Luke Cage Sea­son One

Bul­let­proof Hunk

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 2016 | 15 | SVOD Showrun­ner Cheo Ho­dari Coker Cast Mike Colter, si­mone Mis­sick, Ma­her­shala ali, rosario daw­son

Al­though not cred­ited in the cast list, the real star of Luke Cage is Har­lem. The lat­est Net­flix se­ries makes it look like a bril­liantly vi­brant, cre­ative, colour­ful, cul­tur­ally im­por­tant must-see stop on any­one’s grand tour. Even with all the ran­dom ul­tra­vi­o­lence. Though some view­ers might need a phrase­book to trans­late lingo like “You know I ain’t call­ing no po-po. Then he bounced.”

Ad­mit­tedly, you get the feel­ing this is a rose-tinted view of the place; an ide­alised Har­lem. What you can’t deny is that Marvel and Net­flix haven’t aban­doned their usual stomp­ing ground of Hell’s Kitchen for purely aes­thetic rea­sons. Luke Cage is black to its core; it’s about black is­sues; its soul is pure soul mu­sic; it’s achingly top­i­cal. The cur­rent real world clashes be­tween cops and racial mi­nori­ties are re­flected here, and in no way does it feel trite.

The amaz­ing thing is that it does this while be­ing the most su­per­hero-y Net­flix show yet. Sure, there’s the req­ui­site quota of grim and gritty, as Luke Cage re­luc­tantly steps out of the shad­ows to free Har­lem from the grip of a gang­ster dy­nasty headed up by night­club owner Cor­nell “Cot­ton­mouth” Stokes (Ma­her­shala Ali). But there’s also more comic-book-style fun, quip­ping and su­per­heroics.

So while the se­ries is ef­fort­lessly cool and has street cred, it’s also adorably geeky. There are loads of Easter Eggs for Marvel fans to pick up on; if hear­ing Misty Knight be­ing told at one point that she might lose her arm makes you smile, there’s plenty more like that to en­joy.

As Cage, Mike Colter is great at con­vey­ing a guy who’s torn be­tween world-weary vic­tim and tough guy who just loves bash­ing things. The vil­lains are first rate too. Jes­sica Jones’s Kil­grave is a tough act to fol­low, so Luke Cage has gone for quan­tity in­stead, giv­ing us a colour­ful range of psy­chopaths, from the coiled-spring Cot­ton­mouth, to the glo­ri­ously bonkers Mariah Dil­lard and the un­set­tlingly creepy Shades (Theo Rossi). There’s also some­body else, who it’d be a spoiler to men­tion, who’s an oddly one-note, one-grudge bad­die – but even he’s only a fail­ure on Net­flix/Marvel terms and is bet­ter than most of the MCU vil­lains. There are some fan­tas­tic roles for the fe­male good guys too; Ros­sario Daw­son’s Claire Tem­ple fi­nally gets a de­cent chunk of the ac­tion, while Si­mone Mis­sick’s gutsy Misty Knight makes you wish Net­flix would com­mis­sion a Daugh­ters of the Dragon se­ries right now.

There are the usual Net­flix pac­ing is­sues. A few episodes to­wards the end are art­lessly padded and plod. Oc­ca­sion­ally the at­tempts to give the show a ’70s blax­ploita­tion vibe feel a lit­tle self-con­scious. But ig­nore such quib­bles and let this black magic cast its spell over you. Dave Golder

All of the se­ries’ episode ti­tles are the names of songs by in­flu­en­tial East Coast hip hop duo Gang Starr.

His tram­po­line bro­ken, Karl des­per­ately tried other ways to get in the air.

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