Friday, September 23, 2016

Breakout! Part Three (Marvel)
New Avengers #3 When: March 2005
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: David Finch

The Story So Far...
When the mental state of Scarlet Witch began to deteriorate, the ensuing chaos ripped the Avengers apart from the inside out! In the wake of their worst defeat ever, Earth's mightiest heroes disassembled - leaving a hole in the heroic fabric that keeps villainy at bay.

When Electro is hired to stage a breakout at the high-tech SHIELD prison The Raft, he plunges the city of Manhattan into darkness and frees eight-seven of the most dangerous super-criminals held under lock and key on the island!

Fate conspires to bring together a new team of Avengers to thwart the breakout! Former Spider-Woman Jessica Drew is on the island as an Agent of SHIELD, while Luke Cage was accompanying Daredevil Matt Murdock in his civilian identity of blind lawyer Matt Murdock.

When the breakout begins, the trio leaps into a fight for their lives! Joined by Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-man - the heroes begin to turn the tide against the escaping horde! One villain stands calmly among the rest, though, and he's about to use his powers of manipulation to turn Luke Cage against them all! Beware The Purple Man!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Luke Cage 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Purple Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Luke Cage 2 (Average)
Stamina: Luke Cage 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Luke Cage 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

It's not often Luke Cage is an underdog in a battle of wills, but when his enemy is attacking his very senses -- bulletproof skin can't help him!

Zebediah Killgrave is the villain known as the Purple Man: A Croatian spy accidentally exposed to a compound that turned his skin purple, and granted him the ability to emit a strange pheromone.

The Purple Man's intangible chemical secretion gives him total influence over a human subject - forcing them to obey his every command! So potent is the pheromone, and Killgrave's control over it, that he can target an individual in a crowd -- or marshal complete control over the entire mob!
Among Killgrave's grandest stunts: Subtly influencing most of the population of Manhattan in a plot involving X-Man. Uniquely strong-willed individuals have been shown to resist his influence, such as Dr. Doom and arch-nemesis Daredevil. The ion-powered Wonder Man was also immune to his pheromones.

Purple Man's most infamous and heinous deed was maintaining domination over the young heroine Jewel. He forced to live a degrading nightmare as his personal slave, until she was sent to destroyed Daredevil and mistakenly attacked Scarlet Witch and The Avengers. The ensuing battle left her in a coma.

Jewel is better known as private investigator Jessica Jones - future wife to Luke Cage! A personal connection that gives The Purple Man an added psychological weapon to use against the super-strong Power Man!

If it comes down to a battle of brawn, Purple Man doesn't stand a chance against Cage! Unfortunately, Killgrave's weapon can strike from a distance - ending the fight before it even begins!

As much as Cage is made of tough stuff, meditative mental training and finesse have never been his thing [eg; Power Man & Iron Fist #66]. He may be able to shake Purple Man's influence off, but at close range he could be vulnerable! The emotional raw nerve of Purple Man's past with Jessica Jones could work for him, but for a master manipulator like Killgrave, it's still a risky proposition!

Worse still - this fight takes place during a mass breakout at The Raft! Which means Killgrave has a small army of super-villains to call upon, many of whom are likely willing and able to do the dirty work for him without manipulation!

Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-man, Jessica Drew and Matt Murdock are also on The Raft island, but with several villains for every hero, Cage probably won't be able to rely on his fellow heroes! Does that spell doom for Cage? Let's cut the jibber jabber and get the hell on with it!

The Math: Luke Cage Ranking: Luke Cage (#9)

What Went Down...
A flood of inmates spills across Ryker's Island, fleeing The Vault for the salvation of freedom! A small group of heroes does their best to stem the tide. Amidst the chaos - a lone figure calmly surveys the darkened field: The Purple Man!

Fate would have it that the nearest hero is Luke Cage. With torn shirt and unconscious criminal in hand, he spots his violet observer. He's too close. It's too late. The Purple Man has him!

Cold and calm, Killgrave asks Luke Cage to kill the other heroes on the island, and then himself. It's the kind of confident request a man with the power to control others can make with impunity.

The heathen villain cites a high power's love as the source of his unlikely circumstance. A path from the Hell of imprisonment and Cage to greet him - contradictions to his lack of belief. The taunting logic of a sick man.

Cage turns in the direction of the ragtag group of heroes trying to stop the madness. His eyes go blank, but focus returns when Purple Man threatens his wife Jessica Jones, and their unborn baby. Killgrave has overplayed his hand!

