Here’s a goodie, Luke Cage Noir, from the Marvel Noir offshoot released back in 2010. I love the concept of this series of Marvel titles, taking a novel look at established heroes, rebooting them into a world of pulp fiction and film noir. Luke Cage was a great choice for this too, always a bit of a peripheral character in the Marvel milieu originating, like all the best things in the known universe, in 1972 to add a bit of Blaxploitation flava to what was mostly a very white world of superheroes back then.
There’s a good academic dust-up to be had somewhere along the line about tokenism/racism in Marvel’s cast of heroes and villains, I’m not learned enough but, anecdotally, my untrustworthy recall of the 70’s comics I loved is that there were a lot more black baddies than goodies knocking around. Were Luke Cage* and the likes of Brother Voodoo, Black Falcon and Black Goliath an earnest attempt to redress the balance? a cash-in on the trends of the day? an attempt to reach out to a new demographic? does it matter, possibly not since I’m not writing up a thesis for a MA in Modern Culturo-social-graphic anthropology and 1972 was a very different world to 2015, but these are points worth kicking around in your pointy little heads.
Luke Cage Noir begins with him getting out of stir and heading home to Harlem to find things have changed, his bulletproof reputation serves him well as he sets himself up as a man for hire. His best friend Stryker is now running the mob in Harlem and, well, you’ve watched enough films to know how that sort of thing always ends up playing out. There are enough plot twists and double-crossings to satisfy even the most hardened Chester Himes or Walter Mosley fan and a powerful and entertaining tale about the indomitable value of myths. That’s pretty much all I can say without giving vital bits away, so I shan’t, I have also been very cagey about the pics I’ve chosen for the very same reason.
I don’t like the smaller format of this book, it’s in the 14 x 22cm size, rather than the larger formats I prefer, but that’s as far as my gripes go, everything else here is perfecto. The artwork by Shawn Martinbrough’s and Nick Filardi’s muted colouring evoke the griminess of prohibition era Harlem beautifully, perfectly complementing the story by Mike Benson and Adam Glass.
Totally recommended for anyone out there who likes Luke Cage, the worlds of noir and pulp fiction from the 20s and 30s, good inventive storytelling and/or life in general. Buy it.
598 Down (still)
*who later became Power Fist, but let’s keep things simple for now kiddies.