Today I have another freshly spruced-up comic character guide for you: The Definitive Guide to Luke Cage.
Need the short story on what Luke Cage has been up to in 2017 both in comics and in collected editions? Keep reading for a recap, plus a quick reintroduction to the character and a final tally of how many of his starring comics have been collected in color.
Who is Luke Cage?
Luke Cage was Marvel’s original blaxploitation hero, a reformed criminal who is wrongly-convicted and sent to prison, where he volunteers for an experiment that grants him nearly-unbreakable skin and super strength. (Unusually for Marvel, the experiment had very little downside for Cage.)
Free from prison and super-powered, Cage adopts the “hero for hire” moniker that casts him as half-altruist and half-mercenary. He wants to better his seedy New York surroundings – if the price is right.
Luke Cage ran for a solid 50 issues on his own, which is incredibly strong for a newly-launch hero not based in a team or a license. When his sales started to flag, he was permanently teamed up with Iron Fist. The move more than doubled the book’s life, and also created one of Marvel’s most-famous heroic duos.
Getting started with Luke Cage
As with most Marvel properties, where to start depends a lot on the tone of comics you enjoy.
If you’d enjoy the wordy 70s mash-up of Blaxploitation and Kung Fu (replete with some awful stereotypes), you ought to begin with the Power Man & Iron Fist Epic Collection: Heroes for Hire – you can always backtrack for earlier Luke Cage in Masterworks format if you love the era.
If their combination sounds awesome but you’re not into older comics, instead try the comedic, slightly cartoony 2016 take on their team-up in Power Man & Iron Fist (2016), Vol. 1: The Boys Are Back In Town (and be advised that the story really picks up in the second volume).
If you want to read a modern Cage bumping up against other major Marvel characters in glossy superhero action, head to his revival by Brian Bendis in New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 or a team full of black heroes doing more local heroism in Mighty Avengers Volume 1: No Single Hero.
Finally, if you dug the tone of the Luke Cage Netflix show, just leap directly into his new ongoing series with Luke Cage (2017) Vol. 1: Sins of the Father!
The Newest Collections
2017 has been very good to Luke Cage when it comes to collected editions, which is something that can happen for you when you have a record-shattering Netflix show! Nearly every era of Luke Cage got some new reprint coverage!
The freshest of these – and the biggest get for collectors – is the September release of Marvel Masterworks: Luke Cage, Hero For Hire, Volume 2, which takes us to the 2/3rds point of getting his pre-Iron Fist series collected.
Also in the older comics category, back in January Luke Cage, Iron Fist, & The Heroes For Hire Vol. 2 knocked out the second half of the duo’s late-90s series. Marvel also finished the remainder of their Bendis New Avengers recollections with New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 6 and New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 7, both with line-ups headlined by Cage.
As for modern books, Cage’s profile has been high lately, so there are lots of collections to choose from! In April Marvel collected Cage!, a long-simmering on-continuity cartoonish take from Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Samurai Jack). Then, in May, there was Jessica Jones Vol. 1: Uncaged, in which Cage is a supporting (and foreboding) player.
Last month Marvel wrapped collection of the 2016 Power Man and Iron Fist series with Vol. 3: Street Magic and released Black Panther and the Crew (2017): We Are The Streets, a Ta-Nehisi Coates co-written team-up series that features Cage in its back half.
And, finally, the first volume of his 2017 series – Luke Cage Vol. 1: Sins of the Father – is out in just a few weeks, with the first volume of the new Bendis-penned Netflix Defenders out in December with Vol. 1: Diamonds Are Forever.
Luke Cage in 2017
As you can tell from the collections, Luke Cage has had a high profile in 2017. To follow him through recent titles, first finish up Power Man and Iron Fist, then track him to the first two arcs of Jessica Jones, then to his own solo series and Defenders.
With Cage so busy in that well-integrated core of titles, he hasn’t been as much of a guest star. He does make a few appearances Secret Empire, as well as in the second arc of Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme.
Maybe You Missed…
You could be forgiven for not shopping for any back-issue collections of Luke Cage given the amount of material has pumped out in 2017! However, you might not know he is a featured co-star in Jessica Jones – The Pulse: Complete Collection, a 2014 release that covers the entirety of the non-Mature-Readers follow up to Jones’s debut in Alias. This is the series that bridges Cage from there to his subsequent starring role in New Avenger (2005), which begins after The Pulse #9.
Current Collection Status
With several years of full-on assault on Luke Cage’s back issues, how close are we to having a complete bookshelf of his solo and duo titles in color? The answer is “more than three times better than we were in 2014, but still around the average for most Silver Age Marvel heroes.” Check it out:
|1972||Luke Cage, Hero For Hire||16||16||16|
|1974||Luke Cage, Power Man||34||34||15|
|1978||Power Man and Iron Fist||76||75||39|
|1982||Spider-Man, Storm, and Power Man||1||1||1|
|1997||Heroes for Hire||20||20||20|
|2010||New Avengers: Luke Cage||3||3||3|
|2010||Daredevil: Cage Match||1||1||1|
|2012||Avengers Origins: Luke Cage||1||1||1|
|2016||Power Man and Iron Fist||16||16||16|
We’re 100% complete on all things Cage from 1992 forward, but we still need color collections of the final third of his original 70s solo series as well as of the back 35 issues of Power Man and Iron Fist.
Luckily, that’s pretty likely to get closed up in the next 12 months. There is almost assuredly going to be a final Luke Cage, Power Man Masterworks on the 2018 schedule, and we should also see at least one of our two missing Epic Collections of Power Man and Iron Fist, which will leave us with just a single Epic volume left to get us to 100% collected status!
Want to buy all of the Luke Cage collections right now? Luckily, his only color books out of print are his 2000s-era mini-series? Head to the Luke Cage guide for all the details!