Luke Cage Review

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This review contains spoilers for Marvel/Netflix’s Luke Cage. I have a brief spoiler free review below, but then after the cut is spoiler city. If you have NOT watched Luke Cage yet, and you care about spoilers, go do so before reading the rest of this review. 

The first seven episodes of Luke Cage may be the best seven hours in the MCU. It’s certainly the best seven hours of Marvel television. Unfortunately, some momentum is lost in the back half of the season, but it still ends strong, and I would place it at second place, just below Jessica Jones, in the Marvel/Netflix offerings. Even if you are not usually interested in comic book or superhero television, you will probably find yourself intrigued by the deep, compelling characters, brilliant performances, and stunning cinematography. If you do not check out this series, you are doing yourself a disservice. That’s the end of the spoiler-free review. Below the break, I will get into spoilers.

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Luke Cage is coming this Friday!

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So in a few days, we will have the next installment in the Marvel/Netflix Street-Level Heroes television shows: Luke Cage. If you have watched Jessica Jones, you already know this character and why this show is exciting, if you haven’t, what are you doing? Go watch Jessica Jones. I’ll wait here and sip my coffee…

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You back? Good. Okay. So let’s talk about Luke Cage. Luke Cage has a complicated and sordid publication history. He first came into comics in the 1970’s at the height of the popularity of the Blaxploitation genre, along with several other black superheroes that were created during the 70’s. As a result, his original representation is somewhat problematic, to say the least, and I don’t have the time to get into the complicated history of Blaxploitation films nor do I feel my race really qualifies me to comment on it, really, so I won’t. What I do want to talk about, though, is how Luke Cage, as a character, changed throughout the years, and why his current incarnation as played by Mike Colter is such an achievement.

So, as I said, initially, Luke Cage was created to cash in on the growing popularity of Blaxploitation films, and his original character design is indicative of that…

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But as the popularity of the genre died down, and more and more people began to point out the inherent social problems with the genre, Luke Cage underwent a shift in characterization. He was paired up with Iron Fist (to be seen headlining another TV series we will be seeing from Marvel/Netflix), and was eventually rebranded as “Power Man,” and we would see several reinventions of the character from that point on, with varying degrees of financial success and several costume changes, eventually seeing him developing a relationship with Jessica Jones (which you watched right? Okay. Just checking). But amidst this complicated and shifting persona that struggled to find a place on the comic shelves that was at once successful and respectful, we see the evolution of a hero with some really unique roots, and THAT seems to the focus of the upcoming television series, so let’s talk about them.

First of all, Luke Cage is a hero from Harlem. You might be thinking “What’s the big deal?” but it IS a big deal. We don’t get heroes from disenfranchised neighborhoods very often. Heroes seem to mostly populate metropolitan epicenters (see Superman, Spider-Man, etc.), or if they do patrol poorer neighborhoods, they still come from outside those neighborhoods like some sort of guardian angel from without (i.e. Batman may help the people of the poorer areas of Gotham, but he’s a billionaire who lives in a mansion). Luke Cage is a hero of Harlem from Harlem. He is a victim of an experiment that he was coerced into, and he is turning that victimization into something empowering for him and his community. And while that’s not something that the comics often focused on, it is definitely something that the upcoming Netflix series seems to be focusing on. If the trailers are any indication, we are going to see Luke Cage acting out of a sense of responsibility to his friends and neighbors. A responsibility to use his powers to help those who, like him, are victims, and, like him, are invisible to those in power.

Now this does ignore what I feel is one of the more interesting aspects of Luke Cage’s character: That he was a hero for hire. That is to say, he would help you, but only if you could pay his rate, but I don’t actually think that’s a bad move on Marvel’s part. I like this aspect of his character in concept. We often talk about how saving the world doesn’t seem to pay very much for these heroes. As a result, they often need a billionaire to bankroll them (Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, etc). So I have always loved the idea that Luke Cage needs to make a living somehow, as anyone in his position would, and he does so by charging for his help. But it does seem like that would sit poorly with the mainstream superhero audience, and ignoring it allows for the development of the above mentioned “savior from within,” rather than “savior from without” a systemically disenfranchised community. Now, I do hope they include a reference to this, because I think it would be interesting. One of the things that Marvel and Netflix seems to have done with this character is placed him in a similar position to Jessica Jones. Jones’ story starts post-superhero. She was Jewel, she tried the superhero gig, things didn’t work out, now she’s retired and is just trying to make a living as a P.I. Cage seems to be in a similar situation in this universe. We saw hints in JJ that maybe this isn’t the first time that he has had to reveal himself. I don’t know if we will see flashbacks of him donning a Powerman costume and asking for payment for his services, but I like to think that maybe a reference to his former attempts at heroing are not out of the question.

