It’s easy to forget but at one point Luke Cage was known as Power Man. It’s something that still baffles me since he has no power abilities per se. He’s simply bulletproof, but for 125 issues Power Man and Iron Fist was the comic to read for street-level fight comics. The third Epic Collection in the Power Man and Iron Fist series is out this week and captures issues #90 to #107 which were originally published from 1983 to 1984. With the majority of the issues written by Kurt Busiek it can’t be all bad, right?
This was an interesting time in comics, particularly the ones set in New York. Like a time capsule, you can read this and be reminded New York City was a dangerous place and that being a superhero was a different sort of thing. The main characters are good guys at heart, but they also have to eat. A driving element of the series revolved around the heroes taking jobs to pay their bills. The two title characters are basically best friends with an unspoken bond that keeps the book somewhat serious. This is a good example of superhero books that follow a formula. A threat is established, the heroes take it on, they lose a bit, then eventually win. It’s in the variety of villains where this trade shines though.
The book opens with a surprise villain you may not be familiar with as Unus the Untouchable, a mutant who can’t be hurt, starts knocking off local diners and candy stores. He’s soon tussling with Power Man and Iron Fist who find it hard to fight a guy who can’t be punched. Characters like Hammerhead pop up, but most of the villains are B-list or very unknown baddies. Ever heard of She-Beast, or Master Khan (which is admittedly a bit racist by today’s standards)? How about Chemistro? The latter character is one of the more interesting and that’s probably why he pops up in a few issues. His main claim to fame is a ray gun that can turn things into glass. Groovy. This allow Power Man and Iron Fist to punch through things shattering them in epic fashion. There are other characters like Doombringer who pop up and it’s in these somewhat unknown villains where the book shines. The two main characters aren’t the most interesting, but dammit writers Kurt Busiek and Archie Goodwind did their best to make the villains colorful and they largely succeeded.
Also, slightly ahead of its time is a supporting character who decides to film the heroes. It’s not quite reality television, but the concept is certainly there. It’s fun to see how D.W. Griffith narrates live while filming and it’s also a nice nod to the American filmmaker.
The art is by a variety of folks like Denys Cowan, Greg Larocque, Ernie Chan, Geof Isherwood, and Richard Howell. Chan’s pencils stood out as the best but really all the artists did a sound job. Chan utilized a detailed style that suits the broken glass objects Chemistro creates as well as the pinup style heroic poses both Iron Fist and Power Man stand-in.
This is a fun blast from the past read with a variety of colorful villains for the title heroes to fight. At its roots, this is a pin-up style fight comic and it serves its purpose as a good slice of comic book history in the process.
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