Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Power vs. Power!

Following issue #16 of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, the title character was crumpling his copy of "The Daily Bugle" and venting his frustrations while wondering how he could latch onto his share of the press that all of the other comic book titles heroes in New York City were benefiting from. Welllll, just a thought, Mr. Cage, but could your fellow heroes be enjoying public acclaim because they don't list their services in the Yellow Pages? Incredibly, that thought doesn't even cross your mind, as you go down the list of ways you could change your image.

Finally, it's during a battle with a foe who had manipulated you into battling Iron Man when inspiration strikes:

Ordinarily, the name that Cage has stumbled on might do the trick. "Power Man" is certainly news-ready, and is bound to elicit more favorable attention than someone who fights the good fight as a hero for hire. Unfortunately, there's already someone who was given the name (by a goddess, no less) that Cage wants to claim for his own--someone whose criminal career has hit the skids and isn't about to let his name be usurped by a johnny-come-lately who wants to use it to build his rep.

In other words, get ready to rumble, Cage!

(By the way, have fun explaining to the press why you chose a villain's name as your new handle!)

Power Man has of course seen better days--once favored by the Enchantress to defeat the Avengers, but who's been reduced to either partnering with other criminals like the Swordsman or acting as hired muscle for heavy hitters such as the Mandarin. What's left for him, if not his name? (Yes, I know what you're thinking, but, unlike Cage, Power Man probably advertises his rates discretely; besides, "Power Man--Villain for Hire" sounds more like a hand-written ad that he'd post on the cork board at the Bar With No Name.)

At any rate, Cage turns out to be easy enough for Power Man to stalk, eventually showing up at his friend D.W.'s movie theater. But the double feature today is rescheduled at the last minute by two human blockbusters, one of whom has a chip on his shoulder.

The marquee value of the issue speaks for itself, for those who remember just how powerful Power Man was created to be. Cage has his work cut out for him, going up against someone who was created to be the equal of Wonder Man. And even though Cage has gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Iron Man and Dr. Doom, he's simply not in Wonder Man's league.

(Decked you with his left, Mr. Cage.)

But Cage does have two things going for him... his steel-hard skin, for one; but more importantly, he's in a fledgling title that has already changed its masthead once to boost sales and, with its 50th issue, will do so again. And while Cage going down in defeat would make for higher drama and a better overall story, just as it did in other titles such as Mighty Thor and Fantastic Four, the team behind Power Man probably weren't about to risk a drop in sales by having their new and hopefully rising hero be outclassed by someone attempting to take his new name away from him.

So while it stretches credulity to see Power Man take a beating from Cage, while Cage comes to withstand Power Man's blows seemingly without breathing hard, this fight was likely rigged in Cage's favor from the start. On the other hand, it's too bad the Gem Theater's audience didn't stick around for the show--talk about getting more bang for your buck.

No, I don't know why Power Man wouldn't be as invulnerable as Wonder Man--and at this moment the poor guy is probably wondering the same thing.

Luke Cage, Power Man #21

Script: Tony Isabella (plot by Len Wein)
Pencils: Ron Wilson
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


George Chambers said...

Wonder Man once referenced the differences between himself and Power Man as (more or less) "You didn't mutate - you didn't die!" I think that's the key as to why Josten didn't become as tough as Williams. Possibly, when transforming Josten, the Enchantress deliberately left the process incomplete so her stooge wouldn't get ideas above his station - or maybe Asgardian sorceresses just aren't that good with technology.

Comicsfan said...

I don't know, George. The Enchantress was indeed worried about the possibility of betrayal when she empowered Josten, just as Wonder Man had betrayed the Masters of Evil in their confrontation with the Avengers. But she concluded that Josten, unlike Simon Williams, "love[d] life too much to willingly give it up"; and since the plan was to send Power Man against the Avengers and this time prevail, it doesn't stand to reason that she would make him any less powerful than the one who came so close to defeating them before. (Isn't it funny that the Enchantress needed Zemo's machinery to create a super-villain? You wouldn't catch Loki turning knobs and flipping switches.)

Anonymous said...

This was my favorite issue of Hero for Hire/Power Man/PW&IF, just a fun little one and done with some of Luke's most memorable lines outside of the Doctor Doom issues. I got a big kick out of the crack about 50-50 odds against Moms Mabley and the last page where he's suggesting to the unconscious Erik Josten a few names can use instead of Power Man.

Incidentally a few years later Josten turns up in a few issue of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man using the name "The Smuggler" and one of the plot points is that his power has been fading over the years and now he's not much stronger than a peak conditioned human.

Great blog, you'e inspired me to dig out this issue and give it a read soon.


Comicsfan said...

Thanks very much, Chuck! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Unknown said...

I miss this type of action and art. This is one of my Luke Cafe. I prefer this look by far. At the time I didn’t know the same machine/process used on Power Man created Wonder Man. The idea of two characters fighting with the same name or over the name was great. Marvel don’t do match ups that should happen anymore. No Sentry vs Gladiator or Hyperion.

Comicsfan said...

On the other hand, Daulton, we have had our fair share of Hulk vs. Thor fights! :)

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