Power Man #23 (1975)

The other day I blogged about an issue of Power Man written by the masterful Don McGregor. I was right to praise the writing of Dandy Don, but in doing so I disparaged the work of others, calling the series "desultory", among other, non-SAT words. Tony Isabella, who wrote many of those issues (and who also writes the wonderful Tony’s Online Tips these days) objected to my characterization. His objections pushed me to grab my copy of Essential Power Man and read a story that I remembered well from my younger days, a yarn called "Welcome to Security City." And whaddaya know? Tony was right. The story doesn’t have the poetic majesty of McGregor’s issues – but then Don was, and is, a unique writer. What this issue has is a nice bit of ’70s characterization and social satire.
 
Traveling cross-country on Greyhound to find his lost love Claire Temple, Luke Cage and his friend D.W. Griffith are passing though the desert when the driver mentions they’re soon going to pass a place called Security City. "Weird place, you know. They refused to let the bus company put them on the route, said they didn’t want any riff-raff stopping in their town for any length of time." Soon the bus, having strayed too far to the city, is attacked by a group of armed security guards. They shoot up the bus, killing the driver, and unleashing the wrath of a very angry Luke Cage: "I don’t usually play so rough, gents – but you just wasted my best friend and the driver of that bus – I figure you’re getting off easy!"
 
Luke and D.W. wander to the gates of Security City, as the captions describe it; "The community of the future, some say. Two hundred families nestled together in a safe, protected environment. You feel so safe that, after awhile, you don’t even notice the armed guards and the barbed-wire fences." The pair beat up the guards at the gate and wander into the town, only to be confronted by more and still more armed people. The story ends with a fairly predictible ending – the town is run by a bad guy – but the denoument is wonderful: the townspeople rebel against the authority, but, according to D.W., they get what they deserve: "When you really think about it, Cage, cities like Security City are a good idea. If you send all the jerks like Mace and all the clowns like the people who fell for his line of bull over there – maybe they’ll just go after each other and leave the rest of us alone."
 
This story is a wonderful satire of Americans’ never-ending quest for security. As such, it feels in many ways as fresh now as it did 30 years ago. The idea of trading personal freedom for personal security has great resonance in this era of the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay. 30 years ago, Isabella was asking readers to think about what we really wanted, what we were willing to trade for security.
 
So yeah, the McGregor issues were good. But the stuff that came before it was good, too. 
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