With Luke Cage #5, we reach the end of the first story arc of the unbreakable man's new series.
Kevin Larsen just killed a bunch of Cyril Morgan's men, and Luke Cage must talk the boy down after this event. Meanwhile, Lenore and Noah Burstein are trying to take Warhawk to a place where they can save his life. Unfortunately, it's not where Burstein or Warhawk expect.
Cyril Morgan still moves against Cage and Burstein from his estate.
This was the kind of explosive finale that I was hoping for. There is a lot of action, drama, and people making unexpected decisions. The relationship between Luke Cage and Noah Burstein is irreparably changed. Lenore makes some surprise moves. Luke gets to kick some ass. Luke and Kevin Larsen also have a really heavy and touching moment. It's an all-around solid conclusion.
There are some things that do hold it back. Warhawk must have a Wolverine-style healing factor for all the times he gets stabbed and blown up in this issue. Yes, he and Luke do have enhanced healing, but that didn't save Kevin's comrades from similar wounds. They had the same powers.
The reason for Burstein's faked death isn't fully explained, and what is implied doesn't make a lot of sense. He pissed off Morgan, but Morgan doesn't seem that intimidating. He would have made more sense just to haul ass out of New Orleans or even seek Luke Cage out directly.
The Cage-Burstein relationship is still a little muddled. They didn't have a great relationship before, and the new series made them closer just to drive them apart again.
There is also a lot of racial and class subtext here that doesn't get explored enough. The poor black Ninth Ward gang from which Kevin Larsen originates were essentially used as foot soldiers and guinea pigs for Morgan and Burstein respectively. They have to work for the treatments to keep them from going insane, whereas Morgan's son is given it more freely. Also, (spoiler) Morgan's son killed Burstein's wife and never paid for this crime. Even Burstein seems okay with this. However, this is never really dug into, and Morgan's son is even absolved of this by Luke Cage more or less.
That being said, the grim ending to the tale is fitting. While there are issues, the overall story holds together in a satisfying faction. Seeing Luke hurl an armored car at a mansion is worth cover price alone.
One last problem has gone unmentioned though. Nelson Blake II, usually a fairly detailed and clean artist, left a few panels more vague and undefined. It was a bit distracting. The aforementioned "Luke hurling the armored car" scene, as awesome as it was, wasn't especially clear in its contents.
Marcio Menyz's color work holds up and keeps the comic appealing to the eye though.
For all its flaws, Luke Cage #5 provides a damn fine finale to the first arc. It's fun, dramatic, and moves Luke's character forward in an interesting manner. I recommend this one and look forward to what writer David F. Walker will do with the Power Man next.