REVIEW: Shadowland – Power Man #2 (of 4)

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Or – “Sweet Christmas…”

Who is the mysterious new Power Man?  Why has he taken Luke Cage’s old code-name?  And why do his arms glow like that?  It’s a slobberknocker on the streets of New York, as Daredevil’s machinations take on sinister new angles and a new hero rises to protect the innocent.  If nothing else, he got the chain belt right.

Shadowland – Power Man #2
WRITER: FRED VAN LENTE
PENCILS: MAHMUD ASRAR
COVER BY: MIKE PERKINS
INKS: SCOTT D. HANNA
COLORED BY: FRANK MARTIN
LETTERED BY: DAVID L. SHARPE

PUBLISHED BY MARVEL COMICS

Previously, on Shadowland – Power Man:  When Matt Murdock popped his cork, he took control of the ninja assassins guild known as ‘The Hand’ and built his own Japanese temple in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.  (I think there may have been some magic in that old silk hat they found the building process.)  Even though DD has been acting a bit oddly, the other street-justice types didn’t bat an eye until he murdered Bullseye in cold blood on the rooftops.  Now Spider-Man, Moon Knight, The Punisher, Iron Fist, Ghost Rider and more have been pulled into the orbit of Daredevil’s jackassery.  Worst of all, some of Luke Cage’s oldest enemies are also in the mix, and they’ve got a bone to pick with anyone who wants to take up the mantle of Power Man.  Ten bucks says this kid gets his butt handed to him, even by the likes of Senor Muerte, Chemistro and Mr. Fish…

In an unusual move, Marvel has apparently decided to actually TELL us something about a new character during his debut miniseries.  (Next they’ll have first issues that make you want to keep reading and continuity that doesn’t strangle…  It’ll be CHAOS!!!)  Victor Alvarez grew up in the same streets as Luke Cage did, and the issue opens with a flashback to what Victor thinks of as “Right Before It All Went Wrong.”  He and his father are having a large disagreement about whether or not the elder Alvarez is right to leave his wife and son behind.  Harsh words are exchanged, but before anyone can apologize or explain, a massive explosion consumes the entire apartment building, leaving Victor fatherless.  Flash-forward to the present, as Vic sneaks out during the night to deal with unrest in the streets, which apparently ended up with him confronting Luke Cage and Daniel Rand last issue.  The new Power Man knocks his predecessor off a building with one punch, and inexplicably knowing about Luke’s old life.  “You got no right saying who can and can’t wear the mask, “CARL!” roars Victor, and taunts Luke for marrying a white girl.  Luke amazingly LEAPS back to the top of the brownstone in a rage, snarling, “SAY SOME $#!+ ABOUT MY WIFE!”  It’s an interesting look into both of the characters minds, made even more intriguing when Power Man absorbs the chi out of Danny’s patented Iron Fist attack.

There’s a very clever reference to the move “The Warriors,” as a gang-leader phones in the whereabouts of Victor Alvarez, and the mysterious “Operator” spreads the word:  “Flashmob.”  The word goes out to everyone who has a grudge against Power Man (mostly old foes from Luke Cage’s Rogues Gallery, including Cheshire, Mr. Fish, Spear, Comanche, Chemistro, and ‘Cockroach’ Hamilton) to gather and take down the new kid.  During the battle, Power Man nearly gets killed, Luke finds out that Comanche’s partner Shades is dead (the three of them ran together during Luke’s prison days as Carl Lucas, former ganglord) and then, the other shoe drops.  The new kid punches out Chemistro, and apologizes to Luke for his shots at his girl.  “I’m wearing the mask… to make things right.  You gotta respect that.”  Cage realizes that the new Power Man’s deceased father was none other than his former frenemy Shades.  Luke and Iron Fist go on to their meeting with Daredevil (a big battle sequence that I believe takes place during Shadowland #3) and Power Man slinks home.  The issue closes with Big Ben Donavan (another former Cage foe) reporting back to HIS boss that he has managed to get some of her footsoldiers out of jail, and the Big Bad is revealed to by Tilda Johnson, the woman known as Deadly Nightshade. 

Maybe it’s my 70′s Marvel bias showing, but I really enjoyed this issue, especially the appearance of characters that get little to no respect.  They’re not badass, and they don’t need to be, and that’s just fine.  Victor’s backstory gives him at least some claim to Luke’s old fighting name, and if Marvel HAD to name a new Power Man, at least this one makes sense in context.  Iron Fist and Cage have an amazing repartee in this issue, thanks to the amazing dialogue of Fred Van Lente, and the art in this issue is VERY good.  My only real disappointment is that Mahmud Asrar didn’t also handle the covers, as the guy drawing them has a completely different style and makes the new Power Man look oddly Caucasian and unappealing (not that the two are necessarily interchangable.)  Shadowland is only a backdrop for this story of a son seeking redemption, and seeing how far Luke Cage has come in his time as a Marvel hero helps to justify the enormous Bendis-inspired push he’s been getting the last few years.  In short, it’s good.  Shadowland – Power Man #2 sets up some interesting questions, answers one big one, gives great screen time to great characters, and earns a very well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  This sort of story should happen more often, dangit…

Rating: ★★★★½

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Do you miss the days when characters were allowed to be goofy and fun, when the likes of Cockroach Hamilton and his shotgun Josh were considered credible dramatic personae?