Issue 11 starts off with a small-time villain named Cockroach reminiscing on is criminal crew from back in the day with Danny Rand while sitting near the Harriet Tubman Monument in Harlem. We see illustrations of Luke Cage’s rogues gallery from “black in the day”, and those of us who remember the time will be filled with bursts of nostalgia in these first few pages.
Mariah with the big doorknockers earrings, Tombstone with a high top, the sight of all these things tickled me senseless. At this point in the book, Rand is actually consoling Carlos Cabrera aka Gamecock. He was a minor pain in the butt to Power Man and Iron Fist back in the day, but had been straight for over 20 years.
But recently his daughter was been placed in foster care due false accusations being leveled against him despite not having donned his signature gamecock uniform in decades. As Rand walks away, Cabrera makes an ominous call that appears to signify his willingness to get back in the game.
An ongoing problem the heroes have been facing from very early on in the series is a form of software that can either exonerate a criminal by purging his entire criminal record, or incriminate an innocent person.
The latter appears to be what happened to Cabrera and now, feeling trapped, he contemplates the unthinkable as New York City is being divided by Tombstone, Cottonmouth, Mariah, Black Cat (Yes, Spiderman’s former lover), and a host of others. Back around issue two or three, two retired minor villains named Disco Devil and Cockroach hired Cage and Rand for protection.
Then, Iron Fist and Luke Cage send Cletus and Hamilton on an errand where they are accosted by a brother wielding mystical powers and bearing a striking resemblance to rapper Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover.
Cockroach, makes a deal with him. It was revealed in the prior issue that he is Alex Wilder, a former villain to the teenage supergroup the Runaways, who was also killed and now is a master of the dark arts. Got it? Good. Moving on, he is also the mastermind behind the Agnitus software.
While the other, Disco Devil aka Cletus Evans, decides to hide, fearing Wilder’s power. He tells Power Man how Cockroach left him, and how Wilder knew exactly who they were. As the book continues toward its conclusion, we begin to see what Wilder’s plan is all along. He is putting together his own gang of street level villains to overturn the old order that once ran the criminal enterprises of Harlem.
One of the things I love most about this title is that it takes place on the side streets and backrooms of New York City. You never know who’s going to be on the next page. On one page you may come across Cornell “Cottonmouth” Wallace, the Black Cat or Mariah, and on the next you might find an even more obscure street level Marvel character.
Additionally, the writing of David Walker is just hilarious. The things he has characters say are so appropriate, but only Walker has the ability to make them talk like they were always meant to.
The characters have more flesh than freaknik thanks to Walker’s writing. The artwork perfectly fits the circumstances, with facial expressions that perfectly convey emotion and intent at a glance. This book exudes negritude, and not simply because it’s written by a Black man, drawn by a Black man (Sanford Green) and has more Black and Brown characters than any Marvel book I’ve ever read, but because the characters are all honest, albeit fictional, manifestations of some real life issues many inner city people of color dealt with or continue to deal with.
But, despite the complexions and hues, these issues of survival, of decision-making and critical thinking on the streets are actually very universal. I loved it. Come back next week when we’ll bring you all the way up to date on Power Man and Iron Fist.
Until then, up-up-and awaaaay!