WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Marvel’s Digital Originals Luke Cage #1 from Anthony del Col, Jahnoy Lindsay, Ian Herring, Clayton Cowles and Carlos Lao.
Over the years, Marvel fans have seen Luke Cage standing tall for justice, bulletproof and unbreakable, as an Avenger, a Defender and a Hero for Hire. What makes the character so appealing is how he draws his strength from his humanity; his is a perfect story of a man who was experimented on and turned into a walking weapon, only to choose to help others before himself.
Unfortunately, today’s Marvel Digital Originals Luke Cage #