The day before Luke Cage premiered on Netflix, Mike Colter was interviewed by Steve Wright on BBC Radio 2. On it, Colter explained that these shows take about six months to make, and urged people to take their time when watching, so they don’t have to wait as long for the next season.
Well, sorry Mike, but this show is pretty damn good. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
Luke Cage follows former police officer Luke Cage (formerly known as Carl Lucas), who was wrongfully incarcerated and later given the powers of super strength, unbreakable skin and accelerated healing. After the events of Jessica Jones, Cage moves to Harlem, but is dragged into the schemes of local criminal Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes, and encouraged to use his powers to put an end to the violence that is taking over Harlem.
Although there are similarities to previous Marvel Netflix shows (the two seasons of Daredevil and the aforementioned Jessica Jones), the main thing that makes Luke Cage stand out is its style. The show is rich with black culture; from the way the characters act and talk, to the objects seen around Cage’s apartment and the rest of Harlem.
Music also separates Cage from its predecessors. The soundtrack is fantastic, from the basic theme tune to the plethora of rap, soul and hip-hop songs that are filtered throughout the thirteen episodes. The show embraces music to such an extent that musicians such as Jidenna and Method Man (among others) make appearances and contribute their musical talent to the series, all of which really helps drive the show forward. Each episode is even named after a different Gang Starr song.
Furthermore, Harlem is as much of a character as Cage or any of the supporting cast; and in watching the show, you can really get a feel for the location and the love its residents have for it.
The actual characters are also all fantastic additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Mike Colter continues his standout charismatic performance from Jessica Jones.
But now we get a closer look at Luke; he’s strong, he’s thoughtful, he stands up for what’s right. Cage is an inspiring character, and following his journey throughout the season is a fulfilling watch. Also, watching him walk headfirst into gunfire and plow through criminals never gets old.
Antagonists Mahersala Ali, Alfre Woodward and Erik LaRay Harvey all shine as Cottonmouth, Black Mariah and Diamondback respectively. Each one of them brings a dramatically different villain, and each one of them is mesmerising and threatening while doing it.
Likewise, supporting characters like Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson’s Clare Temple also add a lot to the story. Misty Knight brings another much needed complex and badass female character to Marvel’s roster, while Dawson’s Temple really feels like her story is advancing leaps and bounds more than it did in the previous Netflix shows.
That isn’t to say it’s perfect; there are some instances where some of the writing feels a bit hammy; the revelation that Luke was formerly a police officer is pretty much dropped without any fleshing out straight after it’s mentioned in the origin episode and one of the later twists could be seen as a bit of a tired trope. But those are really minor quibbles in what is otherwise a fantastic series that comic-book fans, black people, or the casual viewer can find something to love about.
In short, Marvel have finally given black people their own solo superhero outing, and it really emphasizes why ‘black is beautiful’.
Created by: Cheo Hodari Coker
Dir: Paul McGuigan, Guillermo Navarro, Vincenzo Natali, Marc Jobst, Sam Miller, Andy Goddard, Magnus Martens, Tom Shankland, Stephen Surjik, George Tillman Jr., Phil Abraham & Clark Johnson
Scr: Cheo Hodari Coker, Matt Owens, Charles Murray, Jason Horwitch, Nathan Louis Jackson, Akela Cooper, Aida Mashaka Croal & Christian Taylor
Starring: Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodward, Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey & Rosario Dawson
Music: Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Luke Cage is out on Netflix now.