Thursday, August 03, 2006

This Review Came From Earth-K: Daughters of the Dragon

In recent days and months much has been made of continuity, it's effect on comics in the past and present and what it's effect will be in the future. Is it a boon? Is it a doom? Is it just the way things are now? Was it the missing piece that allowed comics to grow into the form we know and love? Or the form we know and loathe? Good questions all, and I may have found an answer in the most unlikely of places. You see, I just finished reading Gray and Palmiotti’s Daughters of the Dragon…and it rocked my world.

In brief, the Daughters of the Dragon are Misty Knight and Colleen Wing.

Misty is an ex-cop who had her arm blown off while working on the bomb squad and Tony Stark offered to replace it with a bionic one with super strength. Colleen was raised by her grandfather in the Way of the Samurai and is possibly the most deadly swordswoman on earth. Together they founded Knightwing Restorations, a private investigation firm, similar to Power Man and Iron Fist’s Heroes for Hire, and bail bonding agent that will bond out super-villains. Naturally, super-villains being super-villains, this has a tendency to make Misty and Colleen into bounty hunters as well.

According to much of the prevailing wisdom, Daughters of the Dragon shouldn’t work at all. It is mired (although I would say steeped) in continuity. Let’s face facts, the bedrock buried deep beneath this story is, at best, 30 years old. The Daughters are a Blaxploitation film blended with a 70s Kung Fu movie…but in a much better way than Black Belt Jones. There is almost no way that these two characters would be paired in the way that they are today; they’re two separate fads of a bygone era put together. But unlike oil and water, these ladies go together like sweet, sweet chocolate and savory peanut butter. If this sounds familiar, it ought to. Power Man and Iron Fist hooking up as Heroes for Hire is pretty much founded in the same era and thought process.

What’s more, this story uses the Marvel Universe as a backdrop better than any company spanning mess of a crossover could hope to. The clients of the Daughters, as well as the group of guys who are the main impetus to the plot, are all z-list super-villains. Rhino is as close to the big time as any of these losers get and he goes down like the proverbial bitch from the onslaught of Misty and Colleen.

The Daughters’ assistant is the victim of a chemical accident that happened when he was working for AIM (I have to believe as a low level flunky…he seems the type). Tony Stark shows up. So does Iron Fist. So does the Punisher. So does Mole Man. So does a metric ton of Hand ninjas and AIM mooks as well as a lot of costumed, but ultimately forgettable, bad guys. The kicker is NONE OF THEM ARE EXPLAINED OR GIVEN A BACKSTORY.

The thing that rocked my socks right off my body is how amazingly well all this comes together. It’s basically a buddy movie with a little revenge motif on the side held together with two completely different sensibilities that have absolutely no place together in 2006 and a mountain of attitude . . . but none of that hurts it a bit. The plotting and use of characters is great. There’s an added layer if you know who Rhino and 8 Ball are, for instance, but it isn’t like you were going to mistake them for heroes anyway. Knowing who Tony Stark is helps, but you figure out pretty quick he’s a multi-billionaire womanizer who likes doing multi-million dollar favors for his friends and that’s all you need for this story. Everyone, including Orka and the MOLE MAN for crying out loud are seamlessly integrated into this story. If you know who they are, there’s added flavor but if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be lost a bit.

The art is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for this type of story. The villains, even the goofier ones, actually seem dangerous. The women are all beautiful, but not in a typical comic book way. The fight scenes are frenetic and well staged and the storytelling is superb. I want to see more from Khari Evans and I want it now.

Since the plot is relatively thin (and that’s perfectly okay) the book is really held together with attitude . . . much like all my favorite action movies. Bad Boys will always be better than its sequel only because of attitude. Road House is a great movie purely because of its attitude. Daughters of the Dragon works the same way in both dialogue and art. We accept that these two women work together, act the way they act, talk the way they talk and look the way they look because if we stopped for even a second to think about it, we’d be left behind. And we don’t want to be left standing on the curb! We want to be in the passenger seat, trying to decide which is more fun (and dangerous), looking at the road or at Colleen’s dangerously exposed cleavage. The women are smart, dangerous, sexy and violent. They talk tough and are just street enough to make me buy it when they front out their assistant for sounding like a wanksta. They are literally everything I want from my action movie heroines wrapped up in six short issues, including katanas and giant afros.

In summation, I absolutely loved this series. I can’t wait to read it again. I can’t wait for the trade so I can read it over and over. I’m even going to buy Heroes for Hire in floppies! (I only buy two Marvel titles currently and my wife makes me buy one of them and the other is a mini, so adding at third is a big deal) The damn thing had absolutely no right to work at all, let alone work as well as it did and for that it gets the highest praise. EVERYBODY READ DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON! EARTH-K DEMANDS IT!

PS: I just realized I got to the end of my review and never mentioned the main villainess. That doesn't means she's unimportant, she just really isn't the main issue of the book. Neither is Razorfist, although he is as completely ridiculous as his name implies. Say what you will about violence in fiction, but I liked what Coleen did to him. I mean, just look at him, he's begging to be beaten.

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