Issue(s): Cage #1
Luke Cage was Marvel's first African American character to have a solo series. His first series, first called Hero For Hire and then Power Man, and then bolstered with a partnership with Iron Fist, lasted 125 issues. It was canceled on a kind of cliffhanger, with Cage being suspected for the death of Iron Fist. It seems that there were plans at the time for that situation to be resolved in Roger Stern's Avengers, but Stern got fired from the Avengers before that could happen, and Cage had been in limbo ever since. Shortly prior to the debut of this series, Iron Fist returned from the dead, but, oddly, that doesn't figure at all into Cage's return. It's simply said at the start of the first issue that the charges against Cage were "a setup with a worse stench than his first frame" (Cage's origin involved him having been unjustly jailed) and were "later dropped". So it may be that Cage has not been a fugitive for some time, which means that there's been no good reason why one of Marvel's most prominent black superheroes hasn't appeared since 1986.
Part of the issue seems to be that, as Power Man, Cage seemed dated. Cage repeatedly tells people not to call him Power Man in this series, and his yellow costume with the chains is made fun of. So the idea is to update Cage for the 90s. In practice this doesn't mean much aside from the dropping of his super-hero name (he's simply "Cage" now) and a new "costume". The "hero for hire" aspect of his character is reinforced in a major way, but that's always been a part of his character.
The set-up for this series has a newspaper called the Chicago Spectator looking to set up a relationship with Cage modeled on the symbiotic relationship that the Daily Bugle has with Spider-Man. The paper, run by a Mr. Drewston, has hired detective Dakota North to investigate his past, and the plan is to pay Cage to do good deeds while retaining exclusive rights to cover his exploits. They've also got Jeryn Hogarth, the former lawyer for Heroes For Hire, on staff, and the other members of the supporting cast will be news editor Analisa Medina, who doesn't like the arrangement, and photographer Micky Hamilton, who, it will turn out, knew Cage's father.
Cage is in the process of defending a group of striking workers from some goons. The goons have been sent by a criminal boss named Elio Angelopoulus III, aka Angel.
The leader of the goons is named Hardcore, and he turns out to be more trouble than Cage expects.
Hardcore escapes, but Cage has successfully defended the workers. At this point, Hogarth shows up to offer Cage the Spectator's deal.
The crimeboss Angel is said to have past ties to the Bushman and the Maggia, but he's currently struggling, and the Spectator's first job for Cage is to bring him down before the police try to (saying that they want to help the police avoid a deadly shootout). So Cage gets a rematch against Hardcore.
Hardcore is caught in an explosion and is thought dead (but we're quickly shown that he's not), and Angel is caught and arrested. During the fight, Hardcore said that he is under orders to not kill Cage, and we learn that those orders didn't come from Angel. Hardcore is really working for someone else that was trying to get Angel to sign over his holdings to him.
The cover of issue #1 was supposed to be an acetate cover but it apparently didn't work out, so the cover just has an oddly purple metalic sheen.
This is a perfectly fine set-up issue, marred by some messy art (Dwayne Turner has and will do better) and scripting that is a bit verbose. I'm glad to see Cage return and i think the new set-up fits his character. I'm not too interested in Hardcore or the mystery crime boss so far, but i do like the fact that Dakota North is going to be part of the cast, and i like the use of Jeryn to establish a connection with the previous Power Man & Iron Fist series. I think Marvel (McLaurin?) was maybe a little too embarrassed by the old look, to the point where the book comes across a bit defensive about bringing the character back. And frankly i'm not sure giving Cage a steel garter belt and anklets is that much of an improvement over the chains. But overall it's nice seeing Cage back in action. I didn't read too many of these in realtime so i'm looking forward to going through the relatively short lived series (20 issues) now.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Cage appears in Punisher #60-62 (Feb-Apr 92). By Punisher #62, the status quo from this issue (Cage's arrangement with the newspaper) has been established. So i'm pushing this back in publication time to take place prior to the Punisher issues. It's possible that Punisher #60-61 take place prior to this issue, since some time passes between #61-62, but it seems unlikely that the Punisher would be hanging around behind the scenes during the events here.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAnalisa Medina, Cruz Bushmaster, Dakota North, Elio Angelopoulus III, Hardcore, Jeryn Hogarth, Luke Cage, Micky Hamilton, Mr. Drewston
They were always so defense about Cage's original costume, but there was nothing so bad about it. It was a lot less 70s than say Iron fist's v-neck and slippers (and didnt involve an Afro helmet like Black Lightening's).
Frankly, the crappy hip hop garb that he has worn in more recent comics will date them much worse than the yellow shirts.
The artwork here was really meh. you'd expect better in an issue #1.
Posted by: kveto | January 13, 2016 4:53 PM
For those interested... Marvel recently did a trade collecting this series (Luke Cage: Second Chances Vol. 1) and the follow-up volume is scheduled to come out in the next month or two.
It's just nice to have things collected in full, really.
Posted by: AF | January 13, 2016 6:05 PM
The mysterious figure in shadows eventually turns out to be Cruz Bushmaster, the son of John Bushmaster, so he should be listed as a Character Appearing.
Posted by: Michael | January 13, 2016 7:58 PM
Thanks, added him.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 13, 2016 9:39 PM
There is no problem getting rid of Cage's original costume. But if you, you need to create something better - equally distinctive, but not dated. This costume doesn't cut it. Anklets are particularly bad.
And there is no reason to be defensive about the name Power Man. If you want to deemphasize that, it's best just to have more of the characters refer to him as Luke Cage, and only use Power Man when it's appropriate for certain characters to do so.
I did like Cage as a character, but this - like so many of Marvel's new and existing series at this point - just didn't interest me.
Posted by: Chris | January 13, 2016 9:42 PM
That man looks nothing like Mike Colter.
And tank goodness, that purple outfit is ridicorous.
Posted by: JC | January 14, 2016 2:18 AM
I never much cared for Cage's tiara and chains costume either. Too 70s.
I liked the generalized character design they used for him in various Marvel video games from the PS3/Xbox 360 console era. He was a big guy in street clothes, but he always wore a yellow shirt.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 14, 2016 11:08 AM
Luke Cage was one of my favorites as a kid in the '70s. I think only Spider-Man appeared in more comics I picked out off the spinner racks. As such, I've always been attached to that original costume. I still prefer it to the more generic looks he's had since.
Posted by: Shaun | January 15, 2016 5:21 PM
The release of the trade is almost certainly because of his presence in Jessica Jones and his upcoming series.
And I have to say, I never much cared for Luke Cage when I was a kid. But the way they write him in Jessica Jones, I am much more interested in him now.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 15, 2016 8:30 AM
Erik Berk, when I went to the comic shop last Friday evening, I was certainly surprised to see The Cage trade paperback out, and right when Fnord was covering those issues here. Yes, obviously the TPB is to tie in with Marvel's shows on Netflix, and not this website, but still, that was some nice synchronicity.
The Cage TPB also collects the eight page Marvel Comics Presents story that led into it. However it does *not* contain the "Black Punisher" storyline. Yes, I know, it's a shocking and unconscionable omission :P
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 16, 2016 2:10 PM
I always giggle at the fact that the belt he wears on his costume in this series looks EXACTLY like the tiara he wore with the yellow costume.
Posted by: Jeff | February 25, 2016 12:34 PM
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