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.

Views: 4308

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Luke Cage, Power Man #18 - "Havoc on the High Iron!"
Cover Date: April 1974
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: George Tuska

We open with Luke at a cemetary, standing before the grave of his former girlfriend, Reva Connors. He's come to talk through his feelings for Claire, particularly in terms of her knowing now that he's an escaped convict. He says he doesn't know how to tell her how he feels about her. Suddenly Claire shows up, surprising Luke. Apparently she found out where Luke was from D.W. They embrace. Claire tells him there has to be a way to clear his name.

Walking back to his office, Claire hears someone calling for help. We see a man in a suit at a construction site being menaced by a large man wearing a sort of costume (reminds me of Hawkman with a hard hat instead of his usual headpiece). The costumed guy says that this is New York and nobody's going to help him. Luke proves him wrong by going to help. He intervenes, and the guy in the hard hat makes his fatal mistake: he calls Luke "boy". He introducea himself as Steeplejack, and tells Luke that Maxwell Plumm owes him and that he intends to make him pay. Luke has had enough of Steeplejack and attacks, but is surprised to find out that Steeplejack is pretty tough and strong as well. Oh, and fast. Luke attempts to kick him but Steeplejack grabs his ankle and throws Luke into a girder, breaking it. Thinking he's done with Luke, he turns back to Plumm, ready to throw him off the building. He's underestimated Luke, however, and Cage stops him. Steeplejack pulls a rivet gun that fires red hot rivets. They don't hurt Cage, but they do set his shirt on fire, making him get rid of it. Steeplejack tosses Plumm off of the building. However, Luke has recovered and manages to catch him before he hits the ground. He takes Plumm down to the street, where Plumm promptly fates. Steeplejack has escaped for now.

The police arrive, and Luke and Claire are about to leave when Plumm asks to talk to Cage. He wants to thank Luke for saving his life. Luke asks about Steeplejack and Plumm tells him that he's one Jake Mallard. He and his two brothers worked for Plumm but his brothers were killed in an accident, and Mallard blames Plumm for their deaths. Luke gives Plumm his card and leaves with Claire, letting Plumm know that he's available for bodyguard work.

Back at the clinic, they're discussing their options with Dr. Burstein.  He suggests that before Luke and Claire can create a new life together that he has to clear up the old one. Luke tells him the only man who could clear him was Willis Stryker, currently Uncle Ben dead. Burstein suggests that since Stryker stole the drugs from another gang that he should find that gang. Luke tells him that he will.

Luke goes to see Flea for some information. Cage tells him that he's looking for the gang that Stryker stole the drugs from. Flea tells him that he can find out for a price. Luke goes and talks with a couple of other informants we've not seen before, including a gigolo named Wichita, a drunkard calling himself the Professor and a former gambler called the Parson. None of them have any information for Cage.

Later that evening, back at the building site, Steeplejack is attempting to sabotage the bulidng when Cage interrupts him(apparently Plumm hired him). We find out that Steeplejack's gun is multi-functional, as this time he attacks Luke with the power of an acetylene torch. Luke finds cover, then locates a bit of asbestos that he uses to create a shield. He goes after Steeplejack, who then burns the floor out from underneath Cage, who disappears. Steeplejack is boasting when Luke turns up again. They fight, and once again Luke underestimates Steeplejack who gets his gun going again. The heat is enough to melt the piece of tin that the asbestos is wrapped around, so Luke throws it Captain America style at Steeplejack. It misses, but it gives Luke the opportunity to get in close, where he destroys the gun. Steeplejack grabs the hose that went from his tanks to the gun and uses it to attempt to strangle Luke. Luke throws him off, and then punches him. Steeplejack goes reeling back into the girder he'd been sabotaging, which breaks, and he crashes to the street. Somehow, when he strikes the street, a spark was formed within his fuel tanks, and a giant conflagration erupts.

