Speech Bubble Burst

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Speech Bubble Burst brings you the finest in 'urban' comics this week - Marvel's latest addition to their 'MAX' mature readers imprint, Cage, and Wood and Weldele's funky, punky New York tale, Couscous Express. Endulge on this rich feast of street cool, brought to you by Street Bubble Burst, and be sure to keep an eye open for what gems might be out next week!

Cage #1

  • Published by Marvel MAX, written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Richard Corben.
  • £2.15 / $2.99

The character Luke Cage achieved prominence in the Marvel universe by being one of the very few black superheroes when he was created a couple of decades ago. Since then, black street culture has not just entered the mainstream, it has positively flourished. High time, then, that this hitherto somewhat token character should get a makeover.

And here it is; Brian Azzarello's scripting, much as it is on the award-winning 100 Bullets, is gritty and urbane, and uses the greater creative freedom afforded by the 'Mature Readers' MAX imprint to its full. It feels relatively fresh, funky and up-to-date for a mainstream comic, and has some genuinely well-crafted dialogue.

However, what is fresh in a comic is not necessarily going to be any sort of great cultural revelation. Cage, based on the first issue, seems to be dredging up every black 'gangsta' cliché it can - ghettoes, pimps, dealers, lowlives, guns and basketball. This is ground covered in repetitive detail in any one of a hundred films.

Richard Corben's detailed art is striking, and captures the 'Hood' atmosphere perfectly, and manages a realistic portrayal of black characters, which has been a big issue for many comic readers for years. Hopefully this should go some way towards answering the occasional accusation that comics are a white-dominated industry; it's something of a shame, then, that this particular title doesn't seem to cover any new ground.

Couscous Express

  • Published by AiT/PlanetLar, written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Brett Weldele.
  • £8.99 / $12.95

Read this carefully, as it may seem strange at first: Scooters are officially cool. Middle Eastern takeaway food is officially cool. Rollerblading couriers are officially cool.

Why is this so? Because Couscous Express features all of them. And Couscous Express is decidedly Very Cool Indeed. It features the adventures of brattish New York delivery girl Olive Yassin and her courier boyfriend Moustafa as they strive to protect Olive's parents' Mid-Eastern restaurant from nasty fez-wearing gangsters.

Brian Wood's script bubbles with funky energy, as what seems initially to be a simple tale of a spoilt 16-year-old escalates into full-scale automatic gun battles raging around New York streets. With scooters. Yes, it is a little silly in places, but that's half the fun - it's a 'pop' comic. The main characters (Olive, Moustafa and Moustafa's courier partner, Special) are vibrant and well realised, never having to resort to any sort of clichéd dialogue or description.

Brett Weldele's frenzied black-and-white artwork captures this 'pop' feeling nicely, being energetic and using Roy Lichtenstein-style 'zipatone' dot shading nicely. It is perhaps a little rough and confusing in places, but it keeps the story charging along at such a pace that these moments aren't too conspicuous.

Definitely worth checking out.

What To Look For Next Week:


  • Alias #7 - The continuing 'super-noir' adventures of Jessica Jones, PI

Image Comics

  • Red Star #8 - Soviet battle-witches get caught in futuristic guerilla warfare in this 'alt-fic' tale
  • Powers #18 - The best duo in comics, Detectives Walker and Pilgrim, investigate more cases of super-homicide


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