cover image CAGE


Brian Azzarello, , illus. by Richard Corben, colored by Jose Villarrubia. . Marvel/Max, $13.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-7851-1301-0

Eisner Award–winning writer Azzarello (100 Bullets ) and the legendary underground and erotic comics artist Corben (Vic and Blood ) have been tapped to revamp Marvel's 1970s black superhero Luke Cage for the age of hip-hop. They have transformed Cage—who's bullet-proof, according to urban myth—from a disco-shirt-wearing "hero for hire" into a brooding, ex-con, gangsta antihero. A young black girl is accidentally killed in a shootout between drug-dealing gangs in Harlem, and her devastated mom offers Cage her savings to find the killers. Cage engages the usual low-life information sources (e.g., basketball-playing street thugs, a ghetto barmaid, a crooked cop, a scumbag politician and a Mafia boss) as the plot grows more confusing with each page. The creators solve that problem by adding a generous helping of vividly illustrated violent bloodletting. Cage is caught in a somewhat mystifying struggle (apparently politicians are after ghetto real estate) that serves as a prelude to a stupendous shootout. Azzarello offers a serviceable albeit incomprehensible plot that's basically about confrontation and the anticipation of confrontation. But the blighted urban malaise of Corben's illustrations and Villarrubia's moody saturated color somehow manage to bring this weary, over-the-top crime melodrama to life. (Oct.)