Luke goes back to the Gem. D.W. tells him there's a package waiting in his office. Luke goes to examine it, and discovers there's no return address. He decides to open it. He's just about to when the phone rings. It's Flea, who has information but seems rattled. He tells Cage where to meet him. When Luke gets there, he finds Flea poisoned in the alley. Luke asks who did this to him, and Flea whispers one word: Cottonmouth.

My rating: 7/10

Another solid story with lots of action, but at least sensible action. It's good to see Luke moving forward on trying to clear his name.

While Steeplejack is not a great villain, he's serviceable and gives Luke a good fight. We never do find out how he's able to toe-to-toe with Luke, and one wonders why he was working construction if he's smart enough to invent a gun that doubles as both a riveter and a welder. Of course, you could say that about a lot of villains that build their own weapons.

Something else I wanted to bring up: it's obvious that in the experiment that gave him super powers, it wasn't just Luke's skin that was changed. His bones have to be pretty much invulnerable considering some of the things he's shown doing or enduring.

He sounds like the best original villain Luke's run into yet, although he looks pretty goofy, but then the 70s is infamous for bad costumes. What was it about George Tuska and teeth? Everybody always looks like they need a dentist.

Luke Cage, Power Man #19 - "Call him...Cottonmouth!"
Cover Date: June 1974
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: George Tuska

Luke finally returns to his office to open the mysterious package that was delivered a couple of issues ago. Opening it, he finds two cottonmouth snakes inside (somehow alive). They go straight for his throat but our hero does have unbreakable skin, so they don't do any damage. He quickly dispatches them, and decides to find out who sent them. D.w. walks in to his office at this point, asking if anything was wrong. Luke tells him no big deal, so D.W. tells him there are two men to see him. Luke tells him to show them in. The two very large "gentlemen" choose not to wait for introductions. They tell Luke their boss sent the snakes and that they have an offer for him. Of course they have no actual intent of making any sort of offer. A fight ensues, and the thugs manage to knock Luke down--but not out, and he makes quick work of them. They surrender, but Luke wants answers. He grabs the snakes, telling one of the thugs that he'll shove them down his throat if he doesn't talk. The thug argues that the boss will kill him, so Luke tells him to open up his mouth really wide. At this point, the thug decides that maybe he should give Cage some information.

A few hours later, the scene shifts to a plush Midtown office building, where a gentleman named Slick is talking to the unseen boss. Slick hears the elevator come up and goes to see who it is only to be bowled over by the two thugs, Mike and Ike. Cage follows them in and grabs Slick, asking to see the boss. Finally the shadowy figure speaks up, asking him to release Slick. We finally see the boss, and it's a gentleman named Cornell Cottonmouth. Mr Cottonmouth has a fairly striking visage--bald head, white eyebrows and mustache, and fangs. He's also nattily dressed in a green suit with ruby cufflinks. He tells Luke to put Slick down or else. Luke says "oh a wise guy!"  and Cottonmouth says "Why I oughtta..." (well no, but you get the gist). They grapple, and Luke realizes that Cottonmouth is about as strong as he is.  Cottonmouth tells him that killing Flea was a mistake, but that he still has an offer to make. Cage agrees to listen.

Cottonmouth pours them both a drink. He tells Cage he's been following him and that the snakes were a test. He then tells Luke that he wants him to join his operation, the "most successful illegal drug operation this nation has ever known". Luke realizes that Cottonmouth was the one that Willis Stryker stole the drugs from, but that to get proof he'll have to get inside his organization. He tells Cottonmouth that he'll join up. Slick objects and says that Cage hasn't proved himself. Cottonmouth asks what he's got in mind. Slick talks about the drugs that were stolen from them by Morgan's mob, saying that while Cottonmouth's gang can't steal it back for fear of starting a gang war, Cage should be resourceful enough to get the drugs back himself. Cottonmouth agrees with Slick, and tells LUke he needs to bust in to Morgan's stronghold by himself and retrieve the dope. Luke says he will, but that he'll have to do it his way.

