Luke Cage
Posted by Michael Flores | Comics

WARNING: There is a wee bit of nudity down the page. You have been warned. -mf

Luke Cage is one of the most badass heroes in the Marvel Universe, and probably my favorite Avenger. All of this is remarkable because prior to the early- to mid-aughts he was kind of a cliche-ridden goofball born of the 1970s in a ridiculous disco superhero “uniform” ejaculating SWEET CHRISTMAS each issue as his catch phrase.

Luckily I don’t know anything about any of that. Despite his first appearance in 1972 my serious concept of Luke is the thoroughly modern one… 2001 at the earliest. If you go through these Top 8 Badass moments I hope you learn to like him as much as I do (and just in time for his Netflix debut, tomorrow). He really is something else.

Luke Cage’s Top 8 Badass Moments (according to Mike):

VIII. Luke Cage makes the All-Star Team
Luke Cage makes the All-Star Team

Little of the rest of this list would be possible without Luke’s improbable ascent to Avengers All-Star in Brian Michael Bendis’s “Breakout” story.

To give you some context if your concept of the Avengers is all billion dollar summer blockbusters with Chrisses Hemsworth and Evans staring each other down in shirtless blonde Greek* god pose-offs, when I was growing up the team was like Namor’s fish-eyed green ex plus a fat, bald, Stephen Strange wannabe named Dr. Druid; or, right after, the Eternal duo of Sersei and — I shit you not — “the Forgotten One”. Nothing supreme; utterly forgettable.

Legend has it the baby version of Mark Millar liked Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all, but didn’t have enough pocket money for all their books. Luckily DC’s Justice League of America let him read about all the top heroes with just one title! This — some thirty years later — was a revelation for Marvel decision makers, and the concept of an Avengers All-Star team was born. For the first time iconic Avengers Captain America and Iron Man adventured alongside Marvel’s unquestioned ace Peter Parker and most popular berserker, X-Man Wolverine…

… And Luke Cage.

Bendis’s affection for Cage was apparent to anyone who had read his street-level superhero books Daredevil and Alias [aka Jessica Jones], but given the shot on the larger stage, Luke stepped up.

Never again would he be a trope; he became not just an Avenger, but THE Avenger. A leader of men, gods, women, and squirrels.

VII. Luke Cage Beats Up the Wrecker, Everyone Else, with the Wrecker’s Crowbar
Luke Cage Beats Up the Wrecker, Everyone Else, with the Wrecker's Crowbar

Hold on… Luke Cage is an Avenger?

THE Avenger, actually. Get with the program already.

What’s this about a crowbar?

Uru weapons in the Marvel Universe are super special and super powerful… Rare, but not unique. Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, is the must famous Uru weapon but even in the cinematic universe you get the feeling Odin has a whole basement full of hand-held WMDs behind the Rainbow Bridge. Beta Ray Bill carries Stormbreaker (essentially the exact same hammer as Mjolnir, but yellow instead of gray), and in the climax of “Fear Itself” seemingly the entire MU from Iron Fist to Red She-Hulk are transformed into godlike versions of themselves, armed with Uru swords, claw extensions, or Stark-brand power suits. Uru is stronger than vibranium or adamantium, such that when Cap’s shield cracked, a little Uru glue was said to make it even stronger.

Cage taking an Uru weapon (crowbar here instead of hammer in the pantheon of magical construction equipment) from its owner and then using it to pound an entire [Dark] Avengers team is roughly the equivalent of beating up Hemsworth, somehow lifting his toy, and then going to town on the bad guy equivalents of Renner, Jackman, and Maguire Garfield whoever is playing Spidey these days, ultimately to spit in Willem Dafoe’s eye**.

Bad

Ass

VI. That Time Luke Cage Bought the Avengers Mansion for $1
That Time Luke Cage Bought the Avengers Mansion for $1

Tony Stark sold Luke his ancestral home — and that of his team — to Luke, allowing Cage complete autonomy over his own Avengers squad.

Neither Luke nor wife Jessica Jones carry cash, though, so Cage had to borrow the buck from longtime partner Iron Fist. LOL

V. That Other Time Luke Cage Sold the Avengers Mansion Back to Stark for $5
That Other Time Luke Cage Sold the Avengers Mansion Back to Stark for $5

Wanting to focus on family (and get his daughter Danielle out of the line of fire) Luke briefly retired from the Avenging business, so sold the mansion back to Tony… At a 400% profit.

