Though Marvel has mainly been known for its billion-dollar cinematic efforts, the studio's recent foray into television via Netflix has left fans stunned--in a good way. Last year, the streaming conglomerate debuted Daredevil and Jessica Jones to much fanfare, including several Emmy nominations for both and a Peabody award for Jessica Jones. The shows, set in modern-day Hell's Kitchen, have featured some notable crossover moments, so all fans of Marvel's Power Man comics were at attention when Jessica Jones introduced the character Luke Cage. Finally, earlier this year, Marvel announced that a Luke Cage spinoff series would debut this fall.
When we last saw Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, he was recovering from an explosion with the aid of Claire Temple, a Daredevil regular. The gruff bartender, played by Mike Colter, has bulletproof skin, super-strength, and a history with Jessica Jones, though the hero's solo series follows him as he tries to go incognito in Harlem, months after the events of Jessica Jones. When Netflix released the show's first official trailer last month - featuring thrilling fight scenes, a peek at the hero's backstory, and beautiful portrayals of Harlem - fans became even more hyped about the impending show. According to early reviews published today, it looks like they have every right to be.
Though Luke Cage doesn't hit Netflix until later this month, we've compiled excerpts from early reviews of the show for your reading pleasure. Don't worry, these snippets and their accompanying reviews are all SPOILER FREE. If you want to check out the full reviews, we've included links to each, along with the below excerpts.
Den of Geek! -- Mike Cecchini
Oh, and the tunes! The glorious tunes! This probably shouldn’t be a surprise considering that showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker wrote for Rolling Stone, Vibe, The Source, and XXL, but music plays the most active role in a superhero production since Guardians of the Galaxy. The show’s mix of rap, R&B gems, and deep blues cuts is tremendous (John Lee Hooker’s I’m Bad Like Jesse James is quietly used to extraordinary effect in one scene). Equally impressive is the original score by Adrian Younge (the Black Dynamite soundtrack) and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, which adds a perfect veneer of 70s style to the proceedings.
Comics Beat -- Kyle Pinion
One of the best aspects of each of Marvel’s Netflix offerings is the richness of their villains, as both Fisk and Kilgrave proved to be menacing and mostly multi-faceted creations that blow away their big screen counterparts, save for Loki. But again, both The Kingpin and The Purple Man are well-crafted characters that have much to draw from, regardless of how exceptional both D’Onofrio and David Tennant’s performances were. So when I say that Mahershala Ali’s Stokes is easily their equal, if not even more richly defined, that achievement is a both a credit to what’s on the script page and just what sort of meditative ferocity Ali is able to conjure behind this figure, who is at once terrifying and incredibly sympathetic. This is a character so rich that, while being the clear antagonist of the series’ machinations, one can’t help but be amazed at the moral gray tones that he’s swathed in.
Heroic Hollywood -- Andy Behbakht
If I were to describe Luke Cage with just one word: it would be soul. Not just the character of Luke, but the show itself with all of its characters, the story that it is telling and more. There is a lot of great and fun action because let’s face it, when you are dealing with a superhero who is unbreakable and super-strong, you are in for a treat. The tone of the series also do fit in quite nicely within the MCU, while being able to stand on its own, but again, definitely matches this big world that Marvel Studios has built.
Collider -- Allison Keene
Like we saw glimpses of in Jessica Jones, [Mike Colter] gives Cage a sense of reticence mixed with righteous defiance that hits all the right notes for a hero who uses his strength only as a last resort, and he does so in low tones and with a casual confidence. Though Cage isn’t always confident, he’s extremely principled with a magnetic charisma, making him a kind of Captain America to this ragtag group of vigilantes. Though he may struggle to define his heroism and what it means for himself and Harlem, there are no complications for viewers. He is the hero we’ve been waiting for.
According to critics, this show is groundbreaking in every way, from its much-needed representations of race to its reverent use of sound. Each review praises the show's ability to balance violence with levity, and notes that the show is considerably less gritty than its counterparts, in a good way. Introducing Harlem as a new setting adds a much-needed fresh environment to the MCU TV canon, and apparently it's been done impeccably. Harlem is iconic in its own right, yet introducing Cage's story in the upper Manhattan neighborhood amplifies his story, rather than overshadowing it.
Critics and viewers alike have noted the importance of a hero like Luke Cage today, when police shootings are a constant feature in the news. As a bulletproof black man, Cage represents something bigger than just a hero, yet the series allows him to be a complicated, multifaceted person. Fans can also expect more appearances by the much-beloved Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), as well as intriguing villains and a love interest who's more than just a love interest. On all fronts, it seems Luke Cage will set a new standard for superhero storytelling -- but, of course, we still have to wait and see what other fans think.
Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage season 1 will arrive on September 30th, 2016. The Defenders and Iron Fist arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, The Punisher and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.
Source: Various (see above)