Back at the Clinic, Claire Temple and Dr. Burstein are working. Burstein tells Claire he's got a letter for her. She reads it and is immediately obviously nonplussed, but tells Noah there's nothing wrong.

Outside of Morgan's townhouse, Slick and Luke are in a car, casing the joint. Luke thinks it will be pretty easy, and tells Slick to keep the motor running. He walks up to the guards outside and deals with them pretty easily. Luke then crawls up the outside of the building, hoping he'll meet less resistance that way(he does the Spider-Man bit a lot, I'm noticing). He finds the room with the safe, but it's guarded by a large number of men. He takes them out easily, then plants an explosive on the safe and blows it up. He retrieves the heroin, planning on marking it so the police can use it for evidence, but then he's surprised by Morgan and his entire gang--one of whom is carrying a bazooka.

My rating: 7/10

Another story with a so-so villain, but not terrible. There's plenty of action, and the plot is simple to follow. Cottonmouth does have a bit of an interesting look, although it's not explained how he can match up to Luke strength-wise. In other words, this is a decent story, but not spectacular.

In issue 17, Luke is able to go toe to toe with Iron Man, and even damages his armor when he punches it.  He obviously has super-strength in that story.  But it seems Len Wein forgot that for issues 18 and 19, or he just couldn't be bothered to explain how Steeplejack and Cottonmouth are able to hold their own in a fight with Luke.  Like Steve Englehart, Wein had a heavy workload in those days.

The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe says Wilson Fisk has human level strength, and all the times Spider-Man fought him, Spidey was holding back so he wouldn't hurt him. That doesn't explain all the times the Kingpin knocked him around, crushed him in a bearhug, or nearly broke Spidey's hand. Spider-Man didn't do too well against Man Mountain Marko either, although Marvel has admitted Marko has superhuman strength.

Fisk did pretty good against Captain America too.

That's something that always bugged me too. I mean, I can understand Spidey having a hard time with the Enforcers the first time around, but he should have laughed them off after that. Same with any villain that came after him without Super Strength or armor or some other type of equalizer.

I can buy Kingpin giving Daredevil and Captain America a hard time. Not so with Spider-Man, especially after he realized how strong Fisk actually was.

Ron M. said:

The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe says Wilson Fisk has human level strength, and all the times Spider-Man fought him, Spidey was holding back so he wouldn't hurt him. That doesn't explain all the times the Kingpin knocked him around, crushed him in a bearhug, or nearly broke Spidey's hand. Spider-Man didn't do too well against Man Mountain Marko either, although Marvel has admitted Marko has superhuman strength.

It would have made more sense to have made him a Daredevil villain in the first place (especially since the poor guy needed good villains badly). Actually that might have been the original plan for him. John Romita has complained he wanted to stay on Daredevil. He didn't like Spidey and said he "hated the old lady". He might have already come up with the idea for the Kingpin before Stan moved him to Spider-Man. Once he saw Ditko wasn't coming back and he was "stuck" on Spidey for the foreseeable future he might have decided to use Fisk anyway.

That makes sense. Many of the Romita villains were the sort that would have been a better match for Daredevil than Spider-Man. Daredevil could have issues with the likes of Man Mountain Marko and Silvermane. For Spider-Man, those foes were almost insignificant, at least in terms of a fight.

Ron M. said:

It would have made more sense to have made him a Daredevil villain in the first place (especially since the poor guy needed good villains badly). Actually that might have been the original plan for him. John Romita has complained he wanted to stay on Daredevil. He didn't like Spidey and said he "hated the old lady". He might have already come up with the idea for the Kingpin before Stan moved him to Spider-Man. Once he saw Ditko wasn't coming back and he was "stuck" on Spidey for the foreseeable future he might have decided to use Fisk anyway.

Silvermane, during the brief time he was young again, was yet another character that had no trouble beating up on Spidey. Romita clearly wanted to do fairly realistic gangster stories, and being on Spider-Man forced him to give all his main villains superhuman strength so they'd have a chance against the hero.

Silvermane's fate at the end of that first story arc was mind-blowing. I understand they brought him back. Why? 

