Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Many Foes of Luke Cage, Power Man (Part 5)

You know what the secret to comedy is? Timing. And with that in mind, here’s the final part of The Many Foes of Power Man …

Yeah, shut up Cage, I'm trying to do a thing here.
He actually sounds like a really avoidable Milton-Bradley game Mister Fish has been a general source of internet chuckles forever and a day, but in all of the coverage of his appearance – his ridiculously slack-jawed Mister Limpet likeness, his frilly ear pieces, his scandalous Satsuma-colored silky one-piece ensemble, his demands for respect –no one thought to mention to me that he had a sass-talking dwarf sidekick. GUYS I AM ALL ABOUT THE SASS TALKING DWARF SIDEKICKS.

Mister Fish began his crime career as a petty criminal who stumbles across a truckload of radioactive isotopes. As one does in comic books, he promptly opened the protective casings so he could get a damn good sniff of them, then fell backwards into the East River and emerged as a fish-man. With super-strength. And he translated the accident into a full-fledged high-level Maggia franchise, so … he’s a real “when life gives you lemons” kind of guy, I guess.

Mister Fish buys the farm at the end of his debut story, but he makes appearances elsewhere in the Marvel Universe later. These are explained away as being the original Mister Fish’s brother, who took pains to accurately recreate the circumstances of his brother’s mutation, and when I say “explained” I mean “That actually requires a lot more explanation, on a lot of levels.”

Weirdest thing to me about Mister Fish is why not give him a cool fish name instead of something as ridiculous as Mister Fish? Why not call him The Goblin Shark or The Chimaera or – oh, hey, why not Piranha? Marvel doesn’t have a villain named Piranha yet, right?


Now let us "rap" and talk about "what's going down". 
…Go together like a horse and carriage.
In a weird-super-villain-intensive story arc, Cage fell afoul of and then later was hired by and then fell afoul again of a supervillainous mastermind named Big Brother. I am shocked it took them this long to get to that name. Someone was nappin’.

Big Brother basically looked like he shopped exclusively in a store which specialized in life-size recreations of totally unfun action figure accessories, and spoke like a highly articulate drunk, basically. He hired a bunch of other super-villains to hassle Cage and then convinced Cage to go fight another super-villain named The Baron and then Cage came back and slugged Big Brother instead. That’s what we call “miles walked, not much ground covered.”

BB was assisted by a selectively invisible informant named The Cheshire Cat, and again I’m shocked it took them so long to get around to that name, too. Dressed like a pimp Hamburglar, Cheshire Cat’s big trick was to literally turn invisible – in fits and starts. His body would vanish, leaving behind the stripes on his suit, then the rest of him until only the smile remained. Where do they get their ideas?

Save it for your drive-time radio show, blowhard.
Another one’a these guys
Wildfire was a one-off character and yet another bad guy who couldn’t stop making mention of just how impolite it was for Luke Cage to be black in this day and age. I’m not going to front, it was a pretty good story for the ouvre – Cage and Wildfire tussle in a mostly white neighborhood, both stating their case for the prominent racial issues of the day (“You portray us as beer-belching Archie Bunkers!” says Wildfire, “You make us out to be the bad guys!” as he torches an innocent man’s home and tries to murder the guy who protected him) and while Wildfire is decidedly an evil straw man (and that’s dangerous with so much fire around, gosh!) he nonetheless finds supporters in the crowd in a pretty dramatic scene.

Counter-point: It’s about the fiftieth Cage villain who’s got a thesaurus of race-hate handy in lieu of dialogue. You know, it wears on you after a while …

By the Goldberg?
Who dressed this guy?
I feel like I need copious explanations of GoldBug, who is a brilliant inventor and gold thief who also uses gold as a weapon and probably wouldn’t need to steal as much gold if he wasn’t going around caking people in it. Yes, he had a gun that caked you in gold dust. He is a gold thief who leaves gold lying around on the people who are trying to recover the gold he stole. Hm.

But mostly it’s this costume, he looks like a tragic condiment accident at a hot dog stand. The cap, of all things. It’s a bike helmet, right? He has to wear that so he doesn’t hurt himself, right? It’s the only answer that makes sense, that he’s a ward of the state.

I’ll be upfront, there are a lot of truly ugly comic book costumes I love – the original Captain Britain, Daredevil’s old yellow outfit, Luke frickin’ Cage - but this is beyond the pale … yellow and desaturated orange.

Guy's probably got his secret supervillain
headquarters under a false floor on the Bang Bus.
One of these kids is exactly like the others
Bushmaster makes the third snake-themed super-villain whom Luke Cage battles in the course of his solo book, but at least unlike Diamond-Back and Cottonmouth, Bushmaster isn’t the head of a criminal organization. Oh, he is? Well, at least his power isn’t just super-strength like Cottonmouth. Oh, it is? Well, at least his name sounds like a title of a series of pornos. There, we found a positive.

Bushmaster is the last villain Cage faces in his solo series, after which he teams up for possibly the best-remember team book of the Seventies with Iron Fist. Naturally, this starts with him battling Iron Fist for two issues before they team up to clock Bushmaster, and also this is the story where Colleen Wing refers to Cage as a “buck”, so who’s the real bad guy here, right?

But Cage’s most persistent, most implacable foe?
I'm gonna say "The soda machine in the lobby of his building."

And that's it for Luke Cage, goodnight folks!

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