Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #15: "Retribution: Part II"

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #15
"Retribution: Part II"
November, 1973

Billy Graham: Co-Scripter/Artist
Tony Isabella: Co-Scripter
Steve Englehart: Camp Counsellor
S. Lefferman: Letterer
Stan Goldberg: Colorist
Roy Thomas: Editor

Luke Cage's past has returned to haunt him, and threatens to take away
all which is dear to him.  Billy Bob Rackham and Phil Fox have plans to
blackmail the Hero For Hire.  Shades and Comanche, the latest escapees
from Seagate Prison are anxious to repay outstanding debts with the
former prison guard.  Mrs. Jenks has been mistaken by Rackham for being
Cage's girl, and is now a prisoner in her own apartment.  Claire Temple
has come to visit Mrs. Jenks, only to find the body of the Daily Bugle
reporter on the floor of the apartment.  There is a storm gathering
around Luke Cage, and its name is "Retribution" Part II.

It is an angry Hero For Hire who leaves his office on a Sunday morning,
without stopping to open the door.  He has heard the news about Claire
Temple being arrested for the murder of Phil Fox.  As he races from the
third floor, he remembers his unspoken feelings for Claire, and the fact
that she had called him when she needed help -- and this is what has
caused his hasty departure.  Luke wonders if Fox told her about his time
at Seagate... but the woman wouldn't have killed the reporter over it.
The revenge of Shades and Comanche has taken a back seat, as the duo plan
to remain in New York, and begin making plans for a long stay.  Friedman
Liquors will provide them with the necessary funds to establish
themselves in the city.  As dawn arrives, Claire Temple is facing a
murder charge, and now has knowledge that the one she loves is an prison
escapee.  She is unable to prove the identity of Phil Fox's killer.  She
will maintain her silence for the sake of Luke, but will she lose her
life in the process?

The former prison guard has borrowed the late reporter's car, driving it
across the George Washington Bridge, on his way to New Jersey  to hide
out.  He hadn't intended to kill Fox, but the fool tried to grab the gun
from him.  The woman is the only one who can connect him to the murder,
and he can never let her go.  Rackham wonders if Lucas is coming after
him, then figures that with the diary in his possession, he will be the
one calling the shots.  When the Hero For Hire comes for him, he'll find
out what Ol' Rackham has got in store for him.  Comanche has removed the
basement grating, so he and Shades can enter the liquor store, and meet
with Friedman when he arrives to go over the books this morning.  They
will hit him up for protection money and return later -- with
reinforcements.  Each store owned by him will be hit, making them the
rulers of Harlem, and their first act will be getting their hands on

CRASH!  Luke Cage has arrived at police headquarters, demanding to see
Claire Temple, and throwing the door aside as if it were a leaf.  He had
been informed about the situation by the public defender, and is
convinced of her innocence.  The desk sergeant has heard about the Hero
For Hire.  He is impressed that the unlicensed detective cares about one
of his clients, and doesn't seem to be in for the money alone.  Cage is
told to get a license, and to expect a bill for the door.

He is now standing on the roof of the Crayton Building, across the street
from the Tombs.  There is a difference of four floors between the two
buildings -- and Luke Cage hopes that it will be enough.  He had glimpsed
the desk book placing Claire Temple on the sixth floor.  The old building
should be able to support his three hundred pounds.  If not, Luke Cage
will be dropping in on the cops literally.  After backing up, he runs
along the roof of the Crayton Building... leaping across the empty
avenue... from the sixteenth floor to the twelfth floor of the Tombs.
THU-BOOM!  The impact causes the roof to shake and to crack -- but it
holds.  To the occupants within the building, it sounds like a plane has
struck the roof, and the bomb squad are deployed to the roof.  The guards
are rounded up to prevent a possible jailbreak.

By the time they reach the roof, there is an immediate search of the
area, but no signs of the cause.  He is thankful that none of them have
thought to look over the edge, as he continues to climb down to Claire's
cell.  As he hopes that his weight will not pull out the bars from the
wall, Cage wonders how a certain wall-crawler is able to do this without
coughing up his webbing.  At the sixth floor, he finds Claire.

