He was the superhero with whom Quentin Tarantino dreamed of making a movie. He was the superhero icon of blaxploitation (a cultural current in American cinema in the 1970s, putting African Americans first), benefiting from the title of the first African-American character to get his own comic series. He was the superhero who had made his way into Jessica Jones to the point of seeing the release of her advanced series, thus toasting her best friend Iron Fist. He is Luke Cage, and here is the criticism of his first season.
Luke Cage is a riskier series than Daredevil and Jessica Jones. The first is a superhero whose popularity is undeniable thanks to a foolproof charisma and memorable villains (not to mention the film with Ben Affleck that had introduced the character to the general public). The second had a great run of Brian Michael Bendis that allowed the latter to get two Eisner Awards. So much to say that the detective super-heroine was based on a more than solid material.
For his part, Luke Cage has rarely scored in his solo adventures. The character is never as bright as when he is related to other superheroes. For example with Iron Fist with whom he shares the poster series Power Man and Iron Fist and Heroes For Hire. Adventures that I have read almost nothing given their seniority. My only readings that involved Harlem’s superhero include Alias (Bendis’s series on Jessica Jones), New Avengers, and Thunderbolts. It is with enthusiasm that I embarked on this series based on a character of which I did not know much if not the outline from a Marvel encyclopedia.
What strikes from the start on the first episodes is the very blaxploitation side of the series. You really have to look for whites in the series and it’s nice! The African-American culture is very prominent via many references. This is not necessarily innovative, because Netflix had released a similar series a few months ago with The Get Down, but it can mark a real break from Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Anyway, the first two episodes of the series are a gem in the heart of Harlem whether through the sets or characters. By the way, Pop (Frankie Faison from Banshee) is a superb character. He embodies this dreamy Harlem.
Subsequently, the series will drop a little in rhythm, as if it hesitated to accelerate not to grill all his script until the end of the season. A complaint that I would address especially in the thirteen episodes format of Netflix.
Except that Luke Cage brings an excellent twist that upsets the stakes and brings an exciting second part much superior to the first, because it leaves us spans already seen in the other Marvel series of Neflix. So it is the surprise that prevails in this second half of the season, thus making the thing even more exciting. Note also the intelligence of the story that brings points that can hurt an indestructible superhero. Especially on the political side, one of the few points where Luke Cage’s powers are useless. This political side represented by the character of Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) allowed to exacerbate this feeling, so revulsive, of impotence.
There is also a police side via the character of Misty Knight (Simone Missick). With a tone sometimes close to The Wire (it’s especially blatant on an episode), the investigations of the inspector can thicken the police side of the series. A point also absent from other Marvel series. The care taken in writing makes the character of Misty really interesting because she is not without defects. And it is in her moments of weakness that she will be the most exciting. To note two excellent winks to his condition of super-heroine in the comics. Good news, the actress confirmed that she would come back for The Defenders.
In my humble opinion, Luke Cage does not reach the level of Daredevil which remains the best super-heroic series, but rises to that of Jessica Jones. However, the blaxploitation-rich series stands out enough from its super-heroic peers to bring its own cornerstone to the Netflix Marvel universe. Thus, everyone can have their own preferences and, obviously, viewing is essential.