Ranking - Marvel Team-Up: Night of the Dragon
Marvel Team-Up: Night of the Dragon
Marvel Team-Up #63-64 (1977)
Written by Chris Claremont
Drawn by John Byrne
Inked by Dave Hunt
Colored by Dave Hunt
Lettered by John Costanza (#63), Gaspar Saladino and Bruce Patterson (#64)
Edited by Archie Goodwin
In The Marvel Years Rankings, we randomly select one story (anything from a single issue to ??? issues that make up a single story) to look at, with the ultimate goal of ranking every single Marvel comic book story from best to worst. The rankings are subjective and highly unscientific. They're intended to be a fun way to kick off discussion, and introduce readers to new stories.
The Iron Fist title was cancelled earlier in 1977 with #15. This 2-part Marvel Team-Up story was a chance for Chris Claremont and John Byrne to wrap up some of their dangling plot threads from that book. Those plots include Iron Fist and Misty Knight's romantic life and the origin of why Steel Serpent hates Iron Fist so much.
Peter Parker stumbles upon a pending duel between Iron Fist and the Steel Serpent. Peter decides to help out as Spider-Man, but mostly just gets in the way. Steel Serpent succeeds in both defeating Iron Fist and stealing the Iron Fist Chi. Misty Knight arrives just in time to save her ex-lover's life.
Danny Rand is taken back to Colleen Wing's apartment to heal where he and Misty reconcile their relationship. Later, the Steel Serpent arrives to finish the job, but is stopped by the Daughters of the Dragon (Colleen and Misty). The Steel Serpent flees to a nearby park and begins to fight Spider-Man, when Danny Rand appears wanting a rematch. The Steel Serpent is overwhelmed and consumed by the power of the Iron Fist, but Danny is able to absorb it back into his body. Iron Fist is whole once again he and Misty celebrate with a kiss.
Iron Fist probably isn't one of the first ten characters you think of when you think of John Byrne's career. Superman, the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four - Byrne has left his mark on almost all of the industry's biggest names.
All things being equal, I would have loved to see Byrne do more work on Iron Fist. Byrne is able to get across the breakneck, visceral style of martial arts comics in a way that few other artists can achieve. He's an artist that's incapable of drawing a stiff panel, something even the best artists can fail at in a genre that's supposed to be all about movement.
This two-part story is no exception to that rule, it's a story that's constantly in motion. If you read this story for one reason, it's to behold the artistic beauty of Iron Fist and the Steel Serpent's bruisingly rendered fight.
The actual arc itself is not Claremont's best work. The story feels artificially inflated to take up two issues, where only one would've been sufficient. It's also worth noting that Marvel Team-Up is meant to be Spider-Man's book (or, at least half his book) and that hero's role is almost non-existent.
The only thing Spider-Man does of note is occassionally get in the way, but rather than that being a plot worth expanding on (Spider-Man being over-his-head in the world of superpowered martial arts), it's basically just a side note. This is a story where the absence of Spidey wouldn't have actually changed a thing.
The Steel Serpent, however, is an interesting villain. I really enjoyed the look at his backstory (fails in a competition to gain the Iron Fist against Danny's father, tries to steal it anyway, is banned to Earth) and I thought it added some humanity to the character. It was enough backstory to make you feel kind of bad for the guy when the power consumes him, even if he totally had it coming.
Overall, this is an artistically exciting story and a fine way to wrap up Iron Fist/Misty Knight's story. Certain elements of the plot left something to be desired (Spider-Man's role, the stretched length, the Daughters of the Dragon being underused in their own issue), but nothing was big enough to ruin the story.
New Reader Friendly?
Definitely. This wraps up a story arc hinted in at in a previous series, but everything you need to know can be found in these pages.
This list is quickly forming tiers. Hobgoblin is in the "Great" tier, X-Men in the "Almost-Great" tier, and Deadpool in the "Below Average" tier. This Marvel Team-Up story represents something just between "Average" and "Above Average".
What do you think? Agree or disagree with the ranking? Still need to read it yourself to find out? These issue of Marvel Team-Up are available digitally for Marvel Unlimited subscribers and for purchase at Comixology. These issues are also available in the trade paperback Spider-Man: Marvel Team-Up by Claremont and Byrne.