The tables turn as Cage informs his would-be puppet master of the drugs The Raft employs to retard his dangerous powers. Drugs still limiting the effect of the pheromones that could otherwise control him. Purple Man's eyes go wide as the reality of the situation sinks in. Then it comes.

Cage unloads with a violent left cross that sends blood, teeth and Killgrave's apple flying through the air!

The rage of a loving husband and doting father surges through a fist as strong as steel! A vengeful right fired like a missile that hits Killgrave before he can even drop from the last one!

Incensed by vile acts of the past and the promise of future threats, Cage is unforgiving! He hits The Purple Man again and again and again!

Blood spatters, and Purple Man's face begins to swell and deform around the damage. Cage clutches the collar of his prison uniform to keep him close enough to take the beating.

A red glove catches Cage's flexing bicep before it rains down another punishing blow -- Captain America! "Enough", he says, calling the hero back through the fog of his rage. Cage relents with a thanks, leaving Killgrave to collapse.

The Hammer...
An emotionally charged episode occurring within the anarchy of The Raft breakout. With no uncertainty: Luke Cage emerges victorious!

The Purple Man and his threats obviously refer back to landmark 2003 issues of Alias, which revealed the secret history behind Jessica Jones' final days as super-heroine Jewel. That story is the basis for much of the recent live-action Netflix series Aka; Jessica Jones, which adapts the exploration of psychic violation as one of its principle plot lines.

It's heavy subject matter for an otherwise frivolous Avengers reboot, but the specifics are left unsaid in New Avengers, consistent with the darker Alias story only through the inference of those who would know it. For me, that's a tasteful balance between creating a consistent reality between the characters, and depicting the type of evil that defines a hero.

History will probably see these comics as products of a post-9/11 attitude. Darker than today. More calloused to the harsh realities of villainy, and intent on staring them down without flinching. I don't have a problem with the content or the style, but boy am I glad we did get back to being able to have fun - eventually!

It's interesting to look back on the New Avengers with ten years distance.

Bendis and Marvel editorial denied they were "JLA-ing" the Avengers with their revamp line-up. The all-star additions of traditional hold-out Spider-man and Wolverine made that denial seem particularly absurd, but to be fair, it was never a "Big Seven" mentality.

The Sentry may've been a suitable Superman stand-in, but he never escaped his status as an interloper in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Woman was an oddball choice pulled from the mothballs of Bendis' dreams, later revealed to be Skrull  long con: Queen Veranke. The less said about late arriving, fumbled gimmick Ronin (originally depicted as exo-skeletoned "Bubble Boy") - the better!

All in all, it was a far cry from the JLA! Which only became more true when Avengers pillars Captain America and Iron Man were used to split the team a year later in Civil War! Which actually went a long way to establishing a real identity for the New Avengers, who flitted between modern flavour, and aimless mish-mash before rebranding as urban rebels.

In all of this rejiggering, Luke Cage emerged from the New Avengers as a stand-out find! Where the revamp of '92 had failed to instill iconic qualities in the character and his adventures, opting for a non-descript solo action hero [eg; Cage #3]; New Avengers thrust Cage into the heart of the Marvel Universe as a means of further building an identity. With Jessica Jones, the self-serving Hero for Hire developed into a hero juggling lofty aspirations and domestic priorities.

Cage had been an odd fit in the original New Avengers line-up - another seventies spawned Bendis project, begun in the pages of Daredevil and Alias. He was much less left of field than Spider-Woman, having at least maintained relevance in books like the late nineties Heroes for Hire reboot, and the Marvel Knights team-up book. Nobody could've guessed he would organically grow into a viable leader of the team, though.

After the death of Captain America; Luke Cage did indeed become the leader of the Secret Avengers - a team that included Spider-man, Wolverine, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist and Hawkeye. A stand-out player in the Marvel Universe that we're now able to celebrate throughout the month of September!

Luke Cage is the latest live-action Netflix series, starring Mike Colter as the man with the unbreakable skin! If you haven't seen trailers yet, I strongly suggest you seek them out! The series goes live September 30th.

We've got one more stop on the Luke Cage express before September ends! We've seen him fighting alone and fighting with a team, in the next Friday Night Fights battle we see him fighting like we've never seen before!

If you'd like to see the entire Purple Man fight and the formation of the original New Avengers, be encouraged to take use the Amazon purchase link provided! Doing so helps keep the wars infinite!

You can also find many more battles featuring Power Man and friends by following links throughout this entry, or by checking out the Issue Index Archive! There you'll find hundreds of past battles!

Winner: Luke Cage
#9 (--) Luke Cage
#806 (new) Purple Man

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