So in the end, I am extremely excited for this series, because I feel it comes at a particularly good time. We are seeing an upsurge in the demand and success of POC superheroes. Ms. Marvel is selling extremely well, the new Black Panther series written by Ta-Nehisi Coates is selling extremely well, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War was praised by audience and critics alike. We are seeing more diversity in comics than ever, and the fact that we get to see this really interesting character emerge out of the middle of that with a great actor and a great supporting cast is very exciting, not the least because if it is as successful as the previous ventures of Marvel and Netflix have been, it can stand as evidence that audiences are eager to see racial diversity in their superheroes in the same way that the success of Jessica Jones demonstrated the demand for gender diversity.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I will be watching Luke Cage this weekend, probably on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be live tweeting while I’m watching it over at https://twitter.com/criticalgeekery so if you guys want to watch along with me, or just follow my reaction, feel free to check that out!

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Suicide Squad Review

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This includes some spoilers for Suicide Squad. I have left most of the major plot spoilers out, but if you want to go into the movie completely fresh, and you haven’t seen it yet, wait until you watch the movie to read this review. You have been warned!

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Justice League Movie Teaser Reaction

The first San Diego Comic Con trailer that I want to talk about is the one for Justice League. In part, because it was the film I was the most pessimistic about. I disliked Batman V Superman, I disliked Man of Steel, so the idea of Zack Snyder getting his hands on the rest of these characters for an ensemble film—and an important one at that—seemed like it just couldn’t end well. But, after the trailer, and after watching Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of Batman V Superman, I am feeling a bit more positive.

The trailer opens with Bruce Wayne tracking down Arthur Curry aka Aquaman in a fishing village. It has the same dark tone that we are used to in these films, and while I’m still not thrilled with their insistence on making Aquaman look gritty and badass (because he just doesn’t look like Aquaman), Jason Momoa does a pretty good job of selling me whatever it is he is actually trying to do here. He immediately shows his strength by lifting Bruce Wayne up and pinning him against the wall, he is heralded as a protector and hero of this fishing village, which lends some credibility to the virtuosity that we have come to expect from this character, and his refusal to help actually plays into Aquaman’s major antagonistic plot element. He’s the king of Atlantis, but is also from the surface world, so intervening with surface affairs is problematic for him politically. Actually, in general, this part in this trailer does a better job of convincing viewers that Aquaman is more than just a guy who can talk to fish than Aquaman Rebirth #1 did, because this trailer shows his strength and the complexities in his character, and doesn’t feel the need to tell us about it.

What really sold me on this trailer, though, was the scene with Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen. I admit that I am slightly biased here. I love the Flash, and so when Bruce Wayne said “Barry Allen” upon Barry’s entrance into his apartment, I internally squealed.  That said, what I liked most about this scene was that it was funny. I’ve said it before; comic books (at least superhero comic books from DC and Marvel) should be fun. Sometimes they are dark, sometimes they are serious, but primarily they are an escape. They are there for enjoyment, and this is something that for the last two movies, I felt DC/WB didn’t understand. But this whole trailer shows some lightness in the dialogue and interactions between characters that gives me hope. I shouldn’t really be surprised. In the wake of BvS, WB decided to do Suicide Squad reshoots, because it was, apparently, not funny enough. That should suggest that they realize that humor and lightness is important to the success of this franchise.

I do wish Ray Fisher’s Vic Stone aka Cyborg got a bit more time in this trailer, because I’m still not sure what to make of him. His interaction with Batman towards the end of the trailer has a very serious and down to business attitude about it, but if the rest of the character interactions are any indication, I don’t think he’ll be like that for the whole movie. And if he doesn’t say “Booyah” at least once in this film, I will be disappointed.

The last thing that we REALLY got out of this film is our first real look of these character’s costumes in action and I… Am not really a fan? The Flash is wearing this weird armor-like costume? I’m sure they will explain why in the film, but, seriously, if they wanted to do Injustice that badly, just make an Injustice movie.

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(please, actually, make an Injustice movie. That would be amazing).

Vic Stone’s costume is… fine, but it looks oddly like he’s made of crystal or something? It may have been the light. I’m still not thrilled with Aquaman’s costume, as I said earlier. Come on! What’s wrong with the orange scales? But costumes aside, what we have seen of these characters gives me some hope for the film.

All-in-all, though, if this trailer is indicative of the writing in the film, and if they keep this ratio of lightness to grimdark within the film, I think it will be a pleasant surprise. I am cautiously optimistic.

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Is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition Still a Bad Movie?

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This analysis contains spoilers for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition. If you have not seen this movie, reading this post will spoil MAJOR parts of it for you. Continue to read at your own risk.

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Coming Soon…

Sorry I disappeared for a while. Pokemon Go and like family stuff ate my life, but I’m back now, and HOLY CRAP did stuff happen to talk about. SDCC is full of news and trailers and just too much stuff for me to talk about here. I also have comics to talk about, and some movies to review, and this is just going to be a very busy time for this little blog. So stay tuned. A lot of stuff should be going up in the next week or so, and then next week is GenCon, so… there will be stuff from that.

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Titans Rebirth #1 Review

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This review contains some spoilers for Titans Rebirth #1! If you have not read that comic yet, and you care about spoilers, DO NOT READ THIS! You have been warned.

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