Ron M. said:

Silvermane, during the brief time he was young again, was yet another character that had no trouble beating up on Spidey. Romita clearly wanted to do fairly realistic gangster stories, and being on Spider-Man forced him to give all his main villains superhuman strength so they'd have a chance against the hero.

I'm guessing because someone felt he or she had a great Silvermane story to tell.

Richard Willis said:

Silvermane's fate at the end of that first story arc was mind-blowing. I understand they brought him back. Why? 

Luke Cage, Power Man #20 - "How Like A Serpent's Tooth"
Cover Date: August 1974
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: George Tuska

Morgan and his men have Luke trapped in Morgan's building. One of Morgan's men is holding a bazooka. We get a quick recap, then Cage charges the group. He knocks them all  down, but can't get past them. After shooting him fails to stop him, Morgan's men attempt to push him out the window, which also fails. They shoot again, and Cage throws  a sofa at them. He then grabs Morgan, and tells him that he'd best figure out something other than blowing Luke away.

A few minutes later, Morgan leaves the building with a very large bodyguard, who just happens to be Luke with a gun in Morgan's ribs. Seeing that Slick has scarpered,  Luke makes Morgan use his own car to drive him where he wants to go. Finding a deserted street, Luke tells Morgan to get out and the driver to keep driving. He has Morgan  hand him the briefcase full of drugs and has him back up into the gun. When Morgan finally looks behind him, he sees Luke has tied the gun to a convenient lamp post and  that he's long gone. He's not a happy man.

Luke takes the drugs back to Cottonmouth, who tells Luke that Slick thought that Morgan had killed him. He gives Cottonmouth the drugs, and Cottonmouth welcomes him to  his organization. He has Slick teach Luke the ins and outs of the business. Unfortunately, he can't seem to find what he's looking for--the records that will clear his  name.

Back at the clinic, Claire is leaving and doesn't know when she'll be back. Dr. Burstein asks her why she's leaving, but she won't tell him. She tells Burstein that she's  tried to talk to Luke, but he hasn't been around for days. She then tells him to tell Luke not to follow her.

Back at Cottonmouth's headquarters, Luke is searching his office for the records. He decides it's time to call the police. He tells a Lt. Burke that he's got all the evidence he'll need to put Cottonmouth away right in that office. Suddenly Cottonmouth and Slick burst into the office, catching Luke. Slick tells Cottonmouth they need to leave, but Cottonmouth says the cops will need a search warrant, which will be more than enough time for him to finish off Luke.

Cottonmouth charges Luke, monologuing about how the strong survive to beat the weak. He leaps at Luke, but Cage judo flips him away. Slick attempts to stab him in the back, but the knife breaks. Luke knocks him down and seemingly out of the fight. However, he's turned his back on Cottonmouth, who attacks again. He's causing Luke considerable trouble but Luke is staying with him. Slick re-enters the fight with a gun. Luke uses the distraction to fight back. He punches Cottonmouth a few times, then punches him hard enough to smash into Slick. Unfortunately for Slick, there's nothing but window to keep him from falling out of the window, and he falls to his death.

Slick's death takes the fight out of Cottonmouth. Luke demands to see his records, and Cottonmouth starts laughing at him. He tells him that his records are laying on the pavement outside, as Slick had a photographic memory. Luke picks up Cottonmouth and slams him through his desk. He calls Burke again, and tells him that he can get Cottonmouth at any time.

My rating: 6/10

It's not helping this series right now that it can't seem to keep a steady writer. This story was started by Len Wein and finished by Tony Isabella, and it shows. It's not terrible or anything, but there's little hiding the threads of coherence together. we never do find out how Cottonmouth is so strong(it's made very, very clear that Cottonmouth is as strong as Luke, and there's no way that happens without an origin of some sort), and the twist with Slick being the record-keeper feels just a little rushed. The cover is also a cheat, as the scene depicted doesn't take place in the comic--sure, it could have, but it didn't.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2021   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service