By Lance Jordan, Sports Editor
Netflix has premiered a new Marvel superhero series titled “Luke Cage,” starring Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, and Theo Rossi. The 13-episode series is what fans of Marvel’s television universe have come to expect from the company. It is filled with action, laughs, and social commentary relevant to issues in today’s society.
Those unfamiliar with Mike Colter’s performance of Luke Cage in the Marvel Netflix series “Jessica Jones” shouldn’t feel discouraged. The show provides an introduction that invites the viewers to learn the origins of the troubled Luke Cage, noddingto his comic history for the fans and bringing something new at the same time.
Luke Cage is a man running from his past, having been wrongly convicted for a crime he did not commit and hiding his incredible gifts of being super strong and bulletproof. He is an African-American male who is impervious to bullets. This social commentary is phrased best in Method Man’s cameo in the finale: “There’s something powerful about seeing a black man that’s bulletproof and unafraid!” The show, through direct themes or indirect messages, is not afraid to address the state of affairs in America, especially racism. Black Lives Matter seems to be the main issue of the series, with the hoodies worn by Luke Cage being a tribute to Trayvon Martin. Other issues include equality and freedom in the black community.
The first half of season one is the strongest part of “Luke Cage.“ Luke Cage wrestles with his past while struggling to come into his role as Harlem’s powerful super hero. Cage’s story could have easily been condensed, as the plot seems to stretch on too long as it heads into the second half. Villains Cottonmouth, played by Mahershala Ali, and Mariah, played by Alfre Wodard, are well-developed characters that drive the first half of the story forward. By the second half, Luke Cage’s self-doubt becomes a bit of a nuisance. The villain in the second halfDiamondback, played by Erik LaRay Harvey—is corny, cartoonish, and lacks the depth that Cottonmouth and Mariah brought to the show.
For comic book fans, the show has a lot of Easter eggs that reference comics, TV shows, and the movies. We get to see Luke wearing a yellow top and tiara, a nod to the original comic design for the character. Rosario Dawson’s Claire speaks numerous times about her lawyer friends—a reference to Marvel’s Netflix series “Daredevil.” And the show references the final battle in the “Avengers” movie as the ‘Incident’.
Though labeled a super hero show, “Luke Cage” remains grounded and as real (as possible). It never goes over the top such as other super hero television shows like “The Flash” on CW. Luke Cage has his abilities but the scenes with him displaying them are not overdone. During the second half, Misty Knight, played by Simone Missick, has her arm shot, which could have opened it up to the comic storyline, in which it is replaced for a robotic arm. However, the show choses to not pursue the comic storyline (at least not yet) in favor of being realistic.
While it can be argued that “Luke Cage” does not top Marvel’s other Netflix properties, mainly due to the show’s struggle to keep the viewers interest in the second half, “Luke Cage” is still a fantastic first season. The show offers something new to comic fans, while providing nods to the source material. I can’t wait to see Luke Cage’s return for the “Defenders” series in 2017 and even possibly a second season of his own series.