Randy Jackson Re-Reads Luke Cage Hero For Hire/Luke Cage Power Man

Yup, I threatened to do this, now it's going to happen.  I'd thought about waiting until I was finished with Howard the Duck but I decided to go ahead and get started.

For this discussion, I'll be covering Luke Cage: Hero For Hire #1-16, Luke Cage: Power Man #17-27 and Power Man @28-48.

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And maybe Valeria Richards. How long before Marvel decides her origins are too twisted not to do something horrible to her?

Obviously angry characters are popular or Wolverine wouldn't have become one of Marvel's biggest stars, but I'm starting to get bored with Luke reacting to everything by yelling and punching inanimate objects. (Of course I'm not a Wolverine fan, so maybe a lot of readers like guys yelling and punching chairs and cars.)

I've only read her first story where she helped Iron Man fight Dr. Doom. It's pretty silly, but it was drawn by Steve Ditko, and even when he's ranting about objectivism, his artwork is always fun to look at.

It's a bit of a running joke that Doom's most effective deterrent is Squirrel Girl.  Since the incident, he's always treated her with the utmost respect--probably with more respect than anyone outside of Valeria.

Oh yeah, her appearance has kind of...changed from her first appearance:

Thankfully, she also survived flirting with Daredevil somehow.

Somebody thought Ditko overdid her teeth and eyes?

I'm guessing she has some bizarre sort of super luck she's unaware of having that kept her from getting killed that day. It only activates when she's about to buy the farm.   

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #9 - "Where Angels Fear To Tread!"
Cover Date: May 1973
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artist: George Tuska

Luke has burst into the Baxter Building. Medusa and the Human Torch are unable to stop him. The Thing goes after him next, but Luke tackles him and knocks him down, as Reed surmises this is no ordinary man. Luke demands to see Reed Richards (either Luke hasn't read many newspapers or coverage of the FF had died down at this point). Reed finally stops him from laying out the team and asks what he wants. Luke tells him he wants a rocket. The rest of the team tell Luke to go jump on the subway until Luke reveals that he wants to go after Doctor Doom. He finally introduces himself, and Reed agrees to provide transportation to Latveria. He programs a ship to go to Latveria, telling Luke that how he accomplishes his mission is up to him.

Luke rides the craft to Latveria, but is stopped by Doom's automatic defenses, which identify him as the Fantastic Four. His ship is brought down to the ground. Doom's lackeys approach the ship, but Luke comes out punching and surprises them. He fights with them until a number of robots intervene, and Doom's forces are routed. The robots tell Luke to come with them, and he agrees.

The robots lead Luke to a cave where he meets a fishbowl headed alien who professes to be the leader of the robotic revolt in Latveria. The alien asks Cage to join them in an assault and reminds him that without them he'd have zero chance of getting to Doom. Luke agrees.

That night, he leads the robots in an assault on the Doomcastle (no Doommobile in sight, however). After smashing through the gates, Luke leaves the robots to go after Doom. He finds a guarded room, and after taking out the guards, he finds Doom inside. We get this classic exchange:

DOOM: When my men reported a crazy Black man in the Fantastic Four's craft, I knew it had to be you.

CAGE: Where's my money, honey?

Doom laughs at the fact that Cage has come all this way for the money owed for his services, as he thought Luke was working for Reed. They fight. Doom seems to be getting the upper hand when Luke hears something give way in his armor. He keeps hitting the same spot over and over again, and Doom's armor is weakened. Apparently Doom never thought to make sure his armor was impenetrable to repeated blows on the same stress point. Geniuses. Go figure.

Their fight is interrupted by the fishbowl-headed alien, who tells Doom that he's going to kill him. As Doom is currently defenseless--well, the weapons in his armor don't work--Luke tells the alien that he won't let him murder Doom in cold blood (but really, isn't this a coup? Isn't this the sort of thing that happens?).  He stops the alien, who blasts Luke and then scurries away on spider-like legs, his human shell left behind. Doom urges Luke to give chase, but Luke refuses, saying the alien could have killed him but didn't, and that Doom still hasn't payed for his services. Doom tries to hire him, but Luke says no. Doom then thanks him for saving his life, but Luke states it was simply busines--if Doom was dead, he couldn't collect. Doom pays him and tells him to leave. As he leaves by a secret exit that Doom has shown him, the robots enter the chamber. Luke chooses to ignore the rest of the battle and heads back to his ship, which takes him uneventfully back to the Baxter Building.

The Thing is worried that Luke won't come back when he walks through the door. He then gets upset that Luke won't share the gory details. He shows Luke a newspaper, but Luke still refuses, hailing a cab and heading back home. We see from the newspaper that Doom was able to squelch the rebellion.

My rating: 8/10

This was a fun issue, and moved along very quickly. I loved Luke's determination in the face of seemingly impossible odds, and at the same time his unwillingness to allow the alien to kill Doom in that matter. It was a nice display of character for Luke.

At the same time, I had a handful of quibbles with the story itself. We never really figure out why the alien is after Doom. Also, I think Luke was actually owed more than $200.00. Additionally, he took out the FF fairly easily--I understand that it's his comic and such, but really, one would think that it would be a tad harder. Also, somehow he got to the FF's private quarters and was able to surprise them without warning, which I have a difficult time buying, as I think Reed had installed plenty of automated defenses himself. I could see Luke getting through them, but I would assume they would have fair warning that he was approaching.

