Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #123. Luke Cage - hero for hire

Amazing Spider-Man #123, Luke Cage, hero for hire
(Cover from August 1973.)

"Just A Man Called Cage!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Gil Kane and John Romita.
Inks by John Romita and Tony Mortellaro.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by Dave Hunt.

There's a theory that, whatever your calendar might say, each decade actually begins three years into its tenure. Can it be the same rule applies to Spider-Man?


In many ways Luke Cage is a corny and clich├ęd character and definitely a creation of his time. But he can also be a compelling one - hard-bitten and cynical, driven more by the need to make money than a desire to be the good guy - and his appearance in Spider-Man can be viewed in some ways as a precursor to the arrival of The Punisher. The Punisher, of course, has other motives but, like Cage, inhabits a landscape harder and meaner than our hero's previously inhabited. It may be 1973 but, maybe, in acknowledging a harsher reality out there, perhaps the rule stands true and this is the tale in which Spider-Man fully enters the 1970s.

Of course, being a pro doesn't mean Cage won't do the right thing in the end and he's a suitable foe for Spider-Man; even if, in reality, he wouldn't stand a chance against the web-spinner. Still, the fight allows Spidey to get a few things off his chest, and the contrast in mentality between the two characters makes the story work.

Cage also turns out to be a lot smarter than most foes Spidey's ever come across. He works out the three places our hero's most likely to be and, by a speedy process of elimination, works out exactly where to find him. It makes you wonder why none of his previous foes - or the police for that matter -have ever been that bright.

As for the set up, yet again we have the, "J Jonah Jameson gets someone in to capture Spider-Man," storyline. But this time it's different. This time, Jameson's motives seem pure. He really does see Spider-Man as a menace - and, for once, has good evidence to think so. With this and Joe Robertson's defence of Jameson early in the tale, it's a noticeably more balanced portrayal of the Daily Bugle publisher than we're used to and all the more welcome for it.

But there's other business here. There's still that shadowy figure from last issue, the one who saw the Green Goblin's death, and now, it transpires, has since removed the Goblin's costume to make the whole world think Spider-Man murdered Norman Osborn. Who is he? Who can he be?

I think we can guess.

But can we guess right?

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