Marvel has done fans proud with every new TV adaptation, from the surprising twists in Agents of Shield to the next-level fight sequences in Netflix’s Daredevil. However, much like Jessica Jones, which touched on everything from PTSD to consent, Luke Cage has tackled a number of real, raw and current issues head-on, with the kind of power that could rival its titular hero, making it all the more moving and significant to watch.
Luke Cage finally made its debut this weekend, with many fans clearing their schedules to watch one of comic history’s most influential black characters come to life for the second time (Cage also made an appearance in Jessica Jones). Thanks to the careful guidance and expertise of showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker (Notorious), the series is set to have the kind of cultural impact reserved only for the best of the best.
Starring Mike Colter, Luke Cage picks up after the events of Jessica Jones, and finds our hero trying to live his life on the down-low. However, when his past catches up to him, and some unsavoury figures in Harlem start a war, Cage must step up and fight for the heart of his city.
There’s a lot of fuss over in Luke Cage. The primarily black cast makes the show a rarity in television, not to mention its inclusion of kickass female characters (who also happen to be women of colour). Rosario Dawson really comes into her own here, and is crucial to Cage’s fight against evil, while Simone Missick, who plays Misty Knight, is uncompromising in her portrayal of the determined detective. My hat really goes off to the wonderful Alfre Woodard (Mariah Dillard), who balances power hungry politician, concerned cousin, and occasionally frightening individual with expertise.
Speaking of supreme talent, Mahershala Ali is a revelation. Playing crime boss and sometimes legitimate businessman Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, Ali is without a doubt one of the breakout stars of Luke Cage. With a commanding presence that often steals the show, Ali has created a worthy villain with his outstanding performance. But it wouldn’t be Luke Cage without Mike Colter, who is a real force to be reckoned with. Watching this man fight is so much fun, but the many softer moments we’re treated to are even better, particularly as we learn more and more about Cage’s past.
Hip hop fans are guaranteed to love the soundtrack too, which is not surprise considering Coker is a former music journalist. The decision to hire DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Adrian Younge to score the series proved to be a smart one, and really added to the overall tone and Harlem setting.
Although the series could have benefited from having fewer episodes and a tighter storyline, there were only a handful of moments I found myself not completely wrapped up in Cage’s journey. There’s something refreshing about seeing a black, bulletproof superhero saving his own community, fighting against a deeply flawed system, and coming into his own while rocking a simple hoodie. No sparkle and shine was necessary here: Luke Cage delivers three-dimensional villains, romance, touches of comedy, gritty action, and a hero worth rooting for.