Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel has diversified its creations on film and television so much that anyone can find a series or film that grabs them and surprises them with action, drama, strong characters, superheroics and great storytelling.  It’s going to be a subjective call for anyone, but the depth of every storytelling component in two seasons of Marvel’s Luke Cage makes it our nomination for the best superhero series yet.  With all that a comic book fan could want (except maybe supersuits), Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage, now on Netflix, rises to the occasion again.  The writers, actors, and other creators of Luke, his partners, and the crimelords of Harlem, could hold their own against any of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  A “best of” list of the villains of Marvel adaptations will no doubt have Loki and Killmonger from the movies fighting for top spots, but it also must now have Season One’s Cottonmouth Stokes, and this season’s trifecta of villains:  Bushmaster McIver, Shades Alvarez, and Mariah Stokes.

We compared Season One–which was borg.com’s Best TV Superhero Series of 2016 along with Cage actor Mike Colter and Misty Knight actor Simone Missick taking top acting kudos for the year–to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and again, Season Two is worthy of that comparison.  All the key social and cultural issues affecting every-day people inside or outside New York City neighborhoods, from the 1960s and today, work their way into the storytelling of the series.  The season kept its fresh approach with a new director at the helm of nearly every episode, while maintaining its focus thanks to Cheo Hodari Coker penning the overall story and leading the series as showrunner.  The show’s style is unique.  Even more than in Season One, nearly each episode featured the setting of the nightclub Harlem’s Paradise with an incredible performer on-stage with a relevant song to the episode.  Where a modern take on 20th century Speakeasy-inspired jazz and blues was the background for Season One, music derived from the roots of hip-hop and the heritage of key show characters in Jamaica defines the style this time.  This was topped off in the last episode with a song performed by Rakim that echoed Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s 1970s retro-funk series theme.

Family roots and legacies left behind top the season’s themes.  Along with the drama, the superheroics were present in Cage’s Power Man persona and new villain Bushmaster’s exquisitely choreographed battle scenes.  Charismatic actor Mustafa Shakir, who isn’t Jamaican, is perfectly convincing with the accent as Johnny “Bushmaster” McIver, and like Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk and series star Colter, Shakir looks like a superhuman with no need for any superhero costume.  And yes, Shakir performed most of the fabulous stunt fights with Colter, with training incorporating capoeira fighting, aptly selected for the series from its focus on power, speed, kicks, and spins.  Looking for the best superhero genre one-on-one battles at the movies or on television?  They can be found in Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  It’s even more refreshing because the series casts aside the current lazy trope in cinema of slow-motion action sequences, which can pull you out of the momentum of the action every time.

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