I think I speak not only for myself but for a lot of Marvel fans when I say I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever and a day for Luke Cage to get his just due. After so many failed attempts at a movie and series before, it seemed like he would never make it to the big or little screen. But thanks to the awesome people behind Netflix, we now have Marvel’s Luke Cage to watch in thirteen episodes of comic book action goodness that tends to drag in spots but still manages to have just enough action and a thought out story to be a “Sweet Christmas” for any that watch.
Taking place several months after the events in the Jessica Jones series, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is doing his best to lay low and keep his head down in New York’s Harlem. Things seem to be working out for him so far as he has a job cleaning up at a local barbershop that’s run and owned by Pops (Frankie Faison) who serves as a father figure to most of the people there and uses his shop to keep kids and teens off the streets and out of trouble. Despite things being fairly quiet and peaceful, it isn’t long before Luke in pulled into the middle of a criminal storm that’s brewing thanks to the local mob boss Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) who runs the club and pushes guns while his cousin Mariah (Alfre Woodard) is trying to run Harlem by running for Mayor and using the blood money Cornell racks in. This leaves Luke torn between keeping his head down or standing up and using his superhuman strength and bulletproof skin to make a difference for the city. Things get even more complicated once Cornell learns that Luke is trying to mess up his operations and decides to turn the city against him by making him look like a superpowered menace, which brings Detective Mercedes “Misty” Knight (Simone Missick) into the mix along with a lot of double-crossing and backstabbing that will keep Cage (and viewers) wondering what side is up until the end.
I really enjoyed watching this series as it had me hooked right from it’s 70’s funk style intro. While I like the show and all, I have to be honest and point out how it tends to drag a bit in places, mainly due to it trying to handle multiple plot lines and twists along with Cage debating on using his powers or just sitting on his hands. It works pretty well at first, but then it gets a little old after awhile with Cage flipping back and forth on wanting to be a hero or wanting to be normal. I get that a lot of superhero shows and movies do this, but this stretches out through nearly the entire series. Despite this, I still loved the overall story, how the show ties into the other Marvel series with references and cameos, and the many betrayals that happen throughout. There’s also plenty of race related topics that we all knew was coming with it being about a Black superhero. So expect racial profiling, racism, and the like as you watch, and it wouldn’t be complete without Cage donning a hoodie which tends to get riddled with bullet holes that later becomes a symbol of hope to people in the neighborhood.
There’s not as much action and combat as in the Daredevil series, but it does fare a bit better than it did in Jessica Jones. I did laugh out loud at how awesome it was whenever Luke slapped someone to knock them out or just outright kicked or threw someone through a wall, as the portrayal of his superhuman strength is displayed spot on with solid special effects. I also loved how they finally show what happens when a normal person tries to punch a superpowered being (let’s just say it’s not for the squeamish). The actors play their roles pretty good, especially with Rosario Dawson stealing the show with her Claire Temple character who is obviously going to be the one that ties all of these Marvel/Netflix series together. As a friend of mine pointed out, Mike Colter as Luke Cage is great and all, but he comes off like a Shakespearean actor playing an “urban” Black person. I totally understand that he shouldn’t portray a stereotype, but it can be hard to take him seriously at times as he’s supposed to be from the streets and yet he’s usually calm, calculated and soft spoken.
Despite it dragging tail at times and other nitpicky faults, Marvel’s Luke Cage is one of the better superhero shows out there. With a story that will keep you watching until the very end, a nice cast of characters, and some welcomed action in between, you’ll want to grab a bullet hole hoodie and clean up the streets with Cage until we join Netflix on the Iron Fist series which will lead to our Marvel heroes here becoming The Defenders we’re waiting on pin and needles for.