Saturday, 5 November 2016

Cage MAX Review (Brian Azzarello, Richard Corben)


Three different criminal organisations vie for the same patch of land in a run-down part of the city. But why are the police and the mayor working with them - and why this neighbourhood? When an innocent child is gunned down in the turf war crossfire, Luke Cage steps up to find answers and dispense justice - awww, yeahh! 

Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben’s Cage MAX is as good as I’d hoped it’d be given the creative team’s talent. It weirdly reads like a Broadway play in the sense that the entire story takes place on one street/four locations with Luke walking from the bar to the Italian mafia’s restaurant, to the first black gang’s place, to the second black gang’s basketball court, and back and forth throughout. 

I loved Azzarello’s characterisation of Luke Cage. The dude oozes badassery effortlessly and you totally buy this guy gets by on his rep and look alone. And the way he plays the three sides against each other to his advantage is awesome. Azzarello briefly references Cage’s bulletproof superpower but it’s never tested in this book, maybe because he’s going for a more real-world version of the character like he did in his Joker book for DC. 

The dialogue of the other characters feels convincing and genuinely street too. That’s mainly why it’s a MAX comic, because gangsters don’t say “gosh darn” or “sugar” and if they did here it’d take you out of the story. It also means Richard Corben can draw uncensored graphic violence and some sexytimes too. 

The only flaws were in the final act. The ending felt a bit abrupt and was unsatisfyingly ambiguous, and the reveal of what everyone was fighting over wasn’t very surprising - generally though I can’t fault this one. 

Richard Corben’s art is fantastic. The dude usually draws horror comics so it was great to see him stepping out of his comfort zone and drawing a violent realistic crime story. The artwork is solid, the character designs are superb, and the layouts are perfect – if only Corben drew more Marvel! 

It may have the Marvel logo on the cover but Cage MAX is the farthest thing from bright spandex costumes and masks as you can get - it has more in common with Azzarello’s gritty crime drama 100 Bullets - and that’s fine. Cage MAX is an engrossing adult story from two of the finest creators in the business. Luke Cage has never been cooler!

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