By Marc Strom
Welcome to another installment of Secret Invasion Illumination, True Believer, your inside source to the various key players from the mega-event spinning through the SECRET INVASION limited series itself as well as MIGHTY AVENGERS, NEW AVENGERS and many more of Marvel's top titles!
Since the Civil War, Luke Cage has led the New Avengers as they slowly began to uncover the Skrulls' conspiracy to take over the Earth. And while the former Hero for Hire has risen to the occasion, juggling fatherhood with his responsibilities as a super hero, he'll find himself pushed to the limit with Secret Invasion's stunning conclusion.
This week, NEW AVENGERS #47 takes a closer look at Cage, examining his
relationship with both his wife and child in the wake of Earth's war with the Skrulls. Before that issue hits stands though, we've got you covered with a complete rundown on everything you need to know about Marvel's toughest-skinned hero, along with teases from series writer Brian Michael Bendis on what Luke's future holds!
Shady Beginnings, Heroic Endings
Imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, the streetwise Carl Lucas accepted early release on the condition that he undergo an experimental procedure meant to make him immune to any disease, only to find himself instead with unbreakable skin and incredible strength.
Taking the name Luke Cage and establishing his services as a Hero for Hire, he used his abilities to help those in need—for a price, of course. During this time Cage first became something of a team player when he joined with the Defenders and later formed his longstanding partnership with Iron Fist.
When his friend and casual lover, Jessica Jones, became pregnant, Cage stepped up and accepted his responsibility as a future father shortly before joining the ranks of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers. After rejecting the Super Human Registration Act, a newly-married Cage found himself the leader of a new, renegade team of Avengers on the eve of the Skrulls' invasion.
From Hero for Hire to Fatherhood
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Secret Invasion mastermind Brian Michael Bendis has written Luke Cage in various titles for seven years now, beginning with ALIAS and through to NEW AVENGERS, but nonetheless, he still finds it difficult to pin down precisely what draws him to the character.
"It's sometimes a little hard to describe, because there are certain characters you just gravitate to, just like there are certain people in the world you gravitate to," Bendis attempts to explain. "[With] Luke there's a quiet nobility, there's a strong sense of purpose. I like characters—not just Luke—who always seem to be digging themselves out of some hole, that was either done to them, or [that they] did themselves.
"I also like characters that had a place in the Marvel Universe, and then are kind of forced to step up into a different place and then rise to the occasion," the writer continues. "Like becoming an Avenger, or maybe even leading the Avengers. And that character then being surprised by himself, but [in a way that] doesn't feel forced or anything—you [can] really see why he would do well here."
Part of why Cage has done so well as the Avengers' leader comes down to the fact that, in Bendis' words, "when push came to shove he has done the right thing every single time, no matter what the cost. And these are very hard decisions. So he makes the decision, and follows through on them."
Cage's origin also struck a note with Bendis, who says that Luke's decisions from the very start showed the true strength of his character.
"Luke started off bad and went to jail for a crime he didn't commit, and didn't let it get to him," Bendis notes. "I mean you look at Luke Cage's story, it could've easily been the greatest origin of a villain ever. If he chose to use this as an excuse to go the other way, you would not have any problem seeing it as legitimate. Just the fact that he's chosen otherwise, I think, is what people dig in him."
Over the course of the past seven years, Cage has gone through a number of changes, which Bendis sums up rather succinctly:
"He went from Hero for Hire, funky hunky 'Sweet Christmas' to an Avenger and a father, and he grew up. Or more or less rose to the occasion of the world that's come at him."
Skrulls and Beyond
SECRET INVASION #7 ended with Luke and Jessica's baby in the hands of the Skrull impersonating the Avengers' butler, Jarvis—or, in other words, a parent's worst babysitting nightmare.
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"I know a lot of people for the whole time thought Luke Cage's baby was a Skrull, and people who have read [SECRET INVASION #7 got] a big eye-opener on that one," Bendis comments. "So you can kind of see Luke's situation might get very, very dire as to the health of his baby."
Luke's situation as a father will also carry away from the pages of the main SECRET INVASION series.
"I have a bit coming up in NEW AVENGERS #47 which deals with Luke Cage and his father," Bendis promises. "A lot of people who have become fathers know this, [but] you look at your relationship with your [own] father or parents, and it dictates your actions as a parent. Like, 'I want to be better than that' or 'I want to look up to that.' So now that Luke Cage is a father, he's certainly looking at that damaged relationship with his father."
Throughout much of Secret Invasion, Cage remained on the periphery of the main action, taking everything in. But according to Bendis, that will change.
"He's been in every issue, and he's been quiet, and if you really look at it, he's walking tall," he remarks. "He's not one to suffer foolishness, and there's been a lot of [the Skrulls messing] with him and it's gonna bubble up. He's gonna handle it. It's there. He's not a big talker, he's a doer."
And for fans of Bendis' ALIAS, which introduced the world to Jessica Jones, NEW AVENGERS #47 has a particular treat.
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"[It] includes a flashback drawn by Michael Gaydos, who drew ALIAS with me where Luke and Jessica first hooked up," Bendis reveals. "It's kind of a flashback to how Luke and Jessica became friends in the first place. And it's kind of nice, it's like a little issue of ALIAS right in the middle of NEW AVENGERS. From there, issues #48 and #49 of NEW AVENGERS are post-Secret Invasion, and they are very heavy [with] Luke Cage. So a lot of Luke Cage-time."
So then Luke Cage will
continue on with the Avengers after Secret Invasion?
"Yes, I'm going to say as a spoiler," Bendis confirms. "Or Luke Cage-Skrull, one of the two."
For more on Luke & Jessica, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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