I’m slightly mystified on what the purpose of “New Avengers: Luke Cage” really was. Was it to push the character, right before he headed over to “Thunderbolts” as the leader? Extend the “New Avengers” brand? Well, it certainly wasn’t to provide a showcase for Eric Canete’s art, which is what you might have suspected. After all, both #2 and #3 are only drawn partially by Canete, with additional pages provided by Pepe Larraz.
It’s not that Larraz is a bad artist. He’s got that slightly cartoonish look that would make him a potential person to step in if Paco Medina needs a month off of the upcoming “X-Men” comic. But Larraz isn’t an appropriate choice to draw sequences in “New Avengers: Luke Cage,” when the best way to describe Canete’s art is a cross between Ted McKeever and Denys Cowan. Canete draws characters rough and blocky, taking the time to draw slightly off-kilter Venetian blinds and flecks of dirt on a bandage. It’s a strong, forceful style that barges its way onto the page and kicks everything out of its way in the process. Love or hate Canete’s art, there’s no mistaking it as anything else. Scenes of Luke Cage in a basement full of pipes and computers are gorgeous, Chris Chuckry’s art giving it a monochromatic hue to a claustrophobic setting. But Larraz’s art next to it? It’s not just different, it’s actually jarring and throws you right out of the story. This is a project that would’ve been better suited to just start a month later and let Canete have the time needed to finish up issues #2-3 on his own rather than bring in an assistant. Aside from giving Larraz a paycheck, it doesn’t do anyone favors: not Canete, not John Arcudi, and not the readership.
As for Arcudi’s writing, I expect much more from him. His story of urban crime feels like a throwback to earlier times, but not in a nostalgic way. There’s nothing about “New Avengers: Luke Cage” that makes me feel like this was a story that was burning to be told, that there was anything out of the ordinary that warranted this mini-series being published. Some of the dialogue is good, at least, but the plot never rises up into anything below average.
With such a strong creative team attached to “New Avengers: Luke Cage,” I expected a lot more from this mini-series. Instead, it’s an uninteresting script with great art marred by fill-in pages from an artist whose style doesn’t mesh with the rest of the book. And at $3.99 an issue, that’s a little insulting.