Photo: Courtesy of Netflix Media

Review: Marvel capitalizes on historical importance with ‘Luke Cage' starring USC alumnus

Marvel’s “Luke Cage” debuted on Netflix last weekend, marking the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first movie or show with a black lead character. Focusing on the titular character's attempts to save Harlem from corruption, “Luke Cage” proves the power of even a reluctant hero. 

Starring Mike Colter, Columbia native and USC alumnus, Netflix’s series follows the same basic formula as the previous Marvel programs but carves out its very own corner in the MCU with its portrayal of Harlem and the people living there and its focus on black culture. 

The show is acutely aware of America’s current civil situation, and many have pointed out the iconic status of a heroic yet hooded African-American impervious to bullets.

“It was important to me that we have a hero that was black — and he didn’t just happen to be black. His identity is a part of him,” said executive producer and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker. 

Although “Luke Cage” makes explicit allusions at times, Mike Colter said, "The show isn't just Black Lives Matter."

"That's not what the whole show is about," he said. "That being said, it will strike a chord with some people because you can't help not think about it. The people who are watching will tell us what having a bulletproof black man means to them." 

While “Luke Cage” starts slow and does not quite reach the heights of other Marvel shows, it is still a compelling series with relevant themes and a setting that many viewers have not experienced. 

Luke Cage, then Carl Lucas, was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit and was incidentally given invulnerability and super strength from an experiment gone wrong. Cage decides to become a “Hero for Hire” and starts going by the nickname of Power Man. He eventually teams up with his friend Danny Rand, also known as Iron Fist, who is due for his own Netflix series this March. 

This network show isn’t the first time Luke Cage has made history. Although a few black superheroes were created and debuted before him, such as Black Panther in "Fantastic Four #52"  and John Stewart in "Green Lantern #87,"  Cage was the first to have his own title. 

Introduced in 1972 in “Luke Cage, Hero For Hire” by Archie Goodwin, John Romita Sr. and George Tuska, Cage was meant to capitalize on the sudden emergence and popularity of the "Blaxploitation" genre. 

Since the 2000s, Cage has joined The New Avengers, married and fathered a child with Jessica Jones and even led a team of Avengers for a while, thus cementing his importance in the current Marvel Comics. 

“Luke Cage” might not have the punch of “Daredevil” or the psychological horror of “Jessica Jones,” but it is certainly worthy of your attention. Marvel has successfully brought one of their most important minority heroes to the screen, and if that doesn’t excite you, then I don’t know what will.



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