Say what you will about Brian Michael Bendis, he's a dedicated guy. If he treats his friends half as well as he treats his favorite characters, then the guy's a friggin' prince. Honestly, five years ago, would anyone have thought Luke Cage deserved to be an Avenger?
Wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit, Luke Cage submitted to a strange experiment to win his freedom from prison. He emerged with rock-hard skin, superhuman strength and a thirst for vengeance. Sidetracked by a brush with heroism, Cage cashed in on his newfound powers. Years later, he continues to fight the good fight...for the right price. He is Luke Cage: Hero for Hire!
Luke Cage was created to cash in on a hot pop culture trend - Blaxploitation. He's Shaft with superpowers, Sweetback with steel-hard skin. Superman? Kryptonite? No, baby; Superfly and Dolemite! Back in the day he palled around with Danny Rand, the honky kung-fu master known as Iron Fist. The only previous Luke Cage figure (other than the ToyFare-exclusive Minimate) was one of the limited repaints in the 1990s Marvel Gold line, so this is a figure that's been needed for a long time.
Power Man is just over 6½" tall, and moves at the toes, ankles, boots, knees, hips, waist, torso, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck. The hips, wrists, shoulders and head are balljoints. His right hand is a fist, which is nice, but his left hand has a hinge for the individual fingers. Unfortunately, the construction of that hand is way off - they should have made his fingers one piece, or even better, just skip the articulation.
The body is all new, and it looks good. Luke was a big huge guy, even before he got his power upgrade. This guy would mess you up, sucka!
His shirt might be a bit too tight - he wore yellow silk, which wouldn't stretch and bunch the same way cotton does. His silver headband squashes his afro down, so keep an eye out for any spills there; the silver really stands out against his skin and hair. His mouth is open, and the paint on inside of his lips is a different color than his skin - a great attention to detail. Unfortunately, the inside of his wrist joints are yellow, and the brown paint flakes away easily.
The prototype showed Luke in blue pants, with all-yellow boots, which is his classic look. The final product has black pants, and only the cuffs of his boots are yellow: the way he looks on the cover of the included comic. Consider this "First Appearance" Luke Cage. The proto didn't have the chain around his waist, either, and the final figure does. Sweet Christmas!
Luke Cage has a variant in this series, but it wasn't actually included
in the first shipments. As of December 2006, it's still
not out yet. If you believe the eBay sellers, the figure at the top of this review is the variant, with the black pants and the belt. We just want to say this clearly, so people stop getting ripped off: this is not the Luke Cage variant. Those were changes made to the prototype, not a variant. The variant has a silver shirt, not just blue pants. Don't fall prey to scammers: they're either idiots or they're trying to cheat you.
Though his Heroes for Hire partner, Iron Fist, is
a high-flying martial artist, he didn't have a hole in his back to accommodate a Doop stand. Meanwhile Luke, the gounded brawler, does. What the heck? That is one unpredictable decision-making process.
Luke has no accessories - just his part of the ML14 BAF, Mojo. Luke gets the left side of Mojo's meatwagon, which may not be the most exciting piece of a figure ever, but face it: if you're interested in BAF parts, you're buying them all. It doesn't matter how lame the individual pieces are, because they're meant to go together. He also gets a reprint of Luke Cage #1, the first comic to star a black superhero. This is a much better choice than many of the ML
comics have been, of late - we get Luke's origin and the introduction of his first arch-enemy.
The cardboard inserts in ML14 feature a diorama backdrop for each of the characters. Cut it out, stick it in
the included stand and you've got a nifty little scene for your figure. Luke gets a street scene with his enemy from the comic, Diamond Back. Just like we said for Iron Man, the stage dressing is nice, but it would have been a lot better without the dwarfish figure in the middle. Versatility trumps specificity in cases like this.
A lot of folks hoped, when Luke Cage was announced, that we'd be seeing a more modern costume. The one he wore in the '90s, or the one he's wearing in Bendis' New Avengers, something like that. But silly as this costume might be, it's still the classic. Will Luke Cage's time in the spotlight last once he's no longer under Brian Michael Bendis' protective wing? Hard to say. Will he still be a Manhattan high-rise hero? A working dad? A Bronx ronin? Could be anything, but you'll be able to keep him in touch with his roots with this figure.