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New York City, Luke Cage is your new mayor... and his first act is to give you your own superhero team

Inside the stunning turn of events which has made Luke Cage mayor of Marvel's New York City

Devil's Reign: Omega excerpt
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Mike Coulter didn't have any luck convincing Barack Obama to make a cameo appearance in the third season of Luke Cage, But as Marvel Comics’ recently elected Mayor of New York City, Luke Cage is one step closer to meeting the former US president.

As revealed in April 6's Devil's Reign #6, Luke Cage is now mayor of New York City - and he has some big plans for cleaning it up. No, it doesn't involve attorney/former US presidnet Barack Obama (although...), it involves a unique group of heroes, the THunderbolts.

Spoilers ahead for Devil's Reign.

What Happened in Devil's Reign?

Devil's Reign: Omega excerpt
Image credit: Marvel Comics
The Devil's Reign event ended with on May 25, bringing to Marvel Comics a significant status quo change for the people who call New York City home. The event impacted all the NYC superheroes and transformed the city thanks to the personal vendettas and prejudicial policies of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime and up-until-recently mayor of New York City. During his tenure as mayor, Fisk uses his political power to finally make a move against his oldest enemies, the Daredevils (Matt Murdock and Elektra), and their allies by outlawing superhero vigilantism within the city's borders. Because of New York's new law against superhero vigilantism, many of Marvel’s most powerful heroes are arrested and imprisoned, including Reed and Sue Richards.

In order to enforce his new law against superhero vigilantism, Fisk reassembles the Thunderbolts to be the public face of his authority. He deputizes a new team of supervillains led by US Agent to maintain law and order in the city alongside the New York Police Department. For a good reason (because US Agent is undercover for the feds), Fisk doesn’t trust anyone in his inner circle and believes they are plotting against him to remove him as the NYC's Mayor, so he harnesses the Purple Man’s powers to manipulate people into doing what he wants them to, including the Thunderbolts. When US Agent begins to question Fisk’s actions, Kingpin harnesses the Purple Man’s powers to convince John Walker and the rest of the team to do anything they need to carry out his orders.

It sounds like a mess, right? The Avengers think so too. So, Tony Stark and the team — who somehow still has faith in the democratic process — decide that the only way to stop Fisk is to remove him from office. Although Stark nominates himself at first, the other Avengers decide that Cage is a better candidate for office than the billionaire playboy. Tony acquiesces (good thing too because he is later revealed to not be Tony Stark), and Luke Cage begins campaigning against Fisk so that the Kingpin doesn't run for reelection unopposed.

Unfortunately for the people of New York (who become unwitting pawns in the two men's battle for votes), Fisk steals the mind-controlling abilities of the Purple Man to manipulate the people of NYC into supporting his actions and policies (if you remember the scene on the dock in the Jessica Jones television series, it’s eerily similar). This leads the maniacal mayor to use the Purple Man’s abilities to force himself into remembering that Matt Murdock is Daredevil so that he can kill his oldest foe once and for all. Instead, in Kingpin’s attempt to assassinate Daredevil, he accidentally murders Matt Murdock's twin brother, Mike Murdock, and he must flee the country. And once Fisk is defeated at the hands of Daredevil, Luke Cage ends up essentially running unopposed (Jessica Jones says as much) and wins. That means that as of Devil's Reign #6, Kingpin is no longer the NYC Mayor.

Although Fisk abused his mayoral powers for personal gain while he was in office, Luke Cage will have to work overtime to make sure that Kingpin’s oppressive laws get overturned and win back the citizens of the Big Apple. After all, between the events of 'The Reckoning War' and Devil's Reign, New Yorkers may have soured on the idea of superheroes running the government. One way that Luke Cage plans on restoring citizens trust in government institutions is by reforming the Thunderbolts.

Who Are the Thunderbolts?

Incredible Hulk #449 cover
Image credit: Marvel Comics

But that wasn't the end of the Thunderbolts story. Next up for the team is to defeat the new Masters of Evil, led by the man, the myth, the legend, who has been on almost every Marvel team to date, former outlaw Clint Barton (AKA Hawkeye). But things don't go too smoothly for the new Thunderbolts helmed by the former Avenger either, and after awhile, the team learns that Hawkeye also betrayed them by lying about his ability to grant them pardons like he once claimed (unfortunately, official pardons for non-federal offenses are handed down by the governor's office, so Luke Cage also won't be able to provide his new team with pardons either).

Eventually, Hawkeye does regain the Thunderbolts' trust by helping the team secure pardons like he promised. The catch, however, is that Hawkeye must go to prison for the crimes he committed while serving as the team's leader. Unfortunately for the rest of the team (who has grown accustomed to being superheroes by this point), they are also no longer allowed to don their heroic costumes and take advantage of their superpowers on Earth, so the surviving members end up either on Counter-Earth to restore peace to the disaster-ravaged area. From here things get messy for the team, and they ultimately end up being reformed by Zemo just to be disbanded again, and then reformed again, followed by another disbanding and reforming, and so on and so forth until Devil's Reign.

But Luke Cage doesn't want Kingpin to have the last word on the Thunderbolts, arguing their legacy deserves something better. In the aftermath of Devil's Reign, Kingpin's stink is still all over New York and Luke Cage has resolved to find heroes for hire to form a new, heroic Thunderbolts team (you can follow their adventures in the upcoming Thunderbolts series from Jim Zub and Sean Izaakse).

Thunderbolts #1 cover
Image credit: Marvel Comics

With a series set to debut August 31, all-new, all-different Thunderbolts team will once again be helmed by Hawkeye (hopefully, he does a better job this time) and includes favorites like Spectrum, America Chavez, Power Man, and Persuasion plus the exciting debut of Gutsen Glory, an experienced cyber-soldier seeking new glory. First introduced in the Devil's Reign: Omega story 'Cleaning House' by Zub, Luciano Vecchio, Carlos Lopez, Java Tartaglia, and Joe Sabino, the new Thunderbolts are ready to clean-up the Big Apple and stop wielding their badge like a weapon. Under Cage's mayoral direction and with the help of his new district attorney (and hopefully, the city's public defenders too), NYC's enforcers will no longer be able to accept bribes, abuse police procedure, and engage in selective enforcemant, discrimination, and public misconduct.

In the upcoming series about New York's newest team of street-level heroes, get ready for 'Justice, Like Lightning' to strike every single issue! And hey, for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans clamoring for the Thunderbolts to make an appearance onscreen, the addition of Spectrum and America Chavez to the team means that there are two more screen ready characters to join the Thunderbolts in the MCU (already available for the cinematic universe Thunderbolts is Sam Wilson's Smiling Tiger, Dancing Daddy Zemo, and Doc Ock). Plus, who doesn't want to see Mike Coulter return as Luke Cage to lead a team of Thunderbolts?

Still looking for more? Make sure you've read all our recommended best Marvel Comics stories of all time.

Rebecca Oliver Kaplan

Rebecca Oliver Kaplan: Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a bigender comic critic and judicial scholar and co-author of Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority with his wife, Avery Kaplan. His work can regularly be found at Geek Girl Authority, Comics Beat, Prism Comics, PanelxPanel, and MovieWeb.


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