This week, one of my favorite current books wrapped up an all-too short run. Luke Cage by David Walker, which came off the heels of his then-recent Power Man and Iron Fist run as well as the Luke Cage Netflix series. Despite the meteoric success of the Netflix series, the book didn’t catch the tailwinds from that success, and ironically preceded the cultural milestone status of Black Panther. In what may very well be his final work at Marvel, Walker and Guillermo Sanna take a break from what up till then had been a dip back into Luke Cage’s past as a victim of experimentation, racism, and the prison system in order to address the most important addition to his characters in recent years as a father.
In what’s self-described by Walker as inspired by an issue of Uncanny X-Men and The Princess Bride, Luke takes a break from all the drama that’s pervaded in his life that’s taken him away from his family in order to just tell his daughter a story. It’s one that has twists and turns, absurd throw-ins (magic poop for instance), truer to life and sometimes not, and one that hopefully has a happy ending like any parent would want for their kid. It also explores Luke’s own foibles of being a dad in providing the basic comfort of telling his daughter a story with a happy ending, along with Danielle who due to reasons of usually being a baby has never had much of a voice up till now. While Luke has been a father for a long time in our world, that relationship has hardly ever been explored at length in the terms of it between himself and his daughter, which as this issue shows has been a detriment in not allowing this to happen before now.
Luke’s life in the comics has been defined by many things: son, prisoner, Hero For Hire, Avenger, Defender, badass, but father has tended to place last in that competition. Which is more a fault of storytelling economics rather than ill-intent, after all comics tend to be defined by punching. However, of all the things that bubbled to the surface with the Luke Cage television show, it is somewhat saddening that the possibly most important part of his character didn’t break through, at least not yet. The book had been filling that void by exploring a different and more seasoned version of the character. This issue’s impact was in part because of how rare it is to see a character like Luke Cage just get to be a father, just as how Black Panther’s impact was from in part getting to tell a story about Africa that was rendered by black storyteller’s as opposed to the white gaze.
Which is why it’s a shame that such a unique vision is getting benched at such a time. Just like Nighthawk several years back, David Walker was not afforded the time, nor promotion to be able to tell a very different story with a black character, and one who’s now as seminal as Luke Cage. It’s to everyone’s detriment that this book is disappearing at a time when that message is most needed.