I want to dig it! I want to dig it so bad!
Genndy Tartakovsky (W & P), Stephen DeStefano (I), Scott Wills (C)
Cover by Genndy Tartakovsky and Scott Wills
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Let’s continue our celebration of my main man Luke Cage by talking about Cage! by Genndy Tartakovsky. This comic has apparently been in production hell for quite some time now and has just now finally made it to print. For those who don’t know, Genndy Tartakovsky is also one of the main people responsible for the superb Cartoon Network series Samurai Jack, that was on air some ten years ago now (and now I feel old).
I can respect a someone who is that devoted to Luke Cage and the 1970’s style that they would go to so much trouble pushing a series like this to publication.
So how did it turn out? Let’s find out.
The comic opens up with an establishing shot of 1977 New York City followed by a bank robbery perpetrated by a couple of roller disco-styled thugs. They are immediately busted up by the Power Man himself.
After the cops arrive, Luke Cage goes to meet up with Misty Knight for a date at a Chinese restaurant. After waiting for an hour, he gets angry and goes to confront Misty at the police precinct. All the cops are gone. After interrogating a thug behind bars, he is told that all the heroes in the city have disappeared and the police now have their hands full.
He then goes to Misty Knight’s apartment, where he is ambushed by Cyclops, who is looking for Jean Grey. Cage is blasted out the window, and he is surrounded by a number of his rogues upon landing, among whom are Black Mariah, Mr. Fish, Gideon Mace, the X, and Chemistro. He battles them for a bit, and, when it becomes apparent that he can’t win this fight, he escapes.
The comic ends with Cage being KO’d by a punch from an unknown assailant.
Like I said, I can respect an honest effort put forth by someone who likes Luke Cage and has done his homework on both Power Man history and general comics history (i.e. the original Phoenix Saga that they reference with the X-Men cameo started in 1977).
That being said, this comic just didn’t really do much for me. I hate saying that, because a lot of work went into getting this thing made, and it’s a love-letter to both Luke Cage and 1970’s comic books. It’s trying to be goofy and fun, but it’s not really fun and many sequences are just awkward and off-putting.
Power Man himself is depicted as an angry and dumb brute, which is not what Luke Cage is. When he thinks he’s been stood up by Misty Knight, he storms off in a rage like he’s about to beat her for it. The interrogation with the man in jail is a bit weird, as Luke strips him naked by pulling him through the bars. Plus, Luke seems unduly rough with this guy considering he doesn’t know anything about why he is there.
The X-Men cameo is really random. I like that they clearly did their homework, but it seems to be there just to say “Hey, this was happening in 1977 as well and we totally know that.”
We need to talk about the art. I understand that some people are going to like it, and some people are going to like this comic specifically for the art. I look at things like a writer. While art is a big part of what dictates a comics quality, the storytelling and dialogue are the things that make it or break it for me. I don’t like the art very much, honestly. I loved the visual style of Samurai Jack, but this doesn’t look very anything like Samurai Jack to me. The characters look stretched out and ugly. Luke Cage is this ridiculously hulking figure who is three-times bigger than the majority of other characters in the comic.
To make things a little more awkward, the black characters in this comic look a bit like early 20th Century caricatures of African Americans. I don’t think there was any malicious intent behind this art, but it remains that it’s a bit uncomfortable to look at.
Oddly enough, the comic in recent memory that this most reminds me of is Doom Patrol #1. They are both comics that seem to be quirky for the sake of being quirky. While I didn’t hate this comic like I hated Doom Patrol, it seems less ambitious than Doom Patrol. That comic seemed to be striving towards some idea (even if it failed). Cage! is just reveling in its 70’s style and thinks that’s all it needs to be a good comic.
Like I said, I didn’t hate this comic. At the very least, it’s a novelty and was crafted with love and devotion. If what I described to you sounds like a good time, go buy it. I wouldn’t blame you for it. For me, as a Luke Cage fan and as someone who does find older comics to be charming and worthwhile reads, it just didn’t really do much for me. I don’t want to say give it a pass since this thing was in production hell for so long, but I just didn’t think it was good
The best advice I can give is to look at the cover. If you want more of that, buy the book. If it doesn’t do much for you, give it a pass.
Final Score: 5/10