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Rumor Report: Is Luke Cage Really Returning To The MCU?

Sweet Christmas, there are a lot of Marvel rumors out there these days. 

While we're still waiting on official confirmation that Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock (a.k.a. Daredevil) will appear in the upcoming third Spider-Man movie as Peter Parker's lawyer, as has been rumored, it seems the fate of one of Cox's co-stars on Netflix's The Defenders might be starting to take shape. 

In the hit-or-miss annals of We Got This Covered, a new rumor has been written: Marvel brass may be looking to slot the one and only Luke Cage into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the near future, with the Hero of Harlem reportedly set to feature as a prominent supporting player moving forward.

This rumor is hardly substantiated, as the outlet cites an unnamed Marvel insider — the same who dangled the tidbit about Cox's possible MCU return in Spider-Man 3 — as the provider of the intel. 

Still, the mere notion of Luke Cage making a comeback is sure to make fans of Netflix's cancelled Marvel series happy, as it appears that Marvel Entertainment CCO Kevin Feige isn't looking to simply wash away all of Netflix's small-screen MCU ventures. Per the same whisperers cited in the WGTC piece, Feige is reportedly looking to integrate not only Daredevil and Luke Cage into the MCU, but also the Punisher and Jessica Jones – with Jon Bernthal and Krysten Ritter both possibly reprising their roles in the future ventures.

Less encouraging is the second part of this Luke Cage rumor, which claims that Team Marvel isn't interested in bringing actor Mike Colter back as the would-be Power Man. The studio is reportedly looking to recast the role, a fate apparently also shared by Iron Fist's Finn Jones. Though Colter only got to play the part for two seasons on the Netflix series, his casting as Luke Cage was spot on, and it will be very difficult to see another actor in that role. If these rumors turn out to be true, let's hope that Marvel finds an actor who can balance the physicality and the emotion as well as Colter did over 26 episodes of Luke Cage and eight episodes of the miniseries The Defenders.

It would be quite foolish of Marvel Studios to select a totally new actor to take on the role of Luke Cage considering Colter handled it with perfection and because so many fans and critics admired his on-screen work. Sure, Marvel's own Spider-Man got the re-casting treatment a number of times over at Sony, but why mess with near-perfection in tossing Colter to the side in favor of someone else? Having someone else portray the hero could push audiences away from a potential future project featuring Luke Cage — and that sounds like the exact opposite of what Marvel would ever want. 

On the flip side, this rumor does tie into a bit of truth about the current affairs at Marvel Studios. Marvel is looking to bring its big-screen heroes to the small screen — via the many superhero series that will air on Disney+ — so it's not unreasonable to believe that perhaps the studio wants to do the inverse as well. Perhaps Marvel is planning to blend the heroes of those Netflix series — like Luke Cage — into the ever-expanding cinematic universe. 

Exactly when that blending might begin is in question, however, as certain legalities between Marvel and Netflix may prevent any of the characters who appeared on those streaming series from joining in the MCU until at least two years after their respective series ended. Daredevil aired its final run of episodes in October 2018, so it'll be at least another year before we see the man without fear in the MCU (though that timeframe should make an appearance in Spider-Man 3 more feasible). For the Punisher and Jessica Jones, the wait for them to potentially join the MCU will be a little longer, as final episodes of those series aired in January and June of this year, respectively. As for a possible timeline on a Luke Cage return, he was last seen getting cozy in the hallowed halls of Harlem's Paradise in June 2018, so it's possible he could be punching his way back into the MCU sooner than any of the Defenders, who are all but guaranteed to never get a second on Netflix. 

Will Marvel upgrade Luke Cage from Defender to Avenger?

Though this Luke Cage rumor is yet another one moving through the mill, and has yet to be confirmed or denied by anyone in power, there are a few ways that Marvel's creative team can bring the bullet-proof badass back into the fold. As it happens, Marvel may be looking to take a similar approach as Netflix in bringing Luke Cage back. 

Part of the reason those particular characters made their debuts in small-screen ventures is because Marvel probably had them marked them as worthy heroes that (save for maybe Daredevil) likely wouldn't have drawn huge audiences to theaters in a standalone movie. While each of the Netflix series suffered from their own set of pacing issues and other hiccups, Luke Cage in particular seemed to benefit from the episodic approach, with the show's writing team able to fully flesh out the character over the course of its two up-and-down seasons. 

More pointedly, Luke Cage was also the character who benefitted from teaming up with other supers in Netflix's Marvel canon, memorably pairing with both Jessica Jones and Iron Fist prior to and after the Defenders' run. That's hardly a surprise, though, as Luke Cage has been one of Marvel Comics' most team-up-friendly heroes over the years. If Feige and the current Marvel crew are genuinely eyeing him as a major supporting player in whatever MCU fun they might be planning, there's a chance that the Hero of Harlem could turn up alongside some more established supers rather than on his own right out of the gate. 

As for which superheroes we might be seeing Luke Cage throwing down with, the character has made more than a few rounds with several crews in Marvel Comics over the years. He's obviously been a Defender before, and while we'd welcome another turn through the grinder with that particular group, it seems more likely Marvel won't be looking to go that route for now, as the studio has the Eternals ensemble to introduce in Phase 4. Cage's status as an Avenger has also been well-established in the comics — and if the MCU truly is looking to build its next Avengers big-screen run, Cage could find himself the mix when the next crossover occurs. We could also see Marvel go the Heroes for Hire route and deposit Cage in the company of his Defenders pals Iron Fist and Jessica Jones.

That being said, in further rumor news, it's been noted that Marvel may also be looking to bring an alternate super-group into the MCU in the near future — and yes, Luke Cage can frequently be seen fighting alongside that crew in the pages of Marvel Comics. Said crew were called the Thunderbolts. They first appeared in 1997 via The Incredible Hulk #449, and initially stepped up as replacements for the Avengers themselves. Over the years, the Thunderbolts took on many forms, eventually broke bad as the Masters of Evil, and teamed with pretty much every Marvel tough you can imagine. That list does include Luke Cage, who actually led a re-formed group for a run of issues in the Heroic Age storyline. 

As you can see, Luke Cage's possible return to the MCU could take on many different looks. But still, this rumor is totally unfounded, given no one at Marvel Studios has confirmed it. Could it happen? Of course — we don't know what's cooking up in Marvel's kitchen! Might it be an out-and-out farce? Sure — like we mentioned, Marvel rumors are a dime a dozen! There's potentially a lot to look forward to if he does find his way back, but the MCU will certainly be okay even if Luke Cage never comes back.