Luke Cage Review: A Great Comic Book Show or A Story Of Overcoming Race?
Luke Cage is the most recent addition to the Netflix’s Marvel Universe. Like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it uses its 13 episode season to show off a more down to earth view of heroism in New York. These shows don’t feature the usually flashy and loud team ups like the Marvel cinematic films do; they feature real characters who are just trying to clean up their part of town as opposed to save the entire world. This premise is what I think makes them so appealing because they feel more real; the characters get more time to be fleshed out and to bring us into the narrative. Luke Cage is no exception.
Luke Cage uses present day problems as a narrative piece to make it a superhero drama filled with relevant arguments on Black rights and related topics. These issues are actually one of the driving factors in the show. It adds some much needed diversity to Marvel and the comic book entertainment genre as a whole.
Luke Cage is set in present day Harlem. The backdrop of Harlem is one of the best parts of Luke Cage as both the beautiful landmarks coupled with a stellar soundtrack make you really feel like you’re in Harlem. At the heart of the show is a battle for Harlem. But, surrounding that are issues of race and what is right to preserve the legacy of Harlem. The show is often running on arguments of race, whether or not super-heroism is right and, at times, whether the mobs are right. These ideals often tend to bog down the comic book vibe and almost make it feel more like a drama about civil rights. The characters spend more time discussing their issues then acting on them and, at times, it can take away from the overall action appeal. While I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, I do feel that one is always taking away from the other.
When it’s good it’s great. The first half of the season definitely draws you in and keeps you excited. Mike Coulter’s portrayal of Luke is probably the best part of the show. He nails the stoic yet charmingly charismatic hero who is not certain about being a hero. Often times it’s his performance that keeps things going. The first half of the season is led by two compelling villains – mob boss Cottonmouth and his councilwoman cousin Mariah Dillard. Their constant struggle on getting ahead of the gangs of Harlem while trying to deal with the meddlesome Luke Cage makes for a compelling story that does a good job of keeping you interested in the villain. Creating compelling villains is something Marvel has struggled with. So, it was nice to see this real and conflicted set of villains. This reason is why the final villain of the season, Diamondback, felt almost a little underwhelming.
There are plenty of Easter egg moments in this show and it was awesome to see these and get excited about callbacks to Luke’s history in comics. I feel, though, that the modern look they went with fits in perfectly with the tone of the show. The character of Misty Knight is a great addition to the Netflix roster of characters and should prove to be a great supporting character. While Claire Temple’s return just proved that her character is still great and makes for a good connective character.
All in all Luke Cage is a great addition to Netflix’s roster of New York heroes. While the superhero side of the show is often held back by the constant discussion of race and how to fix Harlem, it never fully takes away the entertainment value. It’s a great watch and is a must see for Marvel/comic book fans.
For all things comic related come back here every week. Until next time, remember to stay nerdy my friends.
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Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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