It’s the holiday season, and time to say those magic words: “Sweet Christmas.” Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Hero For Hire #7 awaits!
Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: George Tuska
Inker: Billy Graham
Colorist: David Hunt
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing:
Release Date: December 12, 1972
Previously in Hero For Hire: Sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Carl Lucas volunteered for medical experiments that were sabotaged and gave him steel-hard skin and superhuman strength. Breaking free and returning home to the streets of Harlem, where he puts his new powers to work as New York’s hero for hire! Taking on a new name to remind him of the prison he escaped, the newly minted Luke Cage runs into old friends and old enemies, but by Christmas Eve, 1972, he’s ready to take some time off and relax.
The Marvel Universe, on the other hand, seldom allows for that sorta thing.
Having stepped in to stop a man from beating a literal child with his cane, Luke runs afoul of a man who seems to think he’s a living Charles Dickens character, gets in a snowball fight and even bounces a few bullets off his invulnerable chest before the strangest interaction of the day.
I’ve always loved the fact that Steve Englehart seemingly refuses to end a sentence with anything less than an exclamation point, a question mark or the dreaded interrobang. It helps to make this fast-paced story even more intense, especially when a man with a laser attacks, leading the Hero for Hire on a chase across the rooftops, ending when his bulletproof bulk carries him through the roof of a building. He turns his quarry over to the police, but the madman escapes and makes a run for it. When Luke tries to question a sidewalk Santa bout it, he finds the man’s bell is filled with more than Christmas cheer.
George Tuska is one of those artists whom I can take or leave, but with the inks of Billy Graham, this story feels remarkably down-to-Earth and appropriate to Luke’s whole vibe. (The hood might be a bit much, though.) Marley explains that he’s more than just a weirdo, he’s a firm believer that things were better in the past, and so he has stolen an atomic bomb with which he intends to blow New York City back to the Victorian Age… or something? The present, he says, is intolerable, and so he’s done with everything, and now one can stop him.
No one, that is, but a man who can burst chains with his bare hands, thanks to distraction from someone coming down the chimney. Thanks to that distraction (from Santa???), Luke is able to punch Marley into Christmas future, then turns his attention to the atom bomb. Clearly, this is a situation that will require careful consideration and a very steady, gentle ha–
Oh, wait, no. He just rips out the wiring and calls it good. Simple solutions for the common man, that’s the Hero for Hire way. As the sun rises on Christmas day, the man who will soon become Power Man stands with the second-story man whose criminal intentions saved the world, finally enjoying his moment of holiday peace and quiet. All told, Hero For Hire #7 is remarkable for being not all that remarkable, giving the hardest working man in the superhero biz a chaotic Sweet Christmas, with an interesting art team and one of Englehart’s rock solid scripts, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. It may not be the best Marvel Comics of 1972, but it’s certainly one of the more memorable.
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HERO FOR HIRE #7
It moves fast and has a villain whose whole deal is pretty ridiculous, but somehow makes for a satisfying issue of comics, thanks to a charismatic hero and a very skilled creative team.