Saturday, 29 May 2010

Luke Cage, master of disguise. Power Man #34.

Luke Cage, Power Man #34, cover
Luke Cage is the Marvel Comics hero who disguised his true identity by changing his name from Lucas to Luke. He also spurned wearing a mask, walked around New York with his shirt open to the waist in the middle of winter and became a hero for hire, a job that required he advertise his existence in all the local papers. Given such a cavalier approach to the concept of "low profile" perhaps we shouldn't be surprised then that Power Man #34 finds Luke Cage's office under seemingly permanent siege, first from the Mangler, then from a man called Spear and then from the IRS.

If this makes him feel hard-done-by, at least our hero can console himself he isn't Dr Noah Burstein.

Noah Burstein might sound like a man who writes musicals but, if I remember rightly, he was the scientist who gave Luke Cage his powers in the first place. Now, Spear and the Mangler - who're clearly brothers on a revenge trip for the death of their third brother Jack - are out to get the scientist.

I've mentioned before that nothing brings home to me how my perspective's changed since my youth quite like the writing of Don McGregor. While, as a kid, I loved Don McGregor's wordy, portentous style on strips like Killraven and the Black Panther, I was back then disappointed to find his story telling far more conventional in this issue of Power Man. At the time I assumed it to be a deliberate choice. Maybe he felt such a style less appropriate to the more mundane nature of Cage and his New York world. Looking at it now, I suspect it may simply be that Frank Robbins' crowded, fussy panels simply didn't leave any room for McGregor to be adding too many words. And so, what as a kid, seemed to me to be a failing, now, as an adult seems a blessing as, mostly un-bogged down by pretension, the story's allowed to tell itself more naturally through dialogue, character and action. I have to admit that, thanks to this, I enjoyed this tale far more than any other McGregor story I've read since I started re-buying all these old mags.

Luke Cage, Power Man #34
As for the artwork, it's exactly what you'd expect from Frank Robbins. Everything looks like we're viewing it through some narcotic, with figures in poses that seem only possible for those with broken bones. His style doesn't fit Power Man as well as it did The Shadow but fits him much better than it did Captain America.

In the end, whoever the writer, whoever the artist, it's Luke Cage, one of Marvel's less stellar heroes, and that should make this tale not over-memorable but, in retrospect, I really do like it. Despite his pseudonym, Cage's relative powerlessness makes the strip depend much more on the strength of its characters and setting rather than empty spectacle and I can't help feeling that, like Blade, Luke Cage would work on a cinema screen far better than a lot of Marvel's more celebrated heroes.

But then again, what else would you expect of a man who spends his entire working life in a cinema?


nyrdyv said...

I have always wondered whether they it was purposeful or accidental (or incidental) that they made the Luke Cage characters, well, so stupid in his actions.

Any thoughts?


Steven G. Willis

Steve said...

Well, I've always had respect for Luke Cage's intelligence because there's an issue of Spider-Man, straight after Gwen Stacy's death, where Cage uses his wits to work out exactly where he needs to hang around in order to find Spider-Man. Something no one else in the history of Spider-Man up to that point ever seemed able to do.

The Groovy Agent said...

Passing a Kreativ Blogger award on to ya! Check out my 5/31/10 post.


Steve said...

Thanks. Appropriate action has been taken.

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