Luke Cage: Gang War #1
GANG WAR: FIRST STRIKE! In the wake of the Anti-Vigilante Act, Luke Cage has been trying to save the city from behind a desk. But a meeting with old friend Danny Rand reminds him of the good old days when problems could be punched in order to solve them. As New York descends into a GANG WAR, Luke must use every power he has to protect the innocent and save his city!
Luke Cage: Gang War #1 – written by Rodney Barnes with art by Ramón Bachs, colors from Andrew Dalhouse, and lettering by VC’s Travis Lanham – operates as both the second installment of Marvel Streets winter crossover event and the continuation of the Luke Cage as mayor plotline started in the last street level event, Devil’s Reign. Cage was elected mayor in that story to remove Wilson Fisk from power. The double-edged sword of the status quo shift was an inability to repeal the superhero city ban, a sticking point in various stories Cage has appeared in.
Now, Spider-Man has declared war against the gangs of New York, who have in turn gone to war on the behest of Hammerhead’s attempts to consolidate power. Throughout the issue, Cage chuffs and struggles against his position as mayor, trying to find a gray area to operate in even as it puts his credibility as an elected official in jeopardy. He concludes that he must don a mask, using a new disguise to defeat the robot lackeys of Alistair Smythe and recruit a team, starting with Cloak and Dagger.
The book leads with its strongest element, which is the scripting. Barnes adds a strong pathos to Cage’s conflict between what’s right for the common person and what’s right by his office. An issue with the recent output of Marvel’s street-level titles has been the lack of follow-up on Cage’s stint as Mayor, appearing in the short-lived Thunderbolts series and the occasional one-off. Here, it is executed to full effect, never missing a step in the dramatic tension that makes it such a compelling status quo to begin with.
If there is an issue with this opening story, it’s that it skips away from the political aspect of the role in favor of a mystery and action-heavy brawler. Barnes’s script lacks an interest in exploring the ways Cage operates as Mayor, working at double speed to get him straight into the costume action. It’s an understandable impulse for a limited series, but nonetheless, a disappointing decision that circumvents what could make for an interesting balance of work and heroics.
Much of the momentum of the issue is lost by the art, which comes across as an inconsistent, uninspired entry. Nothing in the issue is egregious but is ultimately a flat, boring delivery of images. The action beats lack any sense of dynamic movement or finesse, while the talking scenes and facial expressions are forced. Even the panel compositions come off as by the numbers, lacking any flair or originality. The action and emotion are clear, but bland, striking the wrong balance between flat and utilitarian.
The splashes of color at the end of the issue are a dynamic infusion that comes too late, as the palette is similarly flat for the bulk of the issue. The hues operate in tones of gray, beige, and brown, with little flair beyond Cage’s yellow shirt. Even when Cloak and Dagger or Cage’s new costume make it to the page, there’s a lack of distinct coloring to give more life to the look. Instead, the book finds itself struggling to break out of those established colors, operating with a limited palette to no effect.
That combination of art and coloring in the design work is the biggest flaw of the issue. With an opportunity to provide Luke Cage with a new costume, the book falters in delivering the most restrained, boring look possible. A gray body suit with a Gambit style headsock is the least inspired choice possible. The suit feels like a rejected design for an early-stage superhero movie costume, rather than something that could strike an image. This was a great opportunity to harken to Luke’s previous role/leader of the Thunderbolts in a Citizen V style suit or evoke a new look entirely like Spider-Man’s slinger era to create a deeper understanding of the split between character and role as mayor.
An uneven debut is a shame for Luke Cage: Gang War #1, which started with an excellent premise and opportunity for fresh artistic opportunities. Instead, what was delivered was a solid script undercut by a safe yet bland art style and restrained color palette. The lack of a creative or developed costume for Cage’s vigilante moonlighting could have been a saving grace for the series, but instead exemplifies everything wrong with it; directionless, boring, and afraid to play up the bigger status quo.
Luke Cage: Gang War #1: Not So Bulletproof
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 6/106/10
- Art - 4/104/10
- Color - 5/105/10
- Cover Art - 4/104/10
User Review( votes)