Luke Cage Review: Marvel’s “Newest” Hero is a Bulletproof Black man in a Hoodie.
This past Friday, September 30, Netflix released the series premiere of Marvels most timely and relevant character yet—A bulletproof Black Man in a hoodie. (Click Here for the official Luke Cage trailer.)
Luke Cage, also known as Power Man, was originally introduced to the Marvel universe in the early 70s and, unlike his Black superhero predecessors, Black Panther and Falcon, Cage was Marvel’s first Black Superhero that starred in his own comic and now is Marvel’s first Black lead character since Blade, who’s movie trilogy started in 1998 and ended in 2004.
Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, was first introduced to us last year, in another Netflix original show staring Marvel super heroine, Jessica Jones, as her love interest. Since then he has taken his complicated love life and his indestructible body to Harlem, in order to escape his past and start anew— as a dishwasher and a barber shop employee.
The show revolves around Cage’s origin story, which was slightly altered from his original comic origin, and his new life in Harlem as a hardworking Black man just trying to blend in, but when you can lift washing machines with one hand and be shot at multiple times and come out perfectly unscathed it seems to draw attention— that and the fact that he is oh so fine.
In his comic book origin story, Cage was originally ex-Harlem gang member Carl Lucas. He was framed for drug possession and was sent to Seagate prison, where he was brutalized by the Sadistic prison guard, Albert Rackham, and was experimented on by the prison doctor, Dr. Noah Burstein, who was trying to replicate cell-regeneration based off of the super soldier serum. After the experiment had gone awry, do to the meddling of Rackham, Lucas gained superhuman strength and an almost indestructible body and escaped Seagate using his new powers and adopted the alias, Luke Cage. Cage became a “Hero for Hire” because unlike Tony Stark and the rest of the Avengers, Cage didn’t have a privately owned million dollar business or government funding to back him and was incredibly broke—especially since he had to keep buying clothes due to his old ones constantly being riddled with bullet holes.
In the series, Cage, who was an ex-cop wrongfully convicted instead of an ex-gang member, takes on criminal Kingpin, Cornell “Cottonmouth Stokes” (Mahershala Ali) after Harlem’s favorite Barber and community leader and the closest person Cage has to family, Pops, gets caught in the crossfire and falls victim to the retaliation of a failed gun deal lead by Cottonmouth’s cronies. As Cage soon becomes Harlem’s very own Captain America, he is not only under the watchful eye of Cottonmouth and his associates Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and Shades (Theo Rossi), but under the watchful eye of the beautifully melanated Detective, Misty Knight (Simone Missick), another strong Marvel heroine who’s detective skills are just as good as her skill’s on the basketball court (and as good as her twist out if I must say.) In addition to Cage and Detective Knight, our favorite Night nurse (who was also in Daredevil and Jessica Jones), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), made her appearance in the series not only as Cage’s medical aid, but one of his closest Friends, encouraging him throughout the show to use his abilities to better the community.
Despite the original origin being set in the 70s, Luke Cage is incredibly relevant and relatable to Black Americans and the issues Black communities face today. From prison injustices to underserved communities that fall victim to political corruption and crime— all these themes from 40 years ago are still awfully familiar.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mike Colter talked about how Cage went under slight costume modifications to draw attention to police Brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement; instead of wearing his iconic Yellow shirt, he wore a dark hoodie— a clothing item that, when worn by Black men, has been attributed to aggressiveness and seen as “thug” attire.
“It’s a nod to Trayvon, no question,” explained Colter. “Trayvon Martin and people like him. People like Jordan Davis, a kid who was shot because of the perception that he was a danger. When you’re a Black man in a hoodie all of a sudden you’re a criminal.”
“That’s something we shouldn’t have to deal with, but we do,” continued Colter, “We can’t cover out head when it’s cold and raining because God forbid someone sees us and puts our life in danger. We wanted to pay homage to that— it’s not something we were shying away from.”
Not only is Cage a bulletproof Black man in a hoodie, he is an intelligent, level headed, and powerful community leader and it was so nice to see such a beautifully written Black character as the Hero— not the sidekick, not the magical Negro, not forced into the funny or aggressive Black trope— but a real Hero who acknowledges his Blackness and takes pride in it, as you can see throughout the series when Cage talks about influential Black figures in American history.
From the music (which was heavy in retro soul and 70s funk), the clothes, the themes, the dialogue, to the many cultural “Easter eggs” hidden throughout the series—Luke Cage is an unapologetically Black show with well developed characters and an enthralling storyline. Creator Cheo Coker definitely outdid Jessica Jones and Daredevil when it came to all categories.
Although Cage won’t be the only Hero that represents Marvel’s POC audience— in addition to Misty Knight, this year alone Marvel has featured the Falcon as the New Captain America, RiRi Williams made her debut as the new Ironman (Ironheart), the smartest person in the Marvel universe is a 9 year-old Black girl named Lunella Lafayette, Mary Jane Watson is being played by Zendaya in the upcoming Spider-man movie, and the upcoming Black Panther movie is filled with a star-studded Black cast— Luke Cage is a brilliant start to incorporating diversity into the mainstream Marvel Universe. Sweet Christmas!