The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe listed the Thing as about three times as strong as Luke. Obviously they didn't get that information from here.

Haven't read this comic but the alien sounds like the same one that attacked Doom in Astonishing Tales, so it was probably intended to be a recurring enemy for him.

You're likely right about the alien. I know I've read those stories, just forgotten about them.

Luke's been written with a sliding strength scale pretty much since his introduction.  I have my own theories about that. Yes, he shouldn't be able to take down the Thing and really he didn't in this story--just surprised him. Still, IIRC, Luke is supposed to be in Spider-Man's class, and I think Spidey would give Ben a hard time too if he got some clean shots in.

Ron M. said:

The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe listed the Thing as about three times as strong as Luke. Obviously they didn't get that information from here.

Haven't read this comic but the alien sounds like the same one that attacked Doom in Astonishing Tales, so it was probably intended to be a recurring enemy for him.

I've been neglecting this...

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #10 - "The Lucky...and the Dead!"
Cover Date: June 1973
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artist: George Tuska

Luke is taking a meeting with Mrs. Jenks, whose husband Luke failed to protect back in issue #5. Luke has questions for her about her husband. Their meeting is a bit snippy, as she thinks he's after more money, and he just wants to find out who actually wanted to murder her husband Frank. She's thrown out all of his belongings, but hasn't gone through his safe deposit box, so the two of them go to the bank. This being Marvel comics, of course the bank is being robbed when they arrive. And of course, Luke takes care of them pretty quickly.

After having ascertained that the robbers are just that--bank robbers--they look through Frank Jenks safety deposit box.  The only thing unusual they find is a matchbook with some Spanish writing on the cover. He asks Mrs. Jenks if Frank spoke Spanish, and she tells him no. Cage decides to go investigate the restaurant where the matchbook came from. However, when he gets to the restaurant, he finds it's been burned to the ground.

We switch scenes to an underground, illegal casino where we meet one Señor Suerte who runs the place. His underlings refer to him as Mr. Luck, as he's never been raided.  He's feeling a little out of sorts however, and decides to take a walk through the casino. We then discover that it was Suerte's restaurant, Jenks had gambling losses which is why he went to cage, and Suerte had him killed.

Suerte then heads to his inner office, where it's revealed that he also has a double identity: Señor Muerte, aka Mr. Death. His costume holds a dial--no, not a dial, a miniature roulette wheel--that sends a lethal electric charge to one of his two hands--no, there's nothing said about what happens if someone declines to play his game.  He then kills the henchman that he just confessed the murder of Frank Jenks to.

We switch scenes to the clinic of Dr. Burstein. Phil Fox has entered to get an interview with Burstein, and Claire Temple tells him to wait in Noah's office. Fox searches for more information on Cage, and comes across Burstein's journal from his prison days. He wants to read through it, but is surprised by Cage.

Back to "Mister Death".  He realizes that Cage is on his trail and orders his men to go and kill him. Cage is headed back to his office at the Gem when the Ticket seller, Bertha, warns him that some men went up to his office earlier and haven't come down. Cage asks D.W. to create a diversion for him in about five minutes. He then heads up to the roof of the Gem.

In Cage's office, the gunmen are waiting for him. D.W. turns up the movie volume all the way creating a diversion.  Then Cage bursts into his office, surprising the gunmen. Luke takes them out pretty easily, and also remembers them as the ones who killed Jenks. As they've pulled out his phone, he heads to go call the police, but is interrupted by Señor Muerte himself, who has decided to intervene personally in Cage's death.  Cage touches the electrified arm and it knocks him cold, but doesn't kill him.

When Cage awakes, he finds himself chained up in a waterfront tunnel with Muerte.  He finds the chains aren't breaking, and the tunnel will fill with water soon.  Muerte leaves, having left Cage in an unescapable death trap(yeah, right).

My Rating: 6/10

I think the thing I like most about this particular story is the randomness of events that have led Cage and Suerte to meet one another, and kept them apart for as long as they did.  It's nice to see a story in which the links between the hero and villain aren't so terribly incestuous. Also, it was interesting to see Mrs. Jenks' snobbishness towards those of her own race. That being said...

Señor Muerte is a joke, right?  His gimmick relies upon people being willing to play his game, and he wears that silly costume for reasons that make zero sense.  I just can't take him seriously as a villain.  He's the definite weak link of this story.

Probably the reason for the costume is so the cover will attract new readers.

Bank robbers that are just bank robbers and not secretly part of some sinister master plan, probably deviced years ago by Norman Osborn? How comics have changed over the years!

A dial that makes one of his hands lethal? I'm guessing since he doesn't exactly sound like a nice guy that the game is fixed and he can decide which hand gets the charge. Also sounds like Roulette would have been a better name for him.

According to his own delusional ramblings, Señor Muerte is an honorable man, so if one were to choose the uncharged hand, one would survive--at least until someone pulled out a gun or something.

Ron M. said:

A dial that makes one of his hands lethal? I'm guessing since he doesn't exactly sound like a nice guy that the game is fixed and he can decide which hand gets the charge. Also sounds like Roulette would have been a better name for him.

Marvel's attempt at Two-Face? He'd lie and cheat but never went against his coin.

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