Marvel’s bulletproof Luke Cage is a hero for our times

Harlem’s own superhero, played with charisma by Mike Colter, is the ‘most normal’ of Marvel’s pantheon of good guys

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 4:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 October, 2016, 5:32pm

Harlem’s got a new superhero, and he’s the baddest man on the block.

Netflix’s Luke Cage brings together what Marvel does best: Mike Colter’s good guy could probably hold his own against the Hulk, and he has the emotional depth of Daredevil or Jessica Jones.

Former hip hop journalist Cheo Hodari Coker looked to his roots for Marvel’s Luke Cage

But Cage has the added appeal of timeliness, as a black man stands up for what’s right, even when he’s being shot at and his neighbours sometimes would rather he not stir up trouble.

After a brief introduction in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, Luke has moved from Hell’s Kitchen to Harlem, where he’s working a number of jobs and has good reason to stay under the radar, though his barbershop boss Pop (Frankie Faison) tries to inspire him to do the right thing. Obviously, anyone who’s super-strong and bulletproof could probably help out around the community.

He gets a chance soon enough when local gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (a sublimely vicious Mahershala Ali) throws his weight around after a gun deal goes wrong, and a lot of his pull goes toward helping his ambitious politician cousin Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), who wants to maintain Harlem’s African-American status quo. “For black lives to matter,” she says, “black history should matter.”

Cage mines the cultural roots of the comic-book character’s blaxploitation beginnings, and weaves in elements of crime dramas such as The Wire. A lot happens in the first seven episodes made available for preview of the 13-episode season – gang warfare, corrupt cops, big twists, wanton destruction by way of a bazooka, plus origin stories for our hero and both of his major foes.

The success of the show firmly rests on the burly shoulders of Colter, (The Good Wife), who comes into his own as a bona fide star. He looks like a guy who could shake off having a building dropped on his head, but physical presence aside, Colter is full of charisma.

Cage is Marvel’s best TV series yet, but more importantly he’s the superhero that the world seems to need most right now, mainly because he’s the most real.