Well, the results are in: Marvel’s struck Netflix gold once again with Jessica Jones, delivering yet another stellar superhero series. Things kicked off last year with Daredevil, as we got our first look at the studio’s ambitious plans for its shared universe on the streaming service. Instead of simply another arm of the Avengers storyline though, what we got was something entirely more profound.
[Update, 7/22/16: Added ‘Luke Cage’ teaser that premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 (see below).]
Daredevil gave us an insightful commentary on the nature of good and evil, reviving a hero that many thought could never grace our screens again following the 2003 movie disaster. Not to be outdone, Jessica Jones told the all too real story of how our society looks at victims of abuse. Numbering themselves as two of the best new shows of 2015, they still represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of Marvel’s Netflix universe. Still to come in 2016, Luke Cage is next in line, starring Mike Coulter as our titular hero. With both of the show’s predecessors dealing in some fairly heavy thematic material, the question now is what direction will Luke Cage take us in next?
The answer to this could be rooted in the comic book history for the character. Luke Cage first appeared in 1972, as part of the Blaxpoitation movement taking over the entertainment industry in the early ’70s. Since then, the character has seen something of a spotted history, having consistently existed right on the fringe of cancellation. With roots in a film movement the NAACP actively opposed in its latter years, Netflix’s Luke Cage has the chance to round out Marvel’s streaming world with a nuanced commentary on race. With Jessica Jones having already tackled gender equality and abuse, Luke Cage‘s place in the Netflix canon as well as its Blaxpoitation history make it eminently qualified to take the next logical step thematically.
[Update, 8/9/16: Added first full-length trailer (see below).]
It’s hard to ignore the fact that when Luke Cage debuts on September 30, it’ll be the first superhero TV show of the modern era led by a black actor. That being said, defining the character primarily by his race would only double down on the problems with the original character in the early ’70s. Jessica Jones showed us that Cage could exist not simply as “the black superhero in the Marvel Netflix canon,” but more significantly as “a superhero that also happens to be black.”
In terms of the origin story, there’s plenty of material to form an interesting story. Cage spent his formative years in and out of prison, volunteering for a genetic enhancement experiment as a sort of “nothing left to lose” move. The experiment gifted him with invulnerability and super-strength, leading him to a life a crime-fighting alongside his close friend, Danny Rand (better known as Iron Fist). Together, Rand and Cage started “Hero for Hire,” saving anyone in need with deep enough pockets to meet their prices.
The Hero for Hire narrative alone is enough to carry a story. What would be the consequences of super-powered beings hiring out their services for money, rather than the Avengers’ decidedly more selfless approach? How will that tie in the with noir aspects of Jessica Jones, as well as the rigid morality of Daredevil? Hell, all this is without even acknowledging the fact that Luke and Jessica Jones have a child together in the comic books. These are all questions that Luke Cage could potentially answer as Marvel continues to round out its Netflix universe. The studio has already shown us two of its best properties ever made thanks to the streaming platform, and with the bar set at astronomical levels, we have high hopes for Luke Cage this fall.
[Update, 7/18/16: Added poster.] Netflix released it’s first official poster at Comic-Con below:
Luke Cage premieres on Netflix on September 30, 2016.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest