Cage! (#1 – 4) – Genndy Tartakovsky

3 out of 5

A long gestating comic that maybe coincidentally finally popped into physical existence around when the title character – Mr. steel-skinned Luke Cage – had his own Netflix series, Cage is also notable because of its writer / artist, Genndy Tartakovsky, whom we all know has produced some of the animated greats of the past decade, e.g. Samurai Jack, Clone Wars.

That Marvel seemed to be giving the man free design reign was an instant visual breath of fresh air, in this climate of fairly tightly controlled MCU-awareness / continual crossovers, and that Cage would take place in the 70s suggested a possibility of a more free-wheeling story, which would again be a welcome change to most of the books on the shelf, as well as the turgid story of the TV show.

How’d we make out?

M… eh?

While the core ideas behind Tartakovsky’s creations are fun, they’re rarely all that deep or complex narrationally, the uniqueness and nuance.instead expressed in the intense and stylized visuals.  And Cage follows that suit.  The book looks insane, with the characters super blown-out Mad Magazine variations on their usual looks, and the Genndy additions (an animal / mutant kung-Fu club) showing off his penchant for endless design wizardry.  The colors from superstars Stephen DeStefano and Bill Wray add to the splendor, finding the perfect blend of tones and pop colors to assist Tartovsky’s linework and creative paneling shine, and letterer Scott Wills smartly finds one of the few appropriate uses for a Comic Sans-y font, adding to the Excelsior!-era vibe Genndy’s antics are embellishing.

But the story is rather washed up – Cage is kidnapped by them animal muties and made to fight – and the 70s setting is wasted on one Dark Phoenix reference and some jive turkeys, otherwise… it doesn’t matter.  Animated, we wouldn’t care; it would be fun, and the music and movement would undoubtedly carry us through the lack of story, which would likely fit into a single episode.  But as a monthly book, while visually impressive, it’s an art and story medium, so it draws attention to the latter’s lack.

It’s definitely cool to see Marvel giving this shelf space, and to see Genndy’s art in a different format.  It’s fun to flip through.  But I doubt I’ll be rereading it anytime soon.