Luke Cage awakens in a prison, not knowing his own name, life, or abilities. He doesn’t know how he got there; all he knows is the bells ring and make it hard to think.
The Ringmaster runs this prison, and he has designs on keeping Luke Cage there for a very long time.
“Caged!” brings Luke back to an environment he is all too familiar with thanks to the struggles he’s faced in his life, the inside of a prison cell. This should be a rigorous and harsh experience for our protagonist.
Unfortunately, we don’t get much from Luke Cage himself. We don’t get his thoughts or feelings on the scenario. Much of the comic is from the voyeuristic perspective of the Ringmaster. When the comic does focus on Luke, it mostly consists of a disinterested exterior and kicking the ass of a white power gang.
What should be one of the darkest moments of our hero’s life is played off as just being an especially bothersome day due to the amnesia.
The story doesn’t end with this issue, so there is time for it to get more real for Luke Cage. I appreciate how difficult it likely was to come up with a scenario wherein a super-strong, bulletproof man is stuck in a prison cell, but, comic book logic being a boundless resource, there are ways to do this without the amnesia. Marcus McLaurin pulled off something along those lines with his 1990s Cage series. I will admit that, while that was a rough read due to the torment our hero went through, his perpetually pissed off ’90s personality prevented any moments of vulnerability.
I am hoping for a sweet payoff, and, despite my criticisms, this was a very enjoyable read. Luke is still an endlessly compelling protagonist, even if his personality has been stripped down some by the setup of the comic. I doubt I could ever tire of him telling a bunch of racists that his “foot has an itch only their ass can scratch” before beating the crap out of them.
There is another player in the former guard captain Acosta who somehow remembers who Luke Cage is. We don’t get to know too much about him in this issue, but he has some potential to be an interesting character in all of this.
Ringmaster is deliciously sadistic. He is fully aware of how monstrous his actions are, but he just has too much fun doing it. He is made into an intimidating and fun villain in this comic.
Guillermo Sanna’s artwork continues to be gritty and atmospheric in this issue. The world looks rough and lived-in, and there is a dower nature to it which fits the story near-perfectly. He also knows how to play with Luke’s fighting tactics to make some great action panels. Marcio Menyz provides a washed-out and darker color palette which completes the aesthetic, and the two together make for a good artistic team.
While it’s not as deep or emotional as one would hope, Luke Cage #167 is an enjoyable read thanks to a great protagonist, a good villain, and solid action scenes. Writer David F. Walker definitely gets the character of Luke Cage. There is still hope that this arc will dive deeper into our hero, but it doesn’t quite accomplish it here. That being said, I still recommend this issue, and you should still check it out.
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