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Luke Cage: Marvel and Netflix's Next Big Deal
With the premier of Netflix and Marvel TV’s third collaboration scheduled for Sept 30. A lot of my less comic book inclined friends have been asking who is Luke Cage and why is he getting his own show despite the hundreds of fascinating and better known characters on Marvel’s roster. Here is a look at some of the avenger’s fictional back story and why I think he makes an excellent addition to Netflix’s street level crime fighters.
Another Super Soldier
Luke Cage fits very nicely into the MCU Marvel has developed ever since they released “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Just like Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Deathlok, Abomination and the Hulk, Cage’s abilities are the result of yet another mad scientist trying to replicate the Super Soldier Serum that gave boney little Steve Rodgers his Chris Evans muscles, but just like his avenging counterparts, something goes wrong with the formula and Cage becomes a knock off of the Star Spangled Avenger. It isn’t all bad though. Unlike Cap, Cage gains indestructible skin to go along with his Colossus level strength. Although this Super Soldier-centric approach to explaining away the abilities of its heroes is more akin to Marvels Ultimate’s universe than to its mainstream universe, it is far more believable than the world just so happens to be filled with mad scientists who somehow have access to the theoretical billions of dollars of funding required to make super powered people. Government programs making “special people” allows Marvel to create as realistic a representation of these demi-gods as possible, which is what they have been going for from the beginning with a Dare Devil who face plants when jumping across rooftops and Jessica Jones who’s PTSD is an ever present real world problem for her to tackle. His super soldier origin alone makes him an easier creative fit for the Defenders than the other 300 plus Avengers on Marvel’s current roster whose origins range from magic, which they won’t get into until “Dr. Strange” comes out in November, and mutants, which they can’t do because Fox STILL owns the rights to the X-Men.
Subversive Social Commentary
Cage’s source material is about a young black man who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, became a small time crook, founded a street gang and was eventually sent to jail where he was used as a lab rat and gained his powers. If his origins sound like a cliché… that’s because he is to modern readers, but when the character was first developed in 1972 he was introduced to a nation that was still reeling from the civil rights movement. Luke Cage was one of the first literary works that tried to shine a spotlight on the economic struggles of African Americans that lead to and still leads to their recruitment in gangs and criminal culture. Coupled with the abuse he suffers from a racist corrections officer and the experimentation he undergoes serving as a hat tip to the unethical and shameful experiments African Americans endured even in the 20th Century, Cage was Marvel’s way of showing the world, this is why black men turn to crime and are then exploited.
Long after Cage escapes prison in the comics, he decides to turn himself into a hero for higher and use his powers to make a profit. While it seems like this is a character whose moral compass is bit twisted, there is a deeper subtext to his story that revolves around his family, and his eventual redemption as a way of making his father proud. Although his run was not successful enough to maintain his own series, he garnered enough of an audience to be included in Marvel’s Defenders comics and eventually becomes an Avenger. I’m Not 100 percent if his origin story from the comics is going to flushed out in the upcoming series but if Netflix continues the trend from “Jessica Jones” and “Daredevil,” I foresee at least a few flashbacks to what will most likely be nightmarish/ gruesome and violent prison scenes.
He’s Besties with the Established Crew
If subversive social commentary isn’t your thing, which is funny because the entirety of the MCU is carpet bombed with the stuff, have no fear. From a purely story telling perspective the only other late-night-underwear-on-the-outside man that would fit into Marvel TV’s vision is Moon Knight, but I think one psychotic Marine and a PTSD ridden emo chick is enough crazy… for now. His ties to Jessica, who his graphic lit counterpart eventually marries, were made pretty clear during their throw downs, in and out of the bedroom, in “Jessica Jones.” This was one of the better decisions Marvel has made in my opinion. By introducing him as the man he becomes rather than the street thug he started as, and adding a sob story about a dead wife to the mix, they made Cage a much more relatable character to a much broader audience, but the established connections don’t end there. Claire Temple, AKA the Night Nurse, patches him up during the series, who is also a former love interest of the hero for higher, and comic book Cage eventually becomes Matt Murdock’s closest friend, which ties the relationships between Daredevil and Jones for the upcoming “Defenders” series. Regardless as to whether or not you are a fan or ever even heard of Luke Cage/ Power Man prior to his Netflix debut, Marvel TV has done such a spectacular job with their established cannon that I predict nothing but five stars for the upcoming and welcomed addition to the MCU.