I loved Mike Colter’s portrayal of Luke Cage (A.K.A Power Man) on the Jessica Jones television series on Netflix, and I look forward to seeing his own series. I look forward to Iron Fist (Danny Rand) getting his own show, too, although I am definitely part of the camp that will be disappointed if the producers do not cast an Asian American actor in the lead role. I haven’t read too many comics that prominently featured either character, though, so I guess this is all just a roundabout way of saying that I am probably just the kind of uninitiated-yet-hopeful reader that Marvel is targeting with its new Power Man and Iron Fist comic, written by David Walker, illustrated by Sanford Greene, colored by Lee Loughridge, and lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles. Is it good?
Power Man and Iron Fist #1 (Marvel Comics)
I’m not spoiling anything for you by telling you that this issue starts with Luke Cage (he doesn’t go by “Power Man” here, at least not yet) teaming up with Iron Fist once again after being apart for five years (in Marvel time, not real world time, of course). Luke insists that they are not “back together” in any official capacity, but hey, it’s not like the name of this series is “Power Man and Iron Fist: BFFs That Used To Fight Crime Together and Are Back For One Last Job Before This Series Gets Cancelled.” Anyway, they try to do a favor for Jennie Royce – their office manager from back when they were still “Heroes for Hire”—after bailing her out of prison, but of course, things quickly become complicated.
Much like some of the best issues of Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye run, this is a dialogue-driven comic with a plot that moves quickly and efficiently without ever feeling rushed. The dialogue is breezy and naturalistic without wasting words. Every moment adds something, whether by advancing the plot or establishing character.
Walker has a real knack for establishing the individual voices of these characters. Through the careful use of slang, verbal tics, and help from a talented letterer like Clayton Cowles, the reader can imagine not merely what characters say, but how they say it.
Credit for such strong character building (besides, you know, a strong foundation built by decades of creators) must also go to Sanford Greene. His work reminds me of Jeff Lemire’s visuals, with a more playful, kinetic edge. His Luke Cage is a stiff tank of a man, making a great contrast against the lithe, slender Iron Fist.
Together, and with significant contributions from colorist Lee Loughridge, Walker and Greene create an atmosphere for this book that I haven’t seen anywhere else. This is a “street-level” book. One could even go so far as to call it “gritty” or “grimey.” But that doesn’t mean it has to be dark, in either its color palette or its tone. For his part, Loughridge grounds the book in muted, earthy colors, but it’s clearly daytime throughout the book, and he even lets sunlight into the scene.
Sure, this takes place in “the streets.” Luke Cage and Iron Fist are dealing with small time crooks, not earth-threatening aliens. But “realistic” (relatively speaking, of course) doesn’t have to mean that the book can’t be fun or funny. I love how Luke and Danny can’t walk down the street without having star-struck people try to sneak in a photo of the duo with their phones. It’s not acknowledged in the dialogue, but it doesn’t have to be. Of course these guys would be celebrities!
Between Shaft and Cyborg, David Walker has been a creator on the rise, with Power Man and Iron Fist continuing to confirm his promise as a writer. I must admit that besides PMAIF, the only other comic I have read by him was Shaft #1 (which is excellent), and I am even less familiar with the work of Sanford Greeene. Yet they make a great pair, and it should not be ignored that this is one of the few times in mainstream superhero comics in which you not only see a Black character getting top billing, but a creative team that consists of both a black writer and a black artist. That’s important, and that’s something that needs to be supported.
I mean, look, I’d love to see more people of color in comics in general, especially writers (nothing at all against artists—you just see a lot more PoC as artists than you do as writers). Sign me up for a David Walker-penned Batman comic. But it’s especially important to have minority voices on books like this, featuring minority characters that were created and developed for so long by straight white men.
These straight white men may have been well-intentioned, and hey, as a straight white man myself, I’d love to have a shot at writing Miles Morales into a story of my own someday. But there’s no denying that having an actual black person write the dialogue for a black superhero from Harlem gives the comic a sort of weight (I hesitate to say “authenticity,” because I don’t know all there is to know about Walker’s background) that it wouldn’t have if it were written by, say, Mark Waid (I love Mark Waid, but that’s beside the point).
Is It Good?
Sweet Christmas. This is everything you would want out of a first issue. If you have any interest in these characters at all, or even if you’ve never heard of them, give Power Man and Iron Fist #1 a try.
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