Tuesday, October 25, 2016

TV Review: Marvel's Luke Cage (2016)

Marvel's Luke Cage (2016) created by Cheo Hodari Coker based on characters by Archie Goodwin, John Romita Sr., and George Tuska

Luke Cage tries to lay low in Harlem. By day, he works at a local barbershop run by Henry "Pop" Hunter. Pop knows about Luke's powers (super-strength and bulletproof skin) and encourages him to use them for good. "Always forward, never backward" is Pop's mantra. By night, Luke works as a dishwasher at Harlem's Paradise, a club run by shady character Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. Stokes supports the business with some organized crime on the side, which he also uses to support his cousin Mariah Dillard, the local councilwoman who is trying to revitalize Harlem. Stokes doesn't know about Luke's powers which is best for everybody. The police are interested in taking down Stokes, especially when an illegal gun deal ends badly. Luke can't help but get mixed up in things, even though he constantly claims he doesn't want to be a hero.

Though set in the modern day, the show borrows heavily from the blacksploitation genre. The music and the score are reminiscent of 1970s funk and soul jazz. The story involves political corruption including corruption in the police department. It also centers on Harlem's identity and legacy for the African-American community. The hero is a young black man who's been wrongly convicted of a crime and has, at best, a complicated relationship with the police. Cage has a flashback to the prison days where he got his powers, so there's the prison drama and prison escape genres thrown in too. Marvel has done an amazing job of taking genre conventions and adding superheroes to great effect. With the genre tropes, the story has more grounding and familiarity, making the superhero antics more believable and fun.

The set-up is a little slow. The first two episodes have a lot of character introductions and situation establishment and not much action. The excitement picks up and the details are paid off in a complicated plot throughout the series. I found the show becoming more and more enjoyable. It's not as good as the first series of Daredevil, but it is up there.

Marvel's Luke Cage is only available streaming through Netflix.

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