Best Shots Review: CAGE! #1 A 'Love Letter To An Era'

"Cage! #1" cover
Credit: Genndy Tartakovsky (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Genndy Tartakovsky (Marvel Comics)

Cage! #1
Written by Genndy Tartakovsky
Art by Genndy Tartakovsky, Stephen DeStefano and Scott Wills
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Genndy Tartakovsky (Marvel Comics)

Good things come to those who wait. Genndy Tartakovsky, the legendary animator and creator of Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and more, started working on his Luke Cage comic almost a decade ago, but it never saw the light of day. But with Power Man seeing his moment in the sun thanks to his new Netflix show, Marvel pounced on the opportunity to dive back into Tartakovsky’s take.

Of course, this book will differ greatly from recent iterations of Cage in comic books, and especially the Netflix series. Tartakovsky is an artist with a very distinct style, and his love for the ‘70s version of the character is unmistakable. The result is something that might not appeal to fans of more modern takes on Luke Cage, but is still a fun ride nonetheless.

If you grew up on Tartakovsky’s cartoons, this title feels immediately familiar. Tartakovsky’s character designs are completely unique and his Luke Cage is a bruiser. Clad in his ‘70s tiara and yellow blouse, Tartakovsky isn’t afraid to take show Power Man in action. He punches, slams and “shapow”s his way through enemies while taking a few licks himself. The action scenes are well-choreographed and fun, rife with Tartakovsky’s trademark facial expressions.

Credit: Genndy Tartakovsky (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Genndy Tartakovsky (Marvel Comics)

Considering his background as an animator and storyboard artist, it’s no surprise that Tartakovsky is able to tell a coherent story through static images. One thing about his cartoon work that doesn’t translate are the sounds. Tartakovsky’s cartoons always communicated tension through sound, and that’s missing here. The slide whistle sound as a character eases into a frame with a secret. The plinking of a character sneaking around. It almost feels like it’s there, and that’s kind of amazing in and of itself. It’s not for lack of trying - letterer Clayton Cowles does his best to imbue the sound effects all over the book with the energy they deserve. It’s impossible to add in some of the smaller details that I’ve mentioned, but the creators have such a good handle on the world that your brain will almost fill in the blanks.

It’s a simple and straightforward story, and Tartakovsky doesn’t lean heavy into the era’s bad scripting habits (particularly with dialogue) that would make modern readers cringe. The art is expressive and outsized. The pacing comes at a good clip. The script has a couple of fun cameos. It might stand in stark contrast to the Cage we see on the small screen but Tartakovsky’s reverence for the character is clear. This is his love letter to an era of comics that he grew up reading and that’s why it works so well. It combines his unique sense of humor with the best parts of ‘70s Power Man, while leaving the more problematic bits by the wayside. Ya dig?

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