plays a key role in his goal to conquer K’un-Lun.

The second part of this arc reveals that Constrictor was hired by Chosin to steal the book of the Iron Fist. However, despite whatever existing payment there had been between the two, constrictor backs out of the deal and demands a larger fee because he is aware how desperate Chosin is to acquire it. Chosin’s response is to order Rat of 12 Plagues to kill Constrictor, who responds in turn by revealing that he is not alone in the building and has formed a new incarnation of the Serpent Society.


The third part of Chosin’s arc takes place at the Red Hook port. It opens with Chosin’s associate revealing Constrictor’s location with Chosin implying that he will kill Constrictor and take the Book. It then shifts to the arrival of a ship carrying another of the 7 Master of Liu-Shi, Eel of Blessed Waters, and a crew of warriors armed to the teeth. The arc ends with Chosin declaring that a war for K’un-Lun has begun.

The issue reaches its climax with Danny and Victor closing in on the Serpent Society’s hideout. Danny unsuccessfully tries to tell Sabretooth that while they work together no one gets killed.  Sabretooth responds by saying that he’s only working with Danny to find out who is masquerading as Constrictor and insulting the legacy of Frank Payne. As this is happening several members of the Serpent Society argue with Constrictor over the deal that he had for the book, suggesting that he should have taken Chosin’s offer. However, before the argument is resolved an alarm system detects an intruder and the Serpent Society prepare to fight.

The issue concludes in a build up to what is surely going to be a spectacular fight sequence in the next issue as Iron Fist and Sabretooth burst through the window of the Serpent Societies’ hideout just as Chosin and his army from Liu-Shi charge through the front door, leaving the three parties ready to do battle.


What Just Happened?

While each story arc subsequent to the initial 7 Masters storyline that the series opened and the end game of the arcs that have followed, while telling their own stories, have all featured the continued plots of Chosin and several other individuals from Liu-Shi creating an over-arching adversary for the Iron Fist while allowing each arc to explore individual plots while building to an hopefully explosive finale. In addition to this, each of the subsequent arcs has had the Iron Fist team up with another character, firstly Shang Chi and now Sabretooth.

The dynamic between Victor Creed and Danny Rand is one of the best team-ups I’ve read in a while. It has a sort of Bad Boys buddy cop feel to it that just flows from Creed and Rand’s personalities.  The Bar with No Name and the Laundromat sequences just read like they’ve been pulled out of a late 90s action flick. Something else I liked about the team-up is that while Sabretooth is of course slightly more morally ambiguous, Iron Fist only brings up not leaving casualties once and even then Sabretooth’s response makes the exchange feel like a little bit of a jab at how Amadeus Cho’s Hulk acted during the WMD arc in Weapon X. Which brings me to character breakdowns.

Danny takes a backseat in this issue, mostly following Sabretooth in his investigation. I think this was probably the correct way to write this arc, I felt a little underwhelmed by the Shang Chi team-up simply because it sidelined Shang Chi a little more than I thought was necessary, making him a victim of mind control. Giving Sabretooth a little more spotlight has I think overall made the arc stronger.

Now Sabretooth. Since his inversion, this is probably some of the best characterization and development that Sabretooth has received. Bringing him back to his Iron Fist origins was a good move that gives him growth beyond the mutant sphere. It’s interesting that Victor is now following the path that Frank Payne the original Constrictor took, acting more as an anti-hero and I think Creed’s goal of preventing the new Constrictor from dirtying the memory of Payne shows a side to him that we haven’t really seen before.  Ironically there are a lot of traits that appear in Creed now that have appeared in Wolverine over the years and I think removing Victor from the setting of his rivalry Wolverine and even interaction with mutants, in general, allows for a much different side to Creed to be shown Something else I thought was really well done was highlighting that Creed isn’t really welcome in either the hero or the villain camps. Unlike villains like Magneto or Dr. Doom, there isn’t a lot of Victor’s prior characterization that allows for a shift to the light and while he has had ventures with the X-Men previously there is usually some external factor that drives that cooperation (ie. The Children of the Vault, or a nanotech explosive in his neck). This issue really highlights how the villain community which has been shown repeatedly to have strong connections and ideas of loyalty reacts to one of their own, especially one of their more notorious members switching sides. His interactions with Bruiser and Tarantula show a different side to his inversion to that which we saw in the aftermath of Logan’s death.

This issue did a really good job at humanizing the street level villains. I think my favorite moment was Tarantula telling Victor that no one wanted to work for Constrictor because they see it as being disrespectful to Frank’s memory. Brisson has done a great job in this aspect.

Constrictor so far has been a little underwhelming as a villain so far. I feel like he doesn’t benefit from how the series is developing its overall plot. While I’ve reading most Iron Fist books from the past 10 years I am definitely sorely lacking in my knowledge of the original run. I was really surprised to find out that Sabretooth and Constrictor acted as a sort of anti- Heroes for Hire and I think while the throwback to the Iron Fist’s early adventures worked really well for Sabretooth it doesn’t quite work for Constrictor. I think that this arc without the Liu-Shi plotline (or at least in a smaller role) would allow for a more prominent role which I think the character needs if it’s to pay proper homage to the Iron Fist comics of the 1970s. While being enlisted by Chosin to steal the Book of the Iron Fist may allow for the overall plot to advance I don’t think it matches the tension and anticipation created by Victor and Danny’s investigation. That being said I liked that they’ve brought the Serpent Society back into the fold and I definitely want to see them appear a bit more.

The Chosin and his plot to take over K’un-Lun is what I thought was the weakest aspect of this arc and this issue. Everything seems a little cliché and clunky. I thought that bringing in several of the Seven Masters to support his cause was a good move, but aside from that, I don’t really find him as credible a threat as he should be. I understand that they don’t want to reveal his entire scheme but at the current moment, I just don’t think we know enough about the specifics of his plan to really consider him a strong, well-written villain.

Another standout moment for me in this issue was the fight scene in the Bar with No Name. Each panel showing a different part of the brawl definitely made for a really great combat sequence it reminded me of the 2007 Iron Fist run where each Kung Fu technique was given its own panel. I definitely want to see Perkins illustrate further fight sequences and by the looks of it, the upcoming issue will give us just that.

Rating: 8/10

Final Thought: Sabretooth’s characterization, the bar fight art and Danny Rand/ Victor Creed dynamic, really shine in this issue. Given the overall plot that is developing, I really hope that Sabretooth plays a bigger role similar to how the Immortal Weapons appeared throughout the 2007 run. I’m not completely sold on Chosin being built up to be the big bad for the series, there definitely needs something to up the stakes a little more. Similarly with Constrictor, tying him to the Liu-Shi plot wasn’t the best way to reintroduce the character given that many fans likely don’t know about his history with Iron Fist and Sabretooth. However, despite this, I absolutely love the Sabretooth/Danny team-up dynamic! This issue is worth reading for that alone.


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