She is surprised to see him clinging to the bars outside of her window.
Since he can't hang around all day, he wants to know how she got herself
into this mess.  Claire asks if he's really an escaped criminal, having
heard this as she listened outside of Mrs. Jenks's apartment.  The Daily
Bugle reporter had been talking with someone who knew him from prison.
There had been an argument, sounds of a struggle, and then the sound of a
gun going off.  When she entered the apartment, Phil Fox was on the
floor, and she had picked up the murder weapon.  She hadn't seen the
other man, but had heard his southern accent, and believes that he had
left via the fire escape.  As far as he is concerned, Claire will not be
taking the rap for this, and he will find the murderer.  When she
mentions that the man knows who he is, Luke tells Claire that he's got a
friendly lawyer named "Big Ben" Donovan, and this will give him a chance
to prove himself.  The guard has heard the girl talking to someone, with
his sudden arrival causing the Hero For Hire to lose his grip on the
prison bars.

EEEEE  Sweet Sister!  Looks like Luke Cage's number is up.  He is hardly
in a position to help anyone, much less himself.   Then, he remembers
that he is no longer just an ordinary man...  He has become a super
hero... a Power Man, and will not end this way.  By this time, the
flagpole catches his attention.

The Hero For Hire reaches out for the flagpole to break his fall, only to
learn that it is not as sturdy as it should be.  CRACKK!  The fall
continues once more, with Luke Cage crashing through the roof of a parked
bus.  CRUNNCKK!  He can't believe that he has survived to reach his stop.
He is stronger than he had thought, and any other person would have not
been as fortunate.

He is on the trail of the man with the southern accent, pausing only to
place a call to "Big Ben" Donovan.  At Mrs. Jenks's apartment, he eyes
the fire escape, and wonders what the two men were doing there. Since Fox
had learned about Seagate, Luke decides to pay a call on Doc Burnstein,
and learns that the man's diary had been stolen.  The Hero For Hire
leaves the startled doctor with some advice... keep him out of any books
he's got in his head.  With the death of Phil Fox, the other man must
have the diary, and the time has come to talk to Flea.

The stoolie is actually pleased to see him, having heard about what has
happened to Claire Temple.  He also knows about Doc Burnstein and Seagate
Prison.  Luke Cage has heard enough, eager to have a chat, and Flea is
just as eager to show him what he knows.  The local liquor store is their
stop, where the Hero For Hire is reacquainted with two old friends.

This story was reprinted in Giant-Size Power Man #1 (1975).

I imagine that Part II had been edited since it's only eleven pages long.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Isabella at San Diego Comic-Con in
2003, and he was kind enough to sign this book for me.

Billy Graham is quite an artist, with the reader able to see each of the
characters' personalities by the way they stand.

When confronted with a desperate situation, Luke Cage does not believe in
wasting time, and is a firm believer in immediate action.

Shades and Comanche have their own dreams of starting new lives in New
York, but their methods at a liquor store are harder to swallow.

Claire Temple has learned the truth about the man she loves, but reserves
judgment before speaking with him.

Billy Bob Rackham looks so anxious, that he might use the steering wheel
as a baby uses a teething ring.

When is a door not a door?  When it's jarred free by the Hero For Hire.

A freelancer without a license is as plausible as a duly deputized
officer of the law.

You'll believe a Power Man can fly, or at least leap between tall
buildings in a single bound.

Luke Cage pulls his weight when it comes to seeing his woman in prison.

The Hero For Hire rallies around the flagpole, but it cracks under the
sudden pressure.

Luke Cage catches a bus the hard way.

In the previous issue, the doc's name was Burstein.  In this issue, his
name is Burnstein.  Is the second name an alias used by Noah?

I especially like how Billy Graham drew Flea, with inquisitive eyes, and
gesticulating fingers which beckon Lucas into an unfriendly reunion with
the Class of Seagate 1973.

This Review Is Dedicated To Tony "The Tiger" Isabella

Steve Chung
"Retribution Review: Part II"