LUKE CAGE returns with a new book this week, and it’s written and drawn by Emmy award-winning cartoon creative GENNDY TARTAKOVSKY (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars). Just look at that cover!
CAGE is a miniseries long overdue, and I don’t mean just seeing Tartakovsky working in my favorite serialized sequential art industry, I mean the publication of this book has been in the works close to a decade. Sweet Christmas, that’s one extended history– from when it was announced back in 2007, to a mention that the pencils had been completed in 2012, to the appearance in the August 2016 issue of Diamond PREVIEWS. Eight years… that places it somewhere between “Bryan Hitch finishing Ultimates 2” and “Joe Mad finishing Battle Chasers”. But I digress; CAGE #1 has been released today at your local comic book store for the low low cover price of $3.99! What perfect timing too, not even a week following Luke Cage’s debut on Netflix.
As if the silk shirt and tiara didn’t tip you off, the story takes place in 1977, a few years into Luke’s Power Man / Hero-for-Hire days. Things start off with a bang, an explosive robbery by a couple of skating crooks, aptly named the Bank Rollers. Enter: CAGE!
By page four, you have all you need to know, and that’s a novelty lost in a lot of modern comics: no time wasted. Cage roughs up the thugs, shows off as a hometown hero for the urban youth, and even finds time to try and catch dinner in Chinatown. But something’s amiss… MISTY KNIGHT doesn’t show, and Luke hits the streets to go look for her. At the police station, he shakes down a criminal and finds that the superheroes have all gone missing, and the cops are scrambled all over New York. Cage makes one last stop at Misty’s apartment, one she used to share with Jean Grey, and gets unceremoniously shot out of a window by an unhinged and grieving CYCLOPS of the X-Men. (Marvel Girl just died, although that happened in 1980, either way, Scott Summers screaming JEEEEAAAAAN is an all-time classic.) Cage lands in the street below and comes face-to-faces with a cadre of his classic foes.
They rumble and scrap. Luke fends them off and makes a bold escape on a truck before suddenly being coldcocked– clobbered– KAYOED by a mysterious figure following him the entire issue! To be continued! Already?! It was a great start, but I’m hungry for more.
The writing of comic has a nuanced nostalgic feel to it, which is deliberate in every way. Tartakovsky applies a narrative-style exposition, actively uses thought bubbles, and paces the story fairly quickly between locations. There’s even a footnote citation to an issue of X-Men, an uncommon or even rare sight in comics today, as well as a cliffhanger ending. The art is dynamic, energetic, exciting, and in Tartakovsky’s unmistakable signature style. Cage expresses a full gamut of emotions in the course of 22 pages; smug satisfaction, glee, suspicious discomfort, explosive rage, inquisitive frustration and, uh, unconsciousness. This looks good. REALLY good. Kudos to Stephen DeStefano and Scott Willis for rounding out the inks and coloring to really make this book shine.
Overall, CAGE #1 is a nice break from the continuity-heavy comics Marvel is churning out under their ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT post-Secret Wars line. Check it out if you enjoyed LUKE CAGE on Netflix, or are a fan of Tartakovsky’s work in general. Check it out even if you’re not! You may just like it.