WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel's Luke Cage Season 2, now streaming on Netflix.
Countless Marvel readers undoubtedly cheered the first time Mike Colter uttered Luke Cage's catchphrase "Sweet Christmas!" in Season 1, but in its sophomore outing, the Netflix drama goes deeper, past "Sweet sister," to a 45-year-old comics panel that launched a meme.
The moment arrives in Episode 6, "The Basement," as Luke saves Mariah Dillard's shady stockbroker, and Luke Cage super-fan, Raymond "Piranha" Jones from Bushmaster's pursuing gang. Luke earlier "sold out," and agreed to play celebrity superhero at a party thrown by the "Wall Street impresario," in part to learn Piranha's connection to Mariah, but also to earn $150,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against him by certified dirt bag Dontrell "Cockroach" Hamilton. The terms of their agreement are a point of contention from the start, as Luke is made to pose for selfies and play security guard before Piranha makes the mistake of shooting the bulletproof hero for the amusement of his guests.
But when a Jamaican gang from Brooklyn bursts into Piranha's party and attempts to abduct the host, Luke is forced to play bodyguard to a mostly ungrateful, and entirely unscrupulous, stockbroker. As the two momentarily hide out in an abandoned theater, Luke demands that Piranha explain why he's wanted by the Jamaicans and what his relationship is to Mariah and Shades Alvarez. Piranha responds that it's all about money, before realizing he shouldn't have to explain himself, as he's actually paying Luke as his "hero for hire."
That's all the opening Luke needs to reach back to 1973, to Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #9, to smugly ask, "Then where's my money, honey?"
In the story by Steve Englehart, George Tuska and Billy Graham, which actually began in the previous issue, Luke is hired by an intermediary for $200 a day to capture four men accused of stealing secrets from the company owned by his anonymous employer. When Luke learns the men are actually robots, he tracks down who actually hired him, revealed as iconic Marvel villain Doctor Doom. When the ruler of Latveria stiffs him on his payment and returns to his homeland, Luke borrows a jet from the Fantastic Four, and follows, intent on getting his $200. Luke finds the despot in his throne room, where the iconic exchange plays out.
Apparently as tight-fisted as he is iron-fisted, Victor von Doom doesn't merely hand over the two bills, but instead becomes embroiled in a slugfest with Luke that severely damages his armor and renders its weapons power circuits inoperative. Finally, after Luke saves Doom from the alien Faceless One, the tyrant coughs up the cash.
Still, that's probably preferable to listening to Piranha's complaining.
Streaming now on Netflix, Marvel's Luke Cage Season 2 stars Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, Mustafa Shakir, Gabrielle Dennis, Rosario Dawson and Reg E. Cathey.