Luke Cage #1,
David F Walker, Nelson Blake II, Marcio Menyz,
(cover artwork by Rahzzah)
Among this week’s new crop of releases was the first of a new Luke Cage series, by David F Walker and Nelson Blake II. Cage is one of those characters I’ve known about for years, but only read a handful of times, but Marvel has successfully enticed me into some of their other characters in the last couple of years (Jessica Jones, Hawkeye etc) with new series that made it pretty easy to just jump right in. And that’s the case here – if you are a fan already, great, if like me you only know a bit, you’re covered, but to be honest Walker and Blake have set this up so that someone who know little or nothing about the character in comics (say they’ve just come to it via the TV show) can also follow it straight off the bat, which is a good thing – much as we comic geeks love our long-running continuity, it can get in the way of newer readers joining in.
“People come to me with their problems. Mostly it’s people who feel like the cops don’t care, or the Avengers are paying attention to bigger problems. Maybe they’d call Spider-Man if he was listed. My number – they have that.”
We open here with Luke doing what he does – he’s been asked to help, and he does, striding into a restaurant in his neighbourhood with that stance that clearly says don’t mess with me or you will have a very bad day. Not in an arrogant fashion, just very self-assured – this is his local hood, and he looks after it, and you cross him at your peril. The owners are quick to get out of his way, wisely, the bad guys are stupid enough to think they are sufficiently tough to take him on. In a nice one-pager Blake shows Luke enter then descend the stairs, bopping bad guys as he does, clothes being shredded by gunfire that then bounces of his impervious skin. The side-on perspective makes it look pleasingly like an old beat-’em-up arcade scrolling game, which seems appropriate to the action, and also takes you through the scene in a mere three panels, very precise and economical.
“Everyone says I need to invest in bulletproof shirts, but the truth is this: when the slug from a nine millimeter rips through your shirt but bounces off your skin…. Well, that scares the hell outta the bad guys. I buy my shirts in bulk – at cost. It’s worth the investment.”
After dealing with these low-level bad guys and saving the damsel in distress – in a nice touch as much by his advice on bad boyfriends as by his heroism, a nice reminder that saving the day is one thing, making a longer term difference though needs thought and help and advice – Luke is on a high. Saving the day, making a difference, improving one wee bit of the world, best feeling. And then, as real life often does, your world goes to pieces with a single piece of news. In this case the visuals again work beautifully and yet economically – a mere three panels again, Marcio Menyz’s colour contributing hugely here, as a regularly coloured scene of Luke taking a call drops to the same scene but the background now darker, more monochromatic, more claustraphobic as he gets bad news, to finally him still standing there in the same place, phone still held up but conversation done, but his head still not processing what he heard, the background now just all black. Anyone who has ever had the world just change on them during one call will empathise with this scene.
I won’t blow any spoilers by saying what the call is about, but it’s a blow to Luke, and it brings up his past, how he became a superhero, of past loyalties and future responsibilities they pass on to him, and open up a new story arc for the character. This is a cracking opening issue, and I know I used the term “economical” already, but I was very much impressed with how both writer and artist accomplished what they needed – a general introduction, a quick view of Luke Cage doing his regular thing and then switching to opening up the main story, all within one issue.
It’s easy to forget how difficult that sort of thing actuall is in just 30-odd pages of comics, it takes a lot of skill and control of script and art to make it beat just right, but not feel rushed, and that’s handled extremely well here. I also liked how they kept it grounded as close to the real world as they could – yes, superpowers, but it looks at how a real person with such abilities would deal with them (such as the shirt-shredding monologue), which grounds the more fantastical powers element. And as I said at the start, this is as perfect for the new reader to join straight in as it is the seasoned fan.
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