Issue(s): Cage #5, Cage #6, Cage #7, Cage #8
We saw in the last arc that Troop was looking for his "folks" but then he kind of disappeared. It turns out that he's been missing for two days. And when we see him in this issue, he's being pursued by a guy dressed like Thor. We're in Chicago, and the guy was inspired by the time that Thor lived in Chicago circa Thor #319.
Cage shows up to help Troop, but "Thor" is backed up by some super-powered friends. It's Trash, the crackhouse villains from Power Pack (writer Marc McLaurin was Assistant Editor of that series, although he wasn't the listed AE on the issues where Trash appeared).
Some local people with a "take back the street" attitude show up to help Cage drive off Trash. Cage isn't too happy the mob attacking what is still a bunch of kids. But Trash is driven off, and it turns out that Troop has been out acquiring money that he wants to use to hire Cage. It turns out that Troop was being taken care of by a man named Richie Anders after his parents died. Troop will later call Anders his brother; prior to that it's left a little vague what their relationship was. Anders is often away on business trips, but he hasn't been back for a long time. Anders left Troop the money that Troop recovered to hire Cage. It turns out that Anders was a Maggia bagman. Cage takes the job, puts Troop up with "a... friend", and Chicago Spectator cameraman Micky Hamilton goes with him.
We get a hint in issue #5 that Mr. Drewston, the owner of the Chicago Spectator paper that has Cage on retainer, has ulterior motives. We've yet to see Drewston on panel.
It's while on Anders' trail, in Colorado, that Cage gets into the fight with the new Power Man, aka Steele.
Cage and Mickey are captured by Steele. They find that he's muscle for an operation that is forcing Dr. Noah Burstein, creator of the program that gave Luke Cage his powers, to repeat his experiments. So far, the experiments have been failures, resulting in the side effect that (seemingly!) killed Bushmaster when he tried to have the process applied to himself in Power Man & Iron Fist #67-68. Whoever is running the operation is holding Noah's wife hostage. He even asks Cage to kill him at one point so that he doesn't have to work on the experiments anymore (although in another scene, Cage wonders if Burstein's scientific curiosity isn't driving him in part anyway).
It turns out that Anders has been captured by this group as well, to be used as a test subject. But now that they have Cage, they think that they can use him to perfect the process. Note that Cage's search for Anders was actually a lure to get him here, and even more shockingly, it's said that Cage's arrest after the death of Iron Fist was also orchestrated. Burstein seems to even be saying that Iron Fist's death was part of the conspiracy.
Cage makes multiple attempts to break out of the prison, to no avail. Hardcore turns out to be involved.
Hardcore tests the refined process on Cage's leather jacket.
So now Cage's clothes won't get completely torn up in every fight.
Cage hallucinates about Iron Fist while they're testing him. Note that Cage is "so happy" to see Fist, but upset that Fist won't return his calls. I really suspect that Cage was trying to contact Fist while Fist was being impersonated by the Super-Skrull.
Meanwhile, some of the guards at the prison, who have already been given powers with the flawed process, realize that a cure is not coming on time, so they go on a rampage. The West Coast Avengers are called to investigate, and when they hear that there is "some kind of super-powered trouble" in Colorado, they assume it's happening at the Vault.
They attack the rampaging guards, who start to dissolve on them, making them realize that whatever is going on is not related to the Vault.
Cage gets free during the final experiment, and he starts to fight his way out from the inside. Anders takes some armor-piercing bullets that Hardcore fires at Cage, and dies. Cage tries to chase Hardcore but is blocked by a forcefield. In another direction, Steele leaves the facility with the intent of spreading the flawed version of the Power Man virus, hoping that if more people get the virus, someone will search for a cure. Cage decides to chase him instead of going after Hardcore, but when he leaves the facility he's spotted by Wonder Man, who thinks Cage is another one of the super-powered guards. And i guess Cage is in no mood to explain.
So Cage fights Wonder Man while Iron Man talks to the press.
Eventually Mickey breaks up the fight, telling Cage that it's all a set-up, with the mysterious guy behind the prison having called the press to show Cage out of control. When Wonder Man hears that Cage is "Power Man" (although Cage continues to tell everyone not to use that name anymore), they go search for Steele. Steele is captured, but he's hidden vials with the virus in different places. The first two vials are found, but they can't find the third until Steele has a change of heart and tells them where it is. He then dies.
