The plot is a fairly simple one, and follows a common trend of street-level stories from both sides of the law: in which a character who thinks he’s “out” gets dragged back in through one circumstances or another. This can take the form of a thug or mob member wanting out but being dragged back in (see Sopranos, and Sons of Anarchy) or a cop being dragged back into an old case after being retired or about to retire (see Die Hard 3 and Lethal Weapon). In this case it takes a little from both sides of the fence, as the character in question is Luke Cage.
Now, while Cage has always been a hero (though once wrongfully convicted of a crime) he is only in recent years been a ‘legit’ hero, ie: since he joined the Avengers. Prior to this, he was a street-level vigilante. That is what I mean by “a little of both.”
A key component of this type of story, and what makes this type of story so relateable, is that the character in question is torn between two worlds, or the two halves of himself. In this case, Luke is torn between his roots as a street-level, no-nonesense vigilante and a respectable crime-fighter and family man. That last part is important, and plays into the narrative and theme quite a bit.
On the “vigilante” side, and the plot that kicks everything off, we have Leodis Dyson: a young man who used to live in the neighborhood Cage protected, and has now grown up to try an emulate Cage by becoming a “hero-for-hire” himself out of Philadelphia. The problem with this being: Dyson isn’t a super-hero. Cage can do what he does without fear because he has bullet-proof skin. So the story kicks-off when Cage is alerted by Dyson’s mother that Dyson has been hospitalized by heroin dealers that he was trying to stop.
There are many, many plot turns and shifts through this three-issue story. Fans of the original Luke Cage: Power Man stories will not be disappointed, as villains from the good-old days of the 70s era title make comebacks with updates for the modern era, some of whom haven’t been seen or heard from in years, such as Lionfang. But while these fan-service moments are there, they don’t drive the series, and this is also good. Through everything, the main drive of the series ends up being that a wealthy white man, Woodward Himes, is controlling the drug trade to decrease land values in the area and make it easier for him to buy… then he cleans up the area, making the property values go up, and sells. It’s an impressive bit of plot, and would be more impressive if it wasn’t also the plot to The Shield season one. Still, it’s different enough that I don’t think author John Arcudi copied or was even aware of The Shield plot. That stuff happens, great minds tend to think alike. There are plenty of reviews out there pointing out similarities between my work and other works, some of which I didn’t even know existed. Again, just a matter of great-minds thinking alike.
On the other side of the plot we have Luke’s life as an Avengers and — more importantly — as a family man. Both are represented in Jessica Jones, mother of his child and superhero in her own right, literally and figuratively calling him home throughout the series. I liked this quite a bit. Jessica is one of my favorite comic-book characters, and it’s always great to see her in any circumstance. Arcudi is good enough that she doesn’t come off as nagging or bogging in her attempts to get him home: she has a legitimate argument. She’s not trying to get him to stop fighting crime, she’s trying to get him back to the “safety-in-numbers” of the Avengers where he belongs, and not out mixing it up with murderous mobsters like Hammerhead all alone. These are valid points and one that I’m sure any significant other in a similar situation would make.
Though her appearance in each issue results in not much more than a cameo, she does provide the necessary tipping-point that makes this more than just a “hero fights gangsters” story. Jessica turns this, as I said above, into a story about a man struggling between the two halves of himself: who he was, and who he is now. That makes this story almost universal, as everyone (at some point) has or will have to reconcile who they are now with events and people from their past who remember them differently. We’ve all had circumstances from a past left forgotten come back to cause drama in the present day. nothing stays buried, and its interesting to see Cage have to deal with that.
Cage has gotten some really interesting mini-series’s in recent years to go along with his role as an Avenger. This mini dealing with his past goes hand-in-hand with the Shadowland miniseries that dealt with his passing-on of the mantle of hero-for-fire.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Cage has gotten some really interesting mini-series’s in recent years to go along with his role as an Avenger. This mini dealing with his past goes hand-in-hand with the Shadowland miniseries that dealt with his passing-on of the mantle of hero-for-fire.”