When Marvel’s ‘The Defenders’ hit Netflix back in August, it brought to the small screen one of comic book lore’s most famous supergroups.
Comprised of blind vigilante Daredevil, skilled detective Jessica Jones, martial arts expert Iron Fist and bulletproof fugitive Luke Cage, The Defenders are New York City’s street-level Avengers. By day they work jobs, by night they fight crime.
Of course, they don’t always team up to save the day and each has their own corner of The Big Apple to protect. In Hell’s Kitchen lives Daredevil, with Jessica Jones working nearby. While Chinatown often hosts billionaire Danny Rand aka Iron Fist. But perhaps the most vividly realised neighbourhood in the MCU is Harlem, the playground of Luke Cage.
There we saw a dangerous experiment gift convict Carl Lucas bulletproof skin and superhuman strength. After clearing his name — and changing it to Luke Cage — he became a celebrity and saviour in his adopted hometown. He beat the boss, restored order and got the girl. Mission accomplished.
But where’s next for Power Man? Who’s left to bring to justice? What can we expect from ‘Luke Cage’ Season 2?
We sat down with creator Cheo Hodari Coker, plus director and all-round badass Lucy Liu to find out.
There’s loads of brilliant music cameos
Season one saw some huge names step onstage at Harlem’s Paradise nightclub — including Charles Bradley, Faith Evans and Wu Tang co-founder Method Man. But you ain’t seen nothing yet, says Hodari Coker.
A former hip-hop journalist himself, Hodari Coker reveals it was “hard to get the record companies interested in a superhero show” but his connections eventually sorted them out.
“When musicians saw how well the performances in season one were shot, they were really enthusiastic to come in for season two,” he adds.
This time around, there’ll be gigs from Atlanta soul legend Joi, Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Esperanza Spalding, fiery bluesman Gary Clark Jr., Bob’s son Stephen Marley, Wu Tang member Ghostface Killah and hip-hop icon Rakim.
“Rakim actually did a song specifically for the show,” reveals Hodari Coker. “That was a whole adventure. I think when the audience sees the entirety of the show, the music always pulls them in. It’s the one thing I know that works, even if nothing else does.”
There’s some awesome fight scenes
Marvel series are always loaded with action, but Luke Cage is something else. This season in particular has some of Hodari Coker’s favourite fight sequences.
“When you guys get to episode 10, with Power Man and Iron Fist, their collaboration is going to be a lot stronger than people would have anticipated,” he says. “They have great chemistry and the fight scene in that episode is epic. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen on the show.”
But it’s not just the boys that get to kick ass, Hodari Coker says: “There’s a great fight with Colleen Wing and Misty Knight in the bar during episode three. That’s a lot of fun and I think people are going to enjoy it a lot.”
Misty Knight, of course, is the no-shit-taking cop that keeps tabs on Cage. She also recently lost her arm in the closing stages of ‘The Defenders’. Not sure how this “epic fight scene” is going to work…
Expect comic book crossovers
Marvel is known for its elaborate character collaborations and ‘Luke Cage’ is no different. “As a huge comic book geek, you know if you read Daredevil, if you read Spider-Man, if you read Luke Cage, if you read Iron Fist — all these characters would jump from book to book to book and crossover in annuals,” explains Hodari Coker. “We’re just doing the same thing in television.” Expect to see more of your favourite superheroes teaming up this season.
The superheroes will subvert stereotypes
Ever since Superman made his print debut in 1938, the comic book world has been overwhelmingly white and male. As diversity increased in the superhero universe, black characters were often portrayed in jungle or ghetto stereotypes. But in ‘Luke Cage’, Hodari Coker is having none of it.
“Anytime you see a big black guy depicted [in superhero movies], they’re always either angry or docile to the point that they’re funny,” he says. “I wanted to show the complexities that actors of Mike Colter’s size never get to portray because they’re always cast as a thug.
“It was about showing that an African American male character can be all the things you think he is, but also show other elements that you weren’t expecting.”
Lucy Liu makes her Marvel debut
Yep, that’s right. Charlie’s Angels icon Lucy Liu is now involved with a Marvel project. But there’s a catch. You know her best as the in demand Hollywood actor, but on ‘Luke Cage’ she’s making history from behind the camera instead.
Liu takes her superhero bow as director of season two’s second episode. There’s thrilling action scenes, some pulsating dialogue and an excellent Defenders cameo.
“It’s a very big position and they don’t want to hand the reins over to you unless they’ve seen evidence that you can do it,” says Liu. “You have to prove yourself time and time again. Nothing has ever come without a good fight.”
Luke Cage season two is available to stream on Netflix from June 22.