The Netflix Marvel Universe increases with Luke Cage, the third series from Netflix after Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and one featuring a character who has hardly set the world of comics alight over the decades.
This series spins off Jessica Jones where Cage (played by Mike Colter) played a crucial part of it, and the first episode of Luke Cage takes places some months after the events of Jessica Jones, which you’re probably best having watched before settling down to this as there’s a plot-thread involving Cage’s dead wife that spins from that series into this not to mention there’s a returning character in episode five that links all the Marvel Netflix series so far.
Luke Cage starts glacially in pace. The first episode revolves round Pop’s, a barbershop in Harlem in New York where Luke sweeps hair for Pop, a reformed criminal who tries to help the neighbourhood kids and keep them out of trouble. It feels like an American version of Desmond’s and all of the characterisation is nice, but like much of the first episode, it goes on too long. When Luke Cage does get going with the second episode it moves forward at a blistering pace in the second to fifth episode as we see how Luke moves from a man reluctant to use his powers, to one embracing them to help Harlem and stop the gangster Cottonmouth from his dastardly plans.
Out of all the series so far, this is the most openly superheroic. Luke’s almost like a Superman sweeping in beating up baddies and rescuing old women from rubble, and it’s also nice to have a superhero discussing literary works from a more working class background rather than being a brilliant scientist and/or a billionaire. Also the soundtrack is spectacular here as well as helping drive on the story to the point where at times it nearly feels like a musical. In fact there’s an idea. a Marvel musical?
So far so good on the whole. Mike Colter makes a great Cage, supported by a strong ensemble cast, though there are problems. The main villain so far is a bit too like The Kingpin, and then there’s the pacing which switches from frenetic to glacial, but this is promising, and yes, there is an origin episode which contains a moment that is simply glorious if you’re a fan of the character from the 1970’s.