SYNOPSIS: Luke Cage is tracking down some of the wayward criminals who fled the Raft after the jailbreak during Fear, Itself. First up the Enforcers’ Fancy Dan and the Ox; who are hiding out in a bar in Harrisburg, PA. After their capture, the trail leads Luke to an abandoned church in D.C. where he believes Soundwave is holed up… but once there the trap is sprung, and Mister Fear infects Cage with his hallucinogenic drugs; and delves into Cage’s darkest fears about his Thunderbolts. Meanwhile, back at the Raft, Songbird and Mach-V must suffer the return evaluation of F.A.C.T. (Federal Advisory Committee to Thunderbolts); who are most displeased with the recent escaped "Underbolts". Worst still, under Songbird and Mach-V’s watch, they allowed the ONLY remaining convict, Ghost; to travel through the Asgardian portal and join the escapees back in the past. But this conflict of opinions in how events have come to be, opens old wounds, and soon both Abe and Melissa are calling F.A.C.T.’s bluff, in regards to the team, redemption and previous members the committee has assigned them… namely Crossbones
THOUGHTS: I’ve always enjoyed Jeff Parker’s one-and-done issues focusing on a specific cast member. First we had Ghost, then Man-Thing, next Songbird and now Luke Cage. Both Ghost and Man-Thing moved the characters forward, expanding their history and where the future lies for them; and for a brief moment I truly thought that would happen here… and maybe if Parker had full control over Cage (rather than Bendis) it would have. Regardless, it felt cheap to have such a beautiful (and it WAS beautiful) moment of Cage, tears in his eyes, holding the body of Janice; whom he believes he just killed; robbed by a gimmick of “oh, it’s okay ‘actually’ Mister Fear already killed her.” I was very disappointed BUT that doesn’t stop this being a great issue (and I’d happily see Mister Fear return to cause the Thunderbolts and Cage some grief). Two major story-threads were expanded this issue: firstly Ghost is NOT (as I theorized) stuck in intangible form, but safely spying on the "Underbolts" AND reporting back to Songbird and Co. via very delayed bank services in London. So Ghost seems quite reformed, and I believe a lot of what Ghost sees will influence him in defending the "Underbolts" once they inevitably return. The second is Songbird (and Abe) seem to become less and less enamoured with the Thunderbolts program. Melissa especially is giving off the impression she doesn’t believe the program is fighting to redeem these convicts… will she step in and take charge of the escapees, even if it means going on the run again? As always Parker's writing is sharp and clever; and you never truly know where he'll go next with the story (which adds to the excitement in this comic; he could literally do ANYTHING to all but Cage; and no other writer would interfere). For Cage fans, this is a MUST READ! I've not read a Luke Cage this enjoyable since back when Bendis was using him in Daredevil.