Marvel’s Luke Cage set to debut on Netflix

New York’s Harlem finds a reluctant hero in the bulletproof Luke Cage, as Netflix follows Daredevil and Jessica Jones with its third series set in Marvel Universe.
Mike Colter plays the titular role in Marvel’s Netflix series Luke Cage as a superhero with super strength and indestructible skin. Myles Aronowitz / Netflix
Mike Colter plays the titular role in Marvel’s Netflix series Luke Cage as a superhero with super strength and indestructible skin. Myles Aronowitz / Netflix

He is a humble and reluctant superhero, happy to be anonymous and stay in the background. He wants to be left alone, yet he is a ladies’ man with charisma to spare. Even when he is hurling crooks through windows in a hail of bullets, he looks like he is holding back – and his “mask” of choice is a hoodie.

Marvel’s Luke Cage is also ­supercool – and might be the best Netflix Marvel series yet.

The drama, which debuts on the video-streaming site on Friday, is the third of four ambitious live-­action series – it follows Daredevil and Jessica Jones and precedes the upcoming Iron Fist – that are leading up to the much-anticipated teaming of the characters in Marvel’s The Defenders.

Taking the title role is Mike Colter, an American actor best known as powerful Chicago drug lord Lemond Bishop in The Good Wife, and recovering addict ­Malcolm Ward in Ringer.

After a sabotaged experiment gives Cage super strength and indestructible skin, he becomes a fugitive as he tries to rebuild his life in New York’s Harlem. However, events drag him from the shadows to fight a battle for the heart of his city – forcing him to confront a past he tried to bury.

Cage is one of the most compelling characters in Marvel’s cinematic universe so far. Other black heroes who have appeared on screen, such as War Machine and the Falcon, are cool sidekicks but hardly solo-movie ­material – and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who bared his claws for the first time in Captain America: Civil War this year, will not be seen in his own movie until 2018.

The other residents of his ­fictionalised Harlem include police detective Misty Knight, played by Ray Donovan’s Simone Missick, who is determined to learn the truth about Cage, and ruthless politician Mariah ­Dillard, played by Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Alfre ­Woodard (12 Years a Slave, State of Affairs), who is looking to bring a new era of change to the neighbourhood she grew up in.

“Simone is really going to be the big discovery of this whole thing,” says Woodard. “She is so cute and powerful, and you completely believe she is a detective. She’s very strong and very alpha – but in a way that I don’t think we see women do a lot.”

Also on board are Mahershala Ali as gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, Luke’s foe and the owner of one of the hottest clubs in the neighbourhood, and Theo Rossi as Shades, a parasitic childhood friend of Cottonmouth’s and a hard-hearted thug with ties to Cage’s mysterious past.

Unusually, the series is not ­inspired by any particular comic-book story, but by 40-plus years of Luke Cage stories in various Marvel ­Comics. Prior to his memorable introduction on Jessica Jones last year, Cage had never appeared on screen.

“It was a supporting role and I enjoyed that relationship,” says 40-year-old Colter. “But now it will be interesting to see how fans ­respond to Cage being ­completely developed.”

While we can expect gritty, action-packed episodes, great care has gone into showing Luke’s more thoughtful side.

“I think people are going to expect this kind of big, brawny view of Luke Cage – which trust me, we do – but I also wanted to show the sensitivity,” says writer and showrunner Cheo Hodari ­Coker. “I wanted to show a certain sense of responsibility, a certain nobility, that didn’t feel corny. Once he takes on the mantle of responsibility, I wanted him to own it.”

“Our stories work best when you are invested in the heroes themselves,” says Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s head of television, “and in this show you’re invested in Luke long before you get ­invested in the fact that he’s ­bulletproof and happens to have super strength”.

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: September 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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