Marvel has done it again. Luke Cage is the next Netflix Original series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The titular character may not be a household name, but viewers will know him if they watched Marvel's Jessica Jones. An alternate version of Luke Cage also appeared on the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. Similar to Daredevil and Jessica Jones, both on Netflix, Luke Cage delivers a gritty, no-holds-barred story with plenty of action and character development. Having watched the first seven episodes, it's clear the quality we've come to expect is maintained for this little corner of the Marvel Universe.
The big difference is this series moves away from Hell's Kitchen and into the heart of Harlem. In some ways, it allows for a completely different setting with a new set of rules. This isn't your typical Marvel live-action story, and that's a great thing.
Cage is an extremely powerful character. It's no surprise he's called Power Man. With plenty of street level action, the series doesn't take the easy route of dazzling us by pouring on the comic book-type action. The violence is used when it's necessary. A lot of Cage's opposition feel the easy answer is to pull out a gun and start shooting. They quickly discover this isn't going to work against him. At the same time, Cage doesn't use his strength to simply tear through the street thugs. When he does unleash his abilities, it's a glorious sight. With the action, violence, and language, it's clear why this show isn't on network television.
Even though we've already been introduced to Cage in Jessica Jones, there is a lot about him that was intentionally left untold. There is an origin aspect to the story, but it's not immediately crammed in our face. Time is spent introducing us to the various characters, and they're given time and room to be fleshed out. Because of the binge-watching nature of Netflix, you'll find yourself easily watching episode after episode back-to-back in order to find out more about everyone. Long time comic readers will be happy to see supporting characters from Luke's early appearances show up as well. With Cottonmouth, we get a villain unlike any we've seen in the Cinematic Universe. If you thought Wilson Fisk was a handful in Daredevil Season 1, wait until you see Mahershala Ali's performance.
Adding to the tone of the series and further separating it from other Marvel live-action productions is the music. Music always plays a big factor in setting up a scene. Here, it almost feels like another character fighting for screen time. You get a sense how each song was carefully chosen for each moment. You'll almost feel like you're not watching just another Marvel story.
For those looking for connections to the other live-action properties, there are mentions and Easter eggs. Some references may serve as a simple nod to the existence of other special individuals in the world, but there is also a connection going back to "The Incident" in the first Avengers movie. As the situations get more complex for our hero, you can easily see how Cage might fit into the larger picture and the upcoming Defenders series.
Luke Cage is a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We're starting to see more variety in the different productions, and Marvel is clearly working hard to avoid delivering the same type of content over and over. As with the other Netflix Marvel shows, this one isn't for the kids. With plenty of violence and adult situations, the show is a raw and gritty look at another corner of the Marvel Universe. You can start watching the show on September 30.