Since this month is Black History Month, I thought it would be nice to return to Luke Cage's 1990s series for this week's review. I looked at the first issue last year, and looking back...maybe I was a bit harsh on it. So maybe the second issue is going to be better.
So, back when we last looked at Cage's series, he got himself a bit of a deal going with the Chicago Spectator. Basically, they advertise his services as a Hero for Hire, and they get exclusive coverage rights. Meanwhile, a new villain: the lipstick-wearing diamond-nailed classics-quoting Hardcore has plans for Cage.
And with all of that, let's take a look at Cage #2!
The cover is pretty neat. It focuses on Luke fighting a robot. His facial expression is pretty understandable, considering the robot is firing a laser at him. Luke Cage may be invulnerable, but I can imagine taking a laser to the face would still hurt like heck. And if you look carefully at the corner, you can see another guy getting the Homer Simpson treatment.
Writer: Marcus McLaurin
Pencils: Dwayne Turner
Inker: Chris Ivy
Letterer: Chris Eliopolous
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-In-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Our story begins with Luke Cage...getting socked so hard he is sent flying.
Where is he supposed to be, a silo? Or maybe a very odd stadium. The stadium idea makes more sense, as in a bunch of text boxes, it's revealed that Cage was given what was thought to be a simple job: Bodyguarding. But instead of protecting Whitney Houston, he's protecting a popular new rapper called MC Large. Large is a bit of a controversial figure, hence the need for a superhuman bodyguard. I bet right now, he's wishing he was protecting Whitney Houston. Heh heh, 1992 joke.
There had been bomb threats which led to the cancellation of Large's last two attempts at holding a show. Man, some people really take their dislike of his music too far. The threats were all talk, but this time, someone was willing to put some action into them, hence the robot. With a cartoony angry face on it. I love comics.
Heh heh, I loved In Living Color too, Cage.
Mickey Hamilton, the photographer for the Spectator, is watching this with MC Large (wielding a 'black bat', but the art makes it look more like a police baton), his manager Kurt Lockley, and some kid called "Troop" (I'm thinking he either wanted to be a Boy Scout or was a fan of Goof Troop). Troop wants to help out, but Mick advises him to stay in the skybox.
The robot, calling itself Hammer, tries to blast Cage, but our hero has steel-hard skin, and all it does is annoy him. Hammer decides that this brawl was pointless, and takes off like a rocket. However, if the show goes on, he will return. Cage is all "No, you get back here and take your beating", and leaps at the robot. He smashes the robot's gyro-stabilizers, making it lose control and veer all over the place.
Troop runs out to help. However, Cage has it handled. And he's made another discovery. The Hammer is not a robot.
It's a racist teenager in a mech suit. MC Large gives him a punch to the mouth. I like MC Large. His music may not be my cup of tea, but I can respect a man who enthusiastically punches racists. Cage stops him, but Large gets in his face, calling the Hero for Hire a hypocrite. Lockley isn't surprised. Large's music shocks people, but it sells records. And some, like the racist teenager, don't like what he's saying in the music. Lockley states if the cops get this guy, the show will be cancelled.
Lockley convinces Cage to basically...keep an eye on the kid so MC Large can perform, and then he can be turned in to the cops afterwards. Micky tries to convince Cage otherwise, but Cage reminds him that he follows his own rules, and agrees to sit on this for a while.
The scene then shifts to the previous night at the Spectator's building. It's security is being checked by a private investigator, one Dakota North. And she finds a pretty big hole in the security.
North pulls a gun, but the intruder throws a shuriken while complimenting her skill. The shuriken hits North in the arm, and she shoots at him. He's able to dodge her and flee from a helicopter, while quoting Lord Byron's 1815 work Hebrew Melodies. North checks the files the intruder was looking for. There was a breach, but North says that some of Cage's information is undocumented. And that info could be very dangerous. However, she is being listened to. In the helicopter, the intruder unmasks while listening in, revealing that it's Hardcore! Hardcore is the master of strategy! I love Hardcore. I hope he appears in the Luke Cage Netflix series in all his lipstick-and-diamond-wearing classics-quoting glory.
Back to the concert, Cage has tied up the wannabe Hitler Youth (Hope he remembered to take the kid OUT of the suit before doing so), and is moving some big speakers. He and Micky are discussing Cage's dad. You see, Hamilton knew Cage's dad, and It has annoyed Cage a bit. Cage's dad died thinking Cage was a criminal...until this series would reveal his father was actually still alive.
Micky and Cage argue a bit about his dad, but MC Large butts in. Large feels that Cage is a sellout. Cage warns him that he's becoming no different from the racist white armored kid. Cage crushes Large's baton, saying that even though he's his own side, he is not Large's enemy.