IV. When Luke Cage (and Thor) Literally Ripped Deadpool in Half
When Luke Cage (and Thor) Literally Ripped Deadpool in Half

Ew

Gross

Deadpool Annual #1 from 2013 is a hoot. Heroes lament how hard it is to beat “healing factor guys”, Thor reduces one to ash with an Uru-summoned lightning bolt, and multiple Avengers sip lattes while dancing on rooftops, surrounded by the corpses of a dozen failed ninja assassins. A hoot! I told you!

… Oh, and Luke and Thor rip Deadpool in half.

Don’t worry though. Healing factor guy, etc.

III. Luke Cage Eats Three Eggs
Luke Cage Eats Three Eggs

The 2002 Cage series by Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben is a real treat. Cage shows us a-list creators (one of which is the writer behind crime masterpiece 100 Bullets) lending their collective pencils and pens to a hood-based story of urban gentrification and warring ethnic groups years before Luke’s big graduation to punching Skrulls instead of street level gang bangers.

Cage has Cage depicted as tough, mercenary, and overwhelmingly charismatic (a quality he would carry into Alias). It opens on the universally accepted idea that “shit happens” … But for Harlem residents with “bank” Cage — operating out of a local strip club –can be their toilet paper.

I read Cage when it came out, and despite some truly classic one-liners, like “Bullshit. She inta BOYS she inta GANGS[.]” and “Yeah… Pull that trigger… SEE who dies[.]” plus a killer three-sentence summary of Luke’s secret origin*** — at least prior to writing this — had little specific recollection of the details.

Except the eggs scene.

What makes it badass? Memorable even?

Is three eggs even a large number of eggs to eat? (Does Azzarello think it is?) Is it because Luke just got done humping an at-this-point-still nameless Korean bartender? Both?

I think this scene is meant to highlight a combination of Luke’s appetites, masculinity, and cross-demographic appeal, none of which have eroded in the fifteen years since.

II. Luke Cage (and Jess) Pop Doc Ock and Kick Him Off Their Team
Luke Cage (and Jess) Pop Doc Ock and Kick Him Off Their Team

Doctor Octopus is a bad guy. Given some of the other escapades on this Top 8 list, cracking the spectacles of a b-lister might not seem like a big deal. But Doc Ock was possessing Peter Parker’s body at the time.

Luke even stood up to him with words before he rose up with fists. He didn’t know it was Doc Ock; he thought he was doing the right thing by getting up in the grill of the moral center of the MU.

Total Neville Longbottom moment, this.

I. The Ascent and Career of Doreen Green
The Ascent and Career of Doreen Green

We started with Luke making the Avengers All-Star team. I think that the appropriate closure is Luke’s paying it forward for another goofball character.

So Luke and Jessica — new parents of future Captain America Danielle Cage — found themselves in need of a nanny. And because they are the kind of people who might have terrorists, alien invaders, or angry / riled-up mutants attacking their mansion, they were in need of a super powered nanny. They ended up choosing Doreen Green, also known as Squirrel Girl.

Doreen’s ascent ultimately mirrored Luke’s. Squirrel Girl was an explicitly not-serious character, even joining joke superhero team the Great Lakes Avengers just so her squirrel sidekick could die in an arc satirizing comic book deaths. However as the nanny to Danielle Cage, Doreen was — like Luke — given a spotlight on New Avengers. She beat Wolverine one-on-one and got to flex a little heroism. Today, the onetime joke character is headlining her own title, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, is the darling of comics critics while helping to expand the genre’s audience, and even puts in time on Sunspot’s Avengers Idea Mechanics team.

Pay it forward, Luke Cage.

LOVE
MIKE

* Norse, fine; Norse.

** The Green Goblin (wearing StarkTech) at the time claimed to be in charge of the Avengers, but just had Bullseye dressed up as Hawkeye, Venom masquerading as Pete, etc.

*** When I was doin’ my big in the joint, a doctor made me an offer. / Said be my MONKEY. Let me experiment on your black ass. I’ll either KILL YOU, or SET YOU FREE. / I said hand me the BANANA.

**** You know, like YT.

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