Continuing the New Orleans adventures of Marvel's greatest superhero is Luke Cage #2 by David F. Walker, Nelson Blake II, and Marcio Menyz.
Having just been saved by the known-killer Warhawk, Luke Cage wakes up to find the villain offering his aid. Warhawk views Luke as something of a brother since they both went through the Dr. Burstein's process. The two begin investigating the apparent death of Burstein and the experiments he performed in the Big Easy.
Meanwhile, Burstein's apprentice, Dr. Mornay, finds herself in the house of crime lord Mateo Corello, who is holding her hostage until she can find some way of curing the psychopathic episodes of his son, who had gone under the Burstein Process.
Looking into Burstein's experiments, Luke Cage and Warhawk find a group of young men who also underwent his process. They lead Luke and Warhawk to Cornello's estate.
This book is still a little perplexing to me in how it treats Cage's relationship with Noah Burstein. I had gotten the impression from past Luke Cage stories that it was always mercurial and somewhat hostile. As a result, the reframing of Burstein as something of a father figure to Cage seems a little strange. Furthermore, Luke acknowledges that many of the people who underwent the Burstein Process before himself had died, lending the story to comparisons to the Tuskegee Experiments of World War II. Having Cage think of him as something of a good man makes this a little weird.
Luke almost seems surprised that Burstein was continuing these experiments in New Orleans, and that this was having a disastrous effect on its subjects. This seems a little incongruous.
Maybe I'm judging it too quickly; maybe the point is that Luke is supposed to have a complicated view of Burstein and that will be solidified for Luke over the course of this story.
The issue itself manages to cover a lot of ground in terms of the plot, and it moves fairly slow. Taking a slow-boil approach to a Luke Cage comic is a newer idea and not an unwelcome one. It gives the comic a detective-mystery feel. However, this comic moves glacially, and it does detract from the engagement.
What keeps the slowness from being outright unbearable is that the mystery being uncovered is interesting and does (or will) have an emotional impact on Luke. Also, Luke himself is a great vehicle for this mystery.
We don't really get much insight as to how Luke feels about what he's seeing and learning in Luke Cage #2, either. Warhawk seems to be steering things more, and this is a contrast to the first issue, which was very in tune with Luke's perception of things.
The dialogue is still good, though, and Warhawk is an enjoyable character. Seeing Luke have to contend with his craziness is kind of fun.
Blake's artwork looks great, and he plays with shadows well in this issue. There is still an element of starkness to his style, but he is clearly getting the hang of drawing Cage and his world here. He's growing into the role.
It truly pains me to be this hard on a Cage comic, especially on one that I can't say is unequivocally bad. However, with a slow pace and less focus on character, this issue is not the follow-up that #1 deserved. I still recommend Luke Cage #2, because this series is showing the potential to be truly great, but this particular issue will probably be considered the weak point.
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