A subplot has Dakota North making good on her promise to locate Cage's father. She interviews D.W. Griffith, who has not aged well.
A later lettercol response says, "Some people just don't age as well as others".
Note that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four worked to clear Cage after the death of Iron Fist. It's not said how long ago Cage was cleared, but as i noted after the scan of Dr. Burstein above, Cage was cleared prior to Iron Fist resurfacing.
Dakota later meets a man that has info on Cage's father. He is assassinated, but Dakota finds his intel, a series of letters that Cage wrote to his father while he was in prison. Someone has written down an address in Arizona on the letters. At the very end of these issues, we see Cage's brother making sure that his father doesn't hear about Cage being on TV, and getting ready to move out of Arizona.
Cage's brother will eventually be known as Coldfire.
There are some things i like about this series, including Marc McLaurin's use of a lot of random continuity elements, like Trash of all people, or even the Chicago connection to Thor. It's gratuitous, but in a Mark Gruenwald-ish kind of way that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The build up of Bushmaster as a villain (which isn't explicit yet), with a lot of references to Cage's history, is not at all gratuitous and it's nice to see. As is the build-up to the eventual reunion between Cage and Iron Fist. I do wish the actual writing were a little better, because this story is kind of drawn out and boring; it really didn't need to be a four-parter. Things perk up a bit when the Avengers show up, but Cage's fight with Wonder Man is also too drawn out and gratuitous. I know Cage has a temper and he'd been held prisoner for weeks, but the idea that he wouldn't say "Hey, i'm a good guy that you may know, and there's a deadly virus about to be released" is too hard to buy.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: A flashback takes place two days after the end of the previous arc, but the flashback occurs 9 days prior to the present day portion of the story. I'm counting the flashback as having happened recently enough that i can count the characters in the flashback as Characters Appearing; you wouldn't want me to not list the Trash villains from Power Pack. One note about them: there's a character among the group here that is referred to as "Legs" and it's said that he has acrobatic abilities. We don't actually see his legs stretched out, but i am assuming that this is Crazylegs, a member of Trash. Crazylegs does appear in Cage #11, which again features Trash.
Cage is held in the prison for a "month".
As for the Avengers: This shouldn't appear between Nomad #2-3 because of USAgent's appearance. Wonder Man doesn't mention any problems with his powers, which doesn't mean anything definitive, but i've placed this before Wonder Man annual #1 when he learns that his powers are on the fritz. I feel like i should say something about Iron Man, but the truth is that he appears in a number of books despite the health problems in his own series. Obviously this shouldn't take place after his "death" in Iron Man #284, though (as confirmed by a footnote). Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Living Lightning are said to be searching for the vials, but they are never shown on panel.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAnalisa Medina, Blasting Cap, Coldfire, Crazylegs, Cruz Bushmaster, D.W. Griffith, Dakota North, Daryl 'Troop' Andrews, Hardcore, Hawkeye, Iron Man, James Lucas (Geary), Jeryn Hogarth, Kid Thor, Living Lightning, Luke Cage, Micky Hamilton, Mr. Drewston, Noah Burstein, Razor Cut, Scarlet Witch, Steele, USAgent, Vision, Wonder Man
D.W. Griffith must be wearing a disguise or something, since when he reappeared as part of the supporting cast in MIGHTY AVENGERS a year or so ago he was his usual youthful self.
Posted by: Dermie | March 18, 2016 6:10 PM
I really suspect that Cage was trying to contact Fist while Fist was being impersonated by the Super-Skrull.
fnord, the genuine Iron Fist confirms that this was the case when he shows up in issue #12.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 18, 2016 10:26 PM
Note that Noah's dialogue implies that Cruz Bushmaster was behind Cage getting charged with Danny's death. How did he do that? It seemed to be DA Tower acting out of character.
Posted by: Michael | March 19, 2016 1:53 PM
One more reference you might want to add- in one of the scans above, the last Vault breakout in Avengers: Deathtrap the Vault was referenced.
Posted by: Michael | March 23, 2016 8:17 AM
Posted by: fnord12 | March 23, 2016 8:22 AM
I notice you haven't tagged James Geary, Luke's father. You can clearly see his dialogue in that scene with Luke's brother ("James? What's--?"), I guess that counts as an appearance? Many years later he will become a supporting character in Al Ewing's Mighty Avengers.
Posted by: Tuomas | July 28, 2016 3:49 AM
I've added James Sr.. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 28, 2016 12:09 PM
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