Synopsis: Luke Cage is a man of the people. He walks the means streets of New York City righting wrongs and being a Hero for Hire. After stopping a bank robbery, Cage attempts to meet up with Detective Misty Knight, but when Misty goes missing without a trace, Luke Cage will set off on a dangerous adventure to track her down.
Review: Cage #1 is a time capsule of a bygone age – think of the Fat Albert or the Harlem Globetrotters cartoons of yesteryear. Recently, Luke Cage has been modern character that very rarely depicts his 1970’s blaxploitation roots. This series stands in defiance of the modern interpretation of the character. The setting is NYC circa 1977, and all the trappings of the time are on display. People wear bell bottom jeans and platform shoes. Afros are the dominant hairstyle of choice. All of this allows Luke Cage to traipse around NYC in his outlandish original costume (complete with chain belt, bracelets, and tiara). Oddly, it works.
Luke Cage is one bad mother…you get the idea. Cage fights to make his community safe from crime and violence, but he dishes out an insane amount of violence in return. In the first few pages, Luke stops bank robbers on roller skates (aptly named The Bank Rollers). The carnage that ensues is completely over the top, but it is cartoon violence at its peak, complete with face smashing and face slaps. If this was a modern interpretation of Luke Cage, the scene would be grisly horror. Conversely, the scene plays out with slapstick giddiness due to the creative team of Genndy Tartakovsky and Stephen DeStefano. This creative team demonstrates an understanding of the genre, and our able to balance it reasonably well.
Now, it should be said that the Cage series is not for everyone. Tartakovsky has a built-in fan base due to his body of work (Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Hotel Transylvania), so fans will appreciate his unique sensibilities. On the other hand, Cage, being a part of a blaxploitation genre, uses stereotypes and caricatures to tell a story. The recent Marvel/Netflix collaboration of Luke Cage also uses similar techniques, but their story is told in a modern setting. This alleviates some of the personal discomfort when experiencing the story, but the discomfort is there. Cage #1 does not have that option, nor does it need it. The genre requires a sense of unease, so the series is meant to feel antiquated, false, and a bit gauche.
Cage is an outlandish comedic romp. Ridiculous doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe what the series is. This comic is accessible, and lacks any of the demonstrative soberness that many modern comics exude in mass quantities. Though it may not be suitable for everyone’s pallet, Sweet Christmas! is it a blast for the rest of us.