Luke Cage got a new TV show on Netflix, which may be why we got this new series back in May. It’s on its 6th issue now, but the collected edition housing the first five issues hits comic book stands this week. Does it do everyone’s favorite yellow t-shirt wearing hero justice?
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The man who made Luke Cage into the unbreakable hero he is today, Dr. Noah Burstein, is dead. But when Luke heads to New Orleans for the funeral, it turns out that there may be more to his father figure’s death than he realized. Shady billionaires, amped-up gangs, and a shadowy figure from his past propel Luke into a world of mystery. The hunt he begins may end up destroying him…but when Cage is looking for answers, it’s a bad day for anyone in his way!
Why does this matter?
Writer David F. Walker and artist Nelson Blake set to explore the powers of Luke Cage in this series and the dangerous things that happen when the scientists who made him create more people like him. It’s also refreshing to get a Luke Cage story without Avengers zipping in and out of the story. It’s just Luke vs. baddies who have blades that can cut him. Yep, it’s not looking good for Cage folks!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Cage bleeding is a rare thing.
“Sins of the Father” is a good title for this collection since it puts Cage on the trail of the scientists who gave him his powers. This gets him in a lot of trouble as mob bosses attempt to weaponize and perfect these powers, but Luke Cage soon finds a side effect is an uncontrollable rage. This leads to meeting up with Mitchell Tanner AKA Warhawk and getting cut up by some magical blades that were made to hurt his skin specifically. Walker does a good job establishing new and old characters in the story while upping the stakes and making Cage’s motivation clear. That is, he wants to help these kids who were given these powers that are now a curse for them. Cage appears to be the only person who has been given these powers without a problem so it’s on him in to protect them. Walker writes Cage as a man of the people for the people.
Using well written captions, Walker explores Cage’s feelings about the scientist who gave him his powers (a positive feeling though he’s a bit conflicted on how he calls him his son) as well as the feeling of dying and nightmares. You always feel close to Cage’s thoughts because of these captions.
Warhawk is a huge part of why this collection works as he gives the narrative humor and also a bit of chaos. The character is admittedly crazy and instead of wanting to hurt Cage he just wants to help. He’s a tad dense and quick to act and that makes him the opposite of Cage. Speaking of, Cage has two great moments where Blake and Walker intercut Cage’s thoughts and reflection with what is going on in the now. Using flashbacks and his reflections on those moments we get to see Cage work things out and do a little detective work. It’s very well done and a unique way of showing a character quickly use their deductive skills.
Blake’s art is very clean in this collection and easy to follow. Some of the action sequences are downright pulse pounding due to the blocking and framing Blake uses. Characters are consistent and the comedic bits land well because the art sells it. A man saying “ravioli” isn’t funny just because people! As mentioned above, the layouts intercutting past events with Luke thinking about them now work well too. You’re also going to like these characters and the collection ends with an epilogue of sorts to show us where they’re going from here.
Is that a lightsaber?
It can’t be perfect can it?
There are times when the art looks unfinished or in some ways rushed. A double page layout near the end of this book, for instance, has the characters blown in different directions from a blast. The art actually becomes less and less detailed as the panels progress to the point where the final few panels running along the bottom of the book reduce the characters to scratches and scribbles. Backgrounds can sometimes be a flat bit of color or rather empty rooms too. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it caught me more than once how the art can look fabulous one second and simple the next.
My only other gripe is how characters talk way too much at times. You could skip balloons and still understand what is going on and what is being said. It slows the pace down unnecessarily at times making this less of a thriller and more of a character drama. That said there are fast-paced sections. The pace isn’t quite perfect.
Is It Good?
Blake and Walker’s characterizations and the dynamics between the characters are so strong I could see this series going for long while. The book not only fleshes out the powers of Cage and the ramifications of having them but captures the detective mind of Cage while delivering fun action too.