Just the story of a certain cat with steel-hard skin and the skirt he lost when he went in the clink on a bum rap.

"Luke Cage Noir" #2 from Marvel Comics

Re-telling the origin of Marvel characters in the new setting of the Depression Era is a fairly novel idea that Marvel is milking for all it's worth. Still, issue #1 of this series impressed me, so I came back for more. It's Harlem in the 1920s, a topic that already interests me because my, perhaps, favorite prose novel of all time is Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man", a brilliant piece of work that takes place in Harlem of the 1950s. There are echoes here of Ellison's essential concept of African-American man as 'invisible' in a social sense.

(Cover of "Luke Cage Noir" #1)

I'm not sure what bloody right Tombstone had appearing in the cliffhanger ending of the first issue and then fairly heavily in this issue as he has nothing to with Luke Cage. But noticing that Tombstone is an albino African-American (a fact often over-looked) and noting that both he and Luke Cage have nearly identical abilities (impenetrable skin, super-strength) I'm almost tempted to say that his inclusion here is inspired. But it isn't.

Actually, I think that giving this 1920s version of Luke Cage a super-villain is the weakest element of this mini-series so far. Everything else, however? I LOVE IT.

The 1920s dialogue by Adam Glass and Mike Benson is delightful and for the most part sits just below the place where it would be over the top and ridiculous. As a result it feels fun while still giving a sense of a real time and place. Shawn Martinbrough's art is atmospheric. Great panels of Luke Cage in an urban environment, every image in the rain is damn gorgeous. The facial expressions show a nearly true range of human emotion. Although I wish the artist and the colorist had been in closer conversation about the flashbacks. Both issues have various flashbacks and both issues have some panels with sepia-tone coloring to make this clear and some panels without. It makes for frustrating reading at times. "What is this? When does this take place? 10 years ago, before Luke Cage was in jail or tomorrow?" Frustrating.

The cliffhanger ending from last month involving Luke Cage, an empty grave, and the mobster Tombstone with a pair of tommy guns as well as a pair of rottweilers didn't really interest me as much as the story of a regular joe in remarkable circumstances who wants to find the girl he loves. Thankfully, that story hasn't been entirely derailed, but it has been a bit submerged. Speaking of submerged... Spilling a rooftop water tank onto bad guys is funny no matter what medium, genre, or decade you do it in. Awesome!

And THIS issue's cliffhanger brings the plot about Luke's dear Josephine back to the fore!

THE LONG AND SHORTBOX OF IT? This is a damn good series with a great character re-placed into a logical location for his origin story to take place. Despite minor problems, this mini-series is fun and cool and will probably make a damn good collection in a few months. You can bet I will be picking up #3 and the final issue, #4!

So here's my review of a Marvel book. Josh just reviewed Jeff Lemire's "Sweet Tooth", an imprint book, so if it isn't clear yet we're giving you a special point-of-view this week in honor of "Strange Tales" #1! The Marvel Guy goes indie and the Independent Guy takes a look into the Marvel Multiverse and then both of us will together, give you, in the next few days, our thoughts on this unusual moment in which Marvel invites some "Strange" bedfellows into the House of Ideas!

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