by Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin
Collecting All-New Collector's Edition vol. 7 #56 (1978)
I grew up in the 90s, so I never knew who Muhammad Ali was. That Will Smith movie was pretty good from what I remember. This trade paperback collects the monumental issue of Muhammad Ali's bout with Superman for the right to protect Earth from an alien race (They fight under the light of a red sun, so Supes and Ali are on equal footing). It's really that simple, and it's equally historic, collecting figures from history who watch the fight.
Superman comes off as Superman, but I'm especially impressed at Muhammad Ali in the comics. You really get the sense that he's the "Louisville Lip," in the way he talks and makes speeches before a bout.
I never got to see this kind of stuff (and I never watch boxing anyways), so this really makes the comic stand out: the display and reverence for an American icon. I'm glad it's collected, because it is a landmark for comics and American culture.
Luke Cage: Noir ($10.94 Amazon, 112 pages)
by Mike Benson, Adam Glass and Shawn Martinbrough
Collecting the Luke Cage:Noir #1-4 miniseries
The place: Prohibition-era New York City! The man: Luke Cage is out of prison, only to find that his world has changed! His girlfriend is dead, and someone's murrrddeeerrreeedd a wealthy white woman philanthropist in Harlem! And people are accusing Luke Cage for her murder???
Cage plays a gritty private dick, shaking people down to find out about his girlfriend and clear his name! You do not get more noir than this, and you couldn't find a better Marvel character to put it in. The art is competent, but my real beef is with the story. It's incredibly dense and difficult to read. I had to re-read a bunch of lines just to understand it, and the dialogue goes overboard with Jazz Age slang. I mean,
"To make some real paper in Harlem, a shine needs 'im a Mr. Charlie in his pocket, one wit' a tin star -- even better.". . . . HUH? WHAT? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
For all its flaws, the ending is pretty good, creating the legend of a man that would be greater than the man himself. It wraps up the miniseries in a neat little package. If you're willing to read through some dense stuff, the end'll be worth your time.