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January 11, 2018

The 5 Greatest Martial Artists in Marvel Comics – The Correct Opinion

Hello and shut up!

My name is Cameron and this is The Correct Opinion.

I’m a feature writer and associate editor at ComicAttack.net and this is my semi-regular column where I talk reckless s*** about comics, movies and pop culture in general.


o a while back, legendary writer Warren Ellis created a wildly underrated miniseries called “Karnak: The Flaw in All Things” and if you know anything about Ellis, then you know he has a gift for taking overlooked characters and breathing new life into them. From the Saturday morning cartoon style Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E to his more recent revitalization of Moon Knight and the Wildstorm universe, when Warren Ellis brings his unique Cinema feel and attention to plot and detail to a Marvel IP, he turns what would normally be a forgettable solo book in less capable hands into a character study inside the minds of Marvel’s finest heroes and villians. He’s basically the ranch dressing of comics: you put him on a title and you just know that the story is going to be amazing.

Since then the character has featured very prominently in the Civil War II story line and became apart of the new Secret Warriors team during the Secret Empire story line and while his redesign from pill-headed inhuman royalty to street-fighting, hand-wrapped hooded Nihilist has stayed largely intact, Ellis’s charaterization which made him so compelling has fallen to the wayside. So in honor of #ThrowbackThursday  and  me wanting to talk about the Karnak series WAY too late, here’s a list of

Top 5 Greatest Martial Artists in Marvel Comics.

Now, I know what you’re thinking and right away shut your dumb face.

Just because someone is a top tier combatant in the MCU, that does not make them a martial artist; being able to fight does not automatically make one a martial arts practitioner. To qualify for this list, the characters will have had to have been depicted embracing both the physical as well as the cultural, and spiritual aspects of the martial arts, that means fighters like Steve Rogers, Taskmaster, and Black Widow are gonna hang back for a different list.

Finally, people who’ve had their physical abilities enhanced from some mutation or other non-skill based means go to the back of the line, sorry Deadpool, White Tiger, and Mister X. It should be noted that this does not include the use of “chi” as it is depicted as a life force that anyone can harness with skill and experience.

5. Temujin
I’m going to go with a deep cut here at number 5 because I will always be more nerd than you and don’t you ever forget it. Temujin is the son of the Mandarin (and also the real name of conquer Genghis Khan; that’s a bonus history fact for you. I am dope beyond measure), and though the two are related in 616, they are not the same person. Sent away by his father to be raised in a monastery so that he could develop inner peace, eventually Temujin comes back to the West upon learning of his father’s death to personally deal with Iron Man. At which point in the comics, he has a one-on-one battle with the armored Avenger as he wields the Mandarin’s rings but takes them off to make it a fair fight. Using techniques and showing skills that are the trademarks of some others on this list, he defeats Iron Man with just his bare hands. He’s not higher on this list because he doesn’t have many appearances but he is held by Marvel continuity as being one of the greatest living martial artists in the MCU.

4. Stick

The man who taught Matt Murdock and Elektra how to fight, and the leader of the secret order of martial artists known as “The Chaste”, Stick was created by Frank Miller and first appeared in Daredevil #176, largely to explain where Daredevil got all his skills. Don’t be fooled by his 70’s janitor Vietnam vet looks and his blindness. He’s got a proximity sense that puts Daredevil’s radar sense to shame and skills enough to smack sense into Wolverine after he’s gone feral, plus he’s a total dick. Check out Scott Glenn’s performance on Netflix’s Daredevil Season 1 for pro tips on abusing handicapped orphans.


3. Iron Fist

The immortal title give to just about anyone who can beat a dragon to death with their bare hands, the Iron Fist is considered the ultimate weapon of the mystical city on K’un-L’un and bearers have accomplished amazing feats with little else than some jacked up chi and a lifetime of dedication. Sounds dope, right? Think you got what it takes to be an Immortal Weapon? Well all you got to do is wait for K’un-L’un to show up in this dimension (once every 10 years or so) then get there and after being accepted into their martial arts school, become top of your class and then you’ll earn the right to face the dragon, Sweet! Now once you got that done, all you gotta do is get this huge fucking dragon called “Shou-Lao the Undying” to come out of his cave and then cover a molten hot dragon-shaped hole located on the Shou-Lao’s… I’m gonna say chest…with some fleshy section of your own body, searing a dragon-shaped mark on themselves forever! After that all you gotta do is plunge your hands into the dragon’s molten heart and then BOOM superhuman enhanced Chi. Bare in mind that 99% of the people who attempt this die horrible agonizing deaths being eaten by a mystical fire lizard but don’t let that stop you.

(No, I am not cheating! I know what I said. Go and re-read the stipulations of this list. The Iron Fist can utilize momentary superhuman enhancement BUT the gaining of those enhancements is an ENTIRELY skill based achievement open to literally any person in the MCU. You don’t have to be born with it. You can’t be shitty your whole life and have it handed to you. It’s not a magic trick. You had to be amazing to even get them and afterwards you have to study to even know how to use them. In addition they can atrophy if you don’t use them for awhile and most Iron Fists only use their chi as a last resort against overwhelming odds, mostly relying on their martial arts skills and natural abilities in fights.)

So the only question is which one do I pick? Danny Rand? Orson Randall? Any of the much cooler Asian ones pictured here? The answer is: I pick the entire lineage. They are all awesome so go read Ed Brubaker’s run on Immortal Iron Fist and see what the hype is about.

2. Karnak
There’s always been a bit of confusion when it comes to my boy and Magister to the lnhuman royal family, Karnak Mander-Azur. The Inhuman royals are members of a race of people who grant their subjects enhancement as a part of their social system but the powers each person receives are a bit of a roll of the dice. Even the royal family themselves have abilities that reads like a list of superpowers that got left in the box once everybody else grabbed all the good ones. From murder-voice to Rapunzel-hair, the Inhumans sure do have…abilities and for extra credit they even roll with an large obese bulldog who has a tuning fork stuck in his fucking face because he’s got the most useful power: Teleportation. All and all they sound like a group of people who got their powers wishing on a cursed monkey paw. Then there is Karnak.

Karnak has no enhanced abilities whatsoever. His parents opted out of putting their son through the Terragenesis process that gives Inhumans their powers in favor of sending their son to a monastery where he studied martial arts and philosophy until he developed his most well-known skill: the ability to see and exploit the flaws in ALL things. Anyone he meets, anything he sees, any concept he has ever heard, he instantly and immediately knows how to touch it, talk to it, hit it, or even breathe on it in order to destroy it completely. That is fucking ridiculous.

Of course he can fight and that talent can make for some awesome moments in a panel but the scary reality of this dude is that he can do some Lex Luthor in Superman: Red Son shit and put a letter in your wife’s pocket that will shoot a duce on your dreams and have you broken, in tears, ending the fight before it ever starts. Karnak is a staggeringly bad-ass mofo. Check out Ellis’s Karnak: The Flaw In All Things TPB to learn more.

Now I wonder who number one could be…



  1. Klue

    Now I have to find some comics with this Temjin guy in them and make sure I see him beat Iron Man! I was expecting some regulars like Elektra or maybe even Mantis. Now I have to check out that Iron Fist run because I didn’t know about the others aside from Danny and Orson.

    • Ed Brubaker is amazing and his run on Iron Fist should have been the blueprint that the show followed if they wanted to avoid the poop storm they unnecessarily stepped in.

      Definitely read that and definitely read Karnak. Both great titles.

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