Luke Cage is premiering on Netflix in just a few weeks, and it's one of the most highly anticipated shows of the fall. But will it live up to expectations? According to the first reviews, it absolutely does, and in many ways exceeds them. It might even be the best series we've seen from the Marvel/Netflix partnership so far—although there's naturally some disagreement there.
Comics Beat called it hands-down the best Marvel/Netflix series so far, with a more complex morality scheme, better-integrated supporting players, and more consistent pacing. They claimed that it plays something like a sequel to Jessica Jones, but where JJ had a few glaring flaws, "Luke Cage is, without fail, exceptional on all fronts."
However, that's a very tall order, since there's so much love for both Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Den of Geek disagreed, and says that while Luke Cage is great, it doesn't have quite as much of a hook as either of its predecessors:
"Luke Cage lacks the eye-popping martial arts choreography of Daredevil or the heart-pounding psychological terror of Jessica Jones. The night-time seediness of the Marvel's fictional version of Hell's Kitchen is replaced by the summery daytime promises of NYC's resurgent Harlem neighbourhoods. But like its predecessors, Luke Cage boasts an excellent cast, tremendous atmosphere, and a willingness to go places that other Marvel
Studios productions can't. And it brings a few fun twists to the party, too."
However, other reviews seem more balanced, and essentially claim that each show is great in its own way, and that there's almost no comparing them. All of the reviews agree that Luke Cage has its own distinctive voice, and that it's exploring a different perspective and a different part of New York City. Here are seemingly even-handed analyses from 411 Mania
"Once again, Marvel Studios achieves sterling results with its line of darker, edgier Netflix shows. However, just as there's a lot of appeal for the live-action Daredevil and Jessica Jones
shows that are quite different from Marvel's theatrical features, Luke Cage stands apart from the pack with its own unique identity. In fact, Luke Cage is, in many ways, just as different from the previous Netflix shows as Daredevil and Jessica Jones are from existing Marvel Studios efforts. It's here where Luke Cage truly shines with a style and attitude that is all its own.
"One of the best things about Marvel's growing set of series on Netflix is how each has managed to create its own distinct feel while not straying too far from the overall tone. Daredevil is dark, literally, and contains some of the universe's most grisly violence, while Jessica Jones' narrative bleakness is tempered by a bright banter. Luke Cage is smooth and deliberate, with Cage himself (Mike Colter) fighting to move both himself and his neighborhood into the light. All three protagonists struggle with the idea of heroism... But they do, each finding their own way to a path that will, eventually, bring them all together with Iron Fist
for The Defenders."
There's also some disagreement about Luke Cage's much-touted social conscience. Comics Beat says that it lives up to those expectations as well, and explores many issues that are extremely important in this day and age:
"Much like Jessica Jones is a show with a very specific point of view (that of a woman), Luke Cage takes a look at black culture head-on. In between its more high-octane sequences, Coker and the writing staff tackle some truly heady stuff, including black identity, class conflict, inner-city crime, civic pride, and life after imprisonment... In a set of years where we've come to see that we really don't live in a post-racial America, this is a series that needs to be seen. Coker's perspective is invaluable and the clarity of his voice rings through at all points."
claims that the description of the show as Marvel's version of The Wire is fairly accurate:
"Colter has described the series as Marvel's version of The Wire, which is bold yet in many ways apt. It's an intimate portrait of street life, detailing not only the inner workings of the crime syndicates, but also the beleaguered police, sleazy politicians, and the young people in the community who see guns and drugs as an easy way to make money."
says that while there is some social commentary, they also say (offensively, in my opinion) that the show doesn't "alienate the audience" by seeming like "solely an urban series," or "min[ing] current events surrounding police violence."
So in other words, it's black, but not TOO black. Good to know.
By all merits, Luke Cage will usher in a wave of neo-blaxploitation films that can balance modern hip-hop culture with homage to the original genre. But Luke Cage also manages to never alienate the audience by making this a series aimed at a particular demographic. Some viewers will definitely relate to the setting and subject matter more than others, but everyone is going to be rooting for Luke when he kicks the bad guys asses.
There will inevitably be some racism surrounding the reception to Luke Cage, just as there was sexism surrounding the reception to Jessica Jones. But there's one thing everyone can agree on: the soundtrack is to die for.
"Luke Cage undoubtedly has the best soundtrack ever conceived for any Marvel project to date. Music is a major part of the show's identity and really helps Luke Cage stand out in a satisfying way. The original music composed by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad is evocative of 1970s Blaxploitation-era pictures." - 411 Mania