In a hidden compound, it's revealed the kid was from a group of men which is called The Hammer, originally formed from Cameron Hodge's anti-mutant organization called The Right. I love this little detail right here, showing subtle connections to the rest of the Marvel Universe. The Hammer have decided to some expanding. This group is not just going after mutants, but anyone else they consider "subversive". Which basically means anyone who isn't straight and white. Yup, I'm gonna enjoy seeing Cage beat these guys down.
It's time for the big show! MC Large is performing, and Cage isn't a fan. I've always imagined him to be a rhythm and blues head myself. Lockley hints that Large isn't as bad as his public persona makes people think. Troop states the same, saying that Large helped him out and got him off the streets.
And...dang it, Cage! How long have you been doing this?! Why did you not take the kid out of that armor?! The kid easily breaks his handcuffs, because Cage decided to be stupid. As the little racist does this, Troop explains that MC Large had grown up alone on the streets, and was a former criminal. However, he met Mr. Lockley, and the manager was able to help Large find a less destructive channel for his anger through hip-hop.
The armored kid then grabs Troop and holds him hostage. Nice work, Cage. You had to let the kid stay in the suit, didn't you? However, despite the fact that he's in metal armor, Troop is able to break free and hit him with a judo throw that would make James T. Kirk proud. The kid runs his big racist mouth, screaming that Hammer is not some super-villain codename, it's the name of a group. And that's their cue.
Yes, their armor suits have cartoony angry faces on them. I know, it makes me laugh, too. Cage leaps into action, and does what he does best: Kick some bad guy butt. MC Large grabs another black bat (I'm betting he has a bunch of them in case of things like this), and has plans of his own in mind. Cage struggles with the flying Hammer members, turning the stadium into a warzone.
The armored kid calls out for one of the Hammers, but the commotion makes him hard to hear. The lead Hammer blasts at Cage with his armor's weapons, and chokes him like he's Homer choking out Bart. The lead hammer, named Ralphie, thinks Cage killed his brother, the armored kid. They spot the kid, and MC Large is about to smash his head like a melon with his bat. Both Cage and Ralphie are horrified by this. Ralphie's armor is still blasting, and it makes a big boom.
Cage and Ralphie end up working together to save the kid (named Donny), and MC Large. They get to the ground, and thankfully, they'll be alright. However, despite Ralphie being grateful to Cage for saving his and Donny's lives, he still sees Cage as an enemy. Thus, he still tries to kill him. Donny is not a very intelligent man. Troop tries to whack Ralphie with the bat, but it does no good. This kid was able to judo flip Donny in his armor earlier, but not do any good against this guy now? I'm guessing he hasn't gotten his special meter filled back up yet.
Cage grabs Ralphie's fist and sends him to Dreamland with a Mighty Punch. The chaos does result in the concert getting cancelled, but Lockley is optimistic. It's a setback, not the end. He also comes to the realization that maybe he and MC Large are not the best people to keep an eye on young Troop. How did he end up with them, anyway? Troop refuses, saying he can handle himself. Cage reminds him of something Troop himself said earlier: "Only so much one can take alone". He then heads up to take Troop back to Chicago to find some family.
Three figures head up towards the Spectator's lobby. They meet a security guard who checks the three out.
Three bad dudes here. Tombstone, superhuman mob enforcer and sparring partner of Spider-Man. Nitro, explosive maniac who helped bring about the death of the first Captain Marvel: the Kree warrior Mar-Vell. And...I'm calling him Shemp, I have no idea who he is. Hang on one second. *reads ahead in the trade* Okay, he's called Kickback, and he has big feet. Which he can kick really hard with. The guard pulls a gun on them, but the bulletproof Tombstone gives the guard a blast to the face from his shotgun in response.
He reveals the three are a new team: The Untouchables. Somewhere, Eliot Ness is facepalming really hard. Kickback kicks down a window, even though they could have just used a door. Nitro stays behind. Ana Medina sees this from a hall, just as Nitro lives up to his codename.
Kaboom. The story ends with a literal bang.
This story is...alright. It's not terrible. We get to see Luke Cage kick some racist butts, so that's a plus. This issue is certainly an interesting one because in a way, it's a bit of a snapshot of its time. MC Large to me, makes me think of gangsta rap artists like N.W.A. (who were gaining popularity at the time), and I can imagine his music was talking about his own life in the hood, like theirs did. His music is regarded as highly controversial, much like real-life gangsta rap was. The story is trying to deliver a message that I think is important: When you fight hate, you can't let that make you into a monster yourself. So kudos for that. As I said, it's not a terrible story, and it is cool to see Luke Cage beating up racists.
The art is decent. There certainly would be worse art becoming prominent in comics. One aspect that does make me chuckle is the way that Turner drew lower jaws when some characters' mouths were open. It's almost...cartoony for a lack of better words. It's kind of funny.
See what I mean? It's funny stuff. Next time, we return to the DC Universe, as the Crisis on Infinite Earths rages on...