The new trailer for Netflix and Marvel's upcoming Luke Cage series opens with the Harlem-based hero deciding that it's time he took to the streets of New York City to protect the innocent.
Unlike Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which were critiqued for their depictions of New York that were devoid of people of color, Luke Cage makes it abundantly clear that this particular superhero story is a black one. The trailer cuts to a powerful shot of Cage, a black man with super strength and bulletproof skin, walking down a dark street and pulling a hoodie up over his head as Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" swells in the background.
In Marvel's comics, Luke Cage is a former convict who was sent to prison after being framed for heroin possession by his former best friend. While locked up, Cage becomes the subject of super-soldier experiments that gift him with superhuman abilities. He then escapes back to New York City where he restarts his life as a superhero for hire.
When we first met Cage, played by Mike Colter, in Netflix's Jessica Jones, he was a quiet and mysterious man running a bar in Harlem. Luke Cage picks up just a few months after Jessica Jones's conclusion. While the series will focus on Cage dealing with neighborhood corruption and crime, much of the buzz is tied to the fact that it seems to be in direct conversation with a number of issues the black community is currently dealing with.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker explained that now more than ever was the perfect time for a story about a bulletproof black man becoming a superhero. Cage's powers, he said, wouldn't just be symbolic—they would drive the show forward.
"In terms of just looking at how that affects a neighborhood, in terms of looking at, for example, how it not only changes law enforcement but also changes the criminal world," Coker said. "It’s like Luke’s entrance into this world changes the ecology of the entire neighborhood."
In the past few months, comic books (and to a lesser extent, their cinematic adaptations) have become increasingly reflective of the real world. Midnighter and Apollo are redefining what a stable, queer relationship looks like, Loki's running a Trump-esque campaign for president, and Ms. Marvel has given its readers a thorough history lesson about the Partition of India.
Still, when it comes to stories about black people in the age of Black Lives Matter and police brutality, comics haven't quite caught up. As one of Marvel's oldest black characters born out of the blaxploitation era, Luke Cage has always been one of the publisher's mouthpieces for social commentary relating to black issues. Now, more than ever, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its fans need a hero like Luke Cage who can put his hands up and not worry if the person he's standing in front will still shoot him.