Over the years, comic fans have become accustomed to reading about larger-than-life heroes doing incredible things and overcoming impossible odds. In our minds, they are indestructible. But every superhero has their weakness and sometimes they can be defeated by ailments that bring them back down to earth. Such is the case in Luke Cage: Everyman, a digital first series that’s available this week at your local comic shop as a graphic novel. Written by Anthony Del Col with artwork from Jahnoy Lindsay and colours by Ian Herring, the story explores how internal injuries might affect a man with unbreakable skin.
In the middle of one of the worst heat waves that Harlem has ever seen, a mysterious serial killer has targeted the richest 1% of the city, infecting them with a fatal illness. It’s up to Luke Cage to find this inscrutable Everyman before they kill again. But Luke has problems of his own. He’s showing symptoms of early onset Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Memory loss, mood swings and confusion prove difficult to overcome when fighting against the likes of Omega Red and others. Add to this the growing unrest of the people of Harlem who think that Everyman may be a hero and the former Power Man is having one hell of a day.
The story laid out by Anthony starts like most tales involving Harlem’s favourite son: somebody asking for help. Luke is hired to protect Kenneth Newton, the chairman of Harlem Healthcare. Newton received a death threat and is taking all precautions before hosting a fundraiser for the Harlem Health Center later that evening. As the story progresses, the tale becomes much more serious as numerous people start dying from strange afflictions and Luke finds himself with a condition he can’t punch his way out of. Del Col does a great job of introducing multiple obstacles for the protagonist to overcome and really drives home the severity of the issue.
What’s surprising is that with the large amount of dour circumstances, Del Col still finds a way to inject a lot of fun into the story. Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist, shows up midway through the comic and with him comes his infectious, chipper attitude. 90s X-Men baddie Omega Red also shows up to make Luke’s life hell. It’s hard not to find fun in either of these appearances. Danny Rand is the poster boy for tranquility and positivity. (Somebody should have told Netflix this ’cause it appears they didn’t get the memo.) Omega Red is an outlandish foe with big tentacles and a flamboyant demeanor. How can you not have fun with these characters running around? It’s a very digestible read that also finds a way to unpack some serious issues.
The artwork by Lindsay and Herring are also enjoyable. With a simplistic take on character designs, the images are full of energy and keep the story moving. Chapter Three features a splash page of Luke leading a raid on what he thinks is the Everyman’s hideout. We see Luke take down the operation floor by floor in a breathtaking spread that almost jumps off the page. Jahnoy’s story telling chops are on full display as no words are needed to convey what’s going down. Herring provides realistic, muted tones to ground this fantastical foray.
While this is not the complex character story I’m used to with Luke Cage, a lot of interesting subject matter is presented in a simple, engaging adventure. The book is also a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a fast paced comic that also looks at some of the trials of CTE, this is worth picking up. It also makes a great read for the young adult comic fan looking for something starring everybody’s favourite street level hero. Luke Cage: Everyman is available this Wednesday at your local comic shop or wherever you pick up your books.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!