Update: Buoyed by the initial critical response, Netflix has now rolled out a new clip for Luke Cage showcasing Mike Colter’s Power Man putting some goons in check. Have at it above!
Original story: The premiere has been dated, the episode titles are out in the open, and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker has been busy championing the musical tenets of Marvel’s new standalone series – yes, Luke Cage is barrelling down on its anticipated debut and already, the first wave of reviews are beginning to pour online.
They are, in short, overwhelmingly positive, and though in time they will only represent a small portion of the critical consensus, Marvel and Netflix could well have another hit on their hands when it comes to Mike Colter’s Hero for Hire.
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Pulled from Den of Geek, Comics Beat, Collider and Heroic Hollywood, it should be noted these snippets are all spoiler free, instead focusing on the general narrative of Luke Cage’s inaugural season, the music and Mahershala Ali’s performance as the show’s key villain.
Den of Geek: 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: 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: 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: 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.
After Daredevil season 2 introduced viewers to The Hand, Elektra and The Punisher earlier in the year, Luke Cage will hope to cap off Marvel’s 2016 TV slate in style when Cheo Hodari Coker’s series lands on September 30. It’s been championed as a significant departure from what has come before – and not just because it shifts the superhero action from Hell’s Kitchen to Harlem.
Stay tuned to We Got This Covered when we’ll have our own verdict of Luke Cage on the site closer to that September 30 premiere date.