The one complaint that Marvel (or major comics in general) gets is about their lack of diversity. Recently, with their success in films, the cry has been for more diversity. We now have Black Panther on the way and Captain Marvel, two films that cover part of the cry for diversity. However, if we delve below major films, and even before WB/DC gives Wonder Woman next year, Marvel has already given us two female heroes (Agent Carter and Jessica Jones). And now, Luke Cage takes steps into diversifying the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his own thirteen-episode series on Netflix.
Luke Cage follows the excellence that Netflix and Marvel has been giving viewers with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. These characters work in this format because they are able to take their time and tell their story in a much deeper, darker, grittier way that works in this format as compared to an over the top superhero film. What separates Luke Cage from the rest is that it brings us to a world not often seen unless you are looking for it. It’s perfectly paced while not dragging his origin along and allowing him to just evolve into the hero he is meant to be. It’s a very grounded series that reminds us of the past, present, and leaves us with some hope for the future.
Rich in African American culture, it stands out from the rest and allows the outside to peek in and see life through different lenses. We are taught about the streets, history, trust, loyalty, power, faith, hope and love all in a tale of a man who has spent countless years running to realize that it is time to step up. The characters all stand out and none are insignificant. We learn lessons from all and that is what makes this series extremely well done. If you are a hip-hop aficionado, then the soundtrack, score, and even an episode that features Method Man freestyling on Sway will hit home for you.
Set in Harlem, it has an old school gangster movie film (American Gangster, Hoodlum) with a new school feel. Harlem has a rich history that is often ignored because it is mostly a black community. I bet many don’t realize that the famous Apollo Theatre is in Harlem. But even though Harlem is mostly black, like anywhere in New York, it is very diverse and that’s what makes it a jewel within the concrete jungles of New York. The show does a great job in portraying the rich history and the pride that many from Harlem have. Do the research, and you will be amazed on how amazing Harlem is. The Jazz, oh man the Jazz in this series is top notch and again brings an appreciation and a nice salute to the Harlem Renaissance.
Of course, with all its richness, Harlem, like most cities, isn’t without its flaws. You will find corruption within Harlem just like you will find in Manhattan. And we see this in this series. Corrupt politicians, different high rolling gangs, corruption within law enforcement, the exploitation of a community; don’t be fooled, this doesn’t just happen on TV. We tend to think it, and surely this series has it all. It’s why it is so timely in a day and age where social tensions are at the highest they’ve been for years. Just because we don’t see corruption, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because laws and policies are not in place to oppress, doesn’t mean oppression doesn’t happen. Criminals don’t leave their communities to commit crimes; it happens within their own communities, and if the communities are handled by corrupt people, then the worst of it is what we see.
What this show really brings is the disconnect between the poor and middle class minorities as compared to the upper class and government. They aren’t really cared for, and like always the results are a disconnect between city council, law enforcement, and the people in the community. Those with power abuse it for what they feel is justifiable reasons. And no one takes responsibility for their actions. Sounds a lot like today, where everyone is pointing their fingers and shouting but no one is listening. You see, when it doesn’t directly affect us, we tend to think it isn’t really happening. But it does, and has been going for centuries. The mighty prey on the weak. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere…Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” Martin Luther King Jr.
*Spoiler warning-a certain aspect of the series is spoiled below, so you have been warned*
For Luke Cage, he wanted to be “normal” even though he was anything but “normal”. He wanted to live anonymously, but when you are called to something greater, you can’t run from it (ask Jonah). You have to keep moving forward. Luke finally decided to do something, at first for vengeance, but then he realizes that he has to be more. He takes it upon himself to take down the biggest “Mob” boss in Harlem, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. His efforts only result in Stokes terrorizing the community. Cage does all he can to basically give Stokes to the cops on a silver platter, but justice is not served (there’s that money, power, corruption thing again). However, Stokes meets his demise and Cage is framed for it. That’s when the real villain who was behind the scenes comes out. Willis “Diamondback” Stryker has a grudge against Cage. He is so obsessed with making Cage suffer and killing him that he never realizes that all he’s ever done is make Cage stronger. Cage wonders why his childhood best friend can hate him so much? What did he ever do to him? Well, Cage was born, that’s what. His preacher father wasn’t the Godly man he portrayed, and so Cage never knew he had an older brother. And here we are now, everything from Cage origin getting his powers, to being framed for multiple things has led them to a collision course.
Diamondback is the bastard child. He constantly quotes the Bible, but not because he views it as God’s holy word. Instead, he has read and marked up the Bible in a perverse way because of his hatred for his father, and the son he feels his father chose over him. Now, we can view the Cain and Abel aspect, but I see more of an Ishmael and Isaac aspect. One sent way because he wasn’t the heir. Now for sure, Cage’s father is no Abraham, but the conflict of the older brother growing to hate the younger is there. For all the things that Diamondback tries to do, he doesn’t realize that all he’s done is push Cage to his purpose. O’ Brother Where Art Thou, yes, where is he? Cage shows to be the brother that the community needed. Where the system failed to help, where corruption overflowed, Cage brought hope, love, peace and togetherness. He was a brother, he was their brother, he was one of them, he was what he always wanted to be and never realized he was….normal.