Saturday, September 17, 2011

Checkin' In With Billy Graham: Hero For Hire #15

Hero for Hire
#15 (November 1973)

"Retribution, Part II"
Tony Isabella/Billy Graham/Steve Englehart-Graham/Graham

Doug: I can't tell you how cool it's been spelunking through the two reader lots I've won over the past few years on eBay. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of those, bringing Bronze Age love to you every so often. Here's one -- we've been digging on Billy Graham's pencils in our 4-part look at the Black Panther in Jungle Action. I saw this one in the pile, noticed Billy credited, and grabbed it. Let's see what he looked like on Luke Cage a few years prior to the arc with T'Challa we've been enjoying. By the way, how about the writing credits? Three guys? Hmmm... wonder if there will be too many cooks in the kitchen? We shall see.

Doug: To begin, I always like to do a quick page-through, mainly to see the organization of the book, see where the Bullpen Bulletins and letters pages are, check on the Marvel Value Stamp when applicable, etc. I was very surprised to see that this has two stories in it, and one's a reprint (a 1954 Sub-Mariner yarn by Bill Everett, of all things)! As this is part two of a story, and upon checking I found that the previous issue was all one tale, I wondered if perhaps this story may have been intended for a Giant-Size book. Well, so you don't have to look it up, I did. I found that Giant-Size Power Man (the book is still Hero for Hire here) wasn't published until 1975, but did indeed include this entire story! How's that for irony? Not bad when you can be right and wrong with the same thought! And before we even get into the story, I'm going to say up front that Graham's art doesn't look as polished as it did in the Jungle Action books -- here it seems to have a bit of a caricature-look and feel. I'm not saying that's bad -- just my first impression, that it's different. OK, enough pontification.

Doug: Wow. Just wow. After the splash page, I'm wishing I had the previous issue. This one looks like it's going to be good. Seems everything that's gone on in Luke Cage's life has come to a head at the same time, and it's not looking so hot for him. Complicated, but not positive. The writers really tell a rapid-fire story. The evil guard from Seagate Prison, Rackham, has come to New York to ruin Cage's life. He's brought along a Dr. Fox, but apparently in the last issue Rackham accidentally killed Fox. They had kidnapped a young black lady who they thought was Cage's girlfriend; she saw Rackham kill Fox. After Rackham had fled with the girl, Cage's real girlfriend, Dr. Claire Temple stumbled on Fox's body at (you guessed it) the exact moment the police arrived. So she's taken to jail. And on top of all of that, the second and third men to ever bust out of Seagate are on the prowl as well, and about to break into a liquor store in Harlem.

Doug: So Cage, in his office, gets word that Claire's in jail. He ain't happy, so heads to the precinct. The cop on duty gives him the business and refuses to let Cage see Claire. Moving outside, Cage goes to the top of the building across the street from the lock-up, and leaps from one roof to the other. Then making like Spider-Man, he climbs down the wall to the 6th-floor, where he knows Claire is held. Cage gets lucky and finds Claire pretty quickly. She is able to tell him what really happened with Fox's death, but as they talk a guard comes by her cell. Startled, Cage loses his grip on the bars and falls the six stories to the ground (shouting "Christmas!" as he takes his leave) -- but fortunately lands on the roof of a passing bus.

Doug: In a series of events far-too-convoluted for this jumping-on reader, Cage goes around town looking for information that will lead him to the killer of Fox. There are attorney names, informants, etc. Finally, he lands at a diner shortly after 8:00 am. His associate, Flea, tells him that he'd heard about Claire and figured that after putting 2 and 2 together that it all had something to do with Seagate Prison. Flea then took Cage a short distance to a liquor store -- the store that Cage's old prison mates had just knocked off. This doesn't look good...

Doug: And that's where it ends! Man, why isn't this story longer than 11 pages? It does conclude in Hero for Hire #16, which is the last issue before the title switches to Power Man. So, I am soliciting any of our readers who can fill us in on the before and after of this short tale. It was really engrossing, albeit a bit confusing since I was literally dropped right into the middle of it. Help a brother out, please!

Doug: Oh, I'd better finish my evaluation of the art. It is definitely different from what we've been seeing in Jungle Action, but it's not bad. It's funny, because I sometimes associate Luke Cage with George Tuska -- there's a bit of a Tuska feel to this. I actually got a little Frank Robbins vibe. But it's pretty good stuff. The writing is fun, too -- you can feel the "blaxploitation" era, for sure!


Anonymous said...


I read this back in the Giant-Size issue. Like you, I had seen Billy Graham's art in Jungle Action and was sort of surprised when I saw his earlier work with Luke Cage. Didn't matter to me though. Cage was so different from every other comic out there, it was just fun to read. I always just loved the dialogue.



david_b said...

Luke Cage would be one of my Bronze nominees for a Masterworks book..!?!

Much like the kung fu, monster, and film-adaptation mags, I love how Marvel really stretched themselves into different genres during this period, far and away propelling them away from their Distinguished Competition.

I'd love to collect the actual issues, but like the early Defenders and some other lines, I'd prefer just to save some $$ and read them all in one book.

What a treat that would be..!!

"Sweet Christmas!"

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