It’s a great shame when the title story is outshone by a back-up strip used to pad out what would otherwise be just a three episode graphic novel, but that’s the case with Town Without Pity. It’s resolutely down to the art. Eric Canete has elected to draw the material almost as street art, with big exaggerated figures awkward when they hit each other as if in a video capture selected at the moment of maximum bodily distortion. It’s ugly, and the eye is drawn to way too many panels attempting to figure out the poses rather than skimming over them to take in the story. Canete also fails to pick up the leads in John Arcudi’s script for what should be amazing images, instead supplying bog standard pictures. Luke Cage fighting a tiger, how good should that be? Awesome, right? 220 pounds of solid bulletproof muscle facing off against nature’s largest predator! As drawn by Canete it looks as if Cage is glued to a starched rug. Pepe Larraz also illustrates some pages, and he’s more palatable overall.

Arcudi’s plot has an unusually introspective Cage heading to Philadelphia in order to repay a debt, but pretty quickly after arrival discovering the situation’s more complicated than he assumed. In order to justify the Avengers portion of the title there’s an otherwise pointless prologue with Ronin and Spider-Man beating up some man-hippo, before Cage faces off against a couple of Spider-Man’s villains, now set up in Philly. So little of the script’s humour comes through the poor art, with Cage alternately deadpan and gurning, but it makes a point. “My style won’t help anybody here. Even I can see that”, and works its way to an upbeat ending. With a different approach to the art it wouldn’t have been too bad.

The back-up by Anthony Johnston and Sean Chen features a charity fight, Daredevil’s ninja skills pitted against the brute force of Cage. There’s a good use of an idiot frequently featuring in Daredevil’s cast, and Chen deftly accentuates the difference between the lithe Daredevil and Cage’s bulk. The script is witty and unpredictable, and while not quite worth the cover price alone, as noted, it’s better than the title strip.

Archie Goodwin and George Tuska’s origin story for Cage is also reprinted, now dated in some respects, but still decently plotted in action thriller fashion, with credible motivation provided for all characters. Tuska doesn’t appear to be very interested in matters, with some slapdash pages, but the plot survives this, if being of its era.

‘Town Without Pity’ can also be found in the anthology Luke Cage: Avenger, where again it’s accompanied by better looking material.