By: Brian Michael Bendis (writers), Mike Deodato & Will Conrad (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The ancient, until now unknown ties between K’un Lun, the Iron Fist, and the Phoenix Force are revealed.

The Review: I imagine a lot of people are going to be pretty upset about this issue and would probably demand that it get no better than a D, if not lower.  Aside from the fact that it’s written by Bendis (an almost automatic F in some readers’ eyes), it’s a tie-in, it doesn’t feature a single Avenger in it, and it centers on one big old retcon of the history of the Iron Fist.

Of course, as regular readers may know, I’m not all that opposed to writers playing fast and loose with it or bending it to better suit their aims, provided it means a good story.  Of course, those that feel differently will despise this book.

For me, I still think this issue is a clear testament to Bendis’ leaving the Avengers being a good thing, as this issue shows how much better his writing can be when he leaves the familiar Avengers wheel-house.  In writing a story entirely in K’un Lun, Bendis’ work ends up feeling much fresher than his Avengers comics generally do.  Essentially, he’s forced to write a very different comic, leaving the template or creative voice he often strictly adheres to when writing an Avengers book.  Here, we get instead a cool, immersive experience, as Bendis takes us on a trip into ancient K’un Lun society.

With lots of world-ending prophecies and ancient secrets, Bendis also manages to play up an ominous atmosphere to go along with the mysterious, oriental environment.  The result is a book that manages an escapist quality due to the exotic environment, while also carrying a heavy sense of dread to it.

The art provided by Mike Deodato and Will Conrad is also absolutely superb, bereft of the flaws that can at times plague their work (there are no excessively burly men or inappropriately dressed women to be seen).  Instead, they play up that atmosphere that Bendis develops.  Their depiction of K’un Lun is minimalist, but nonetheless plays up its distinct cultural elements while imbuing it all with a kind of tension that suits the story well.  In creating an immersive experience into another world and time, Bendis’ script and Deodato and Conrad’s art really work in tandem to take the reader on quite the journey.

Oh, and there are also several VERY impressive, wordless pages of Phoenix versus Iron Fist mystical/cosmic battling that are absolutely stunning in scale and, well, pyrotechnics.  Deodato and Conrad make it just as epic as should be while Bendis lets the artists do the talking.

If there’s one grief I have with this comic, it’s that that same wordless sequence, while impressive artistically, essentially plays out twice in this one issue.  Granted, they’re not repeated illustrations, but it’s the exact same dream sequence.  Not only does that feel like a waste of space and a bit of pointless repetition, but it doesn’t make for the best value when it comes to that $3.99 price point.

Conclusion: Excellent artwork in a very different sort of Bendis comic.  If anything, this issue just showed how badly we need an Iron Fist/Immortal Weapons/K’un Lun comic.  It’s a fascinating area of the Marvel Universe that needs and deserves attention.

Grade: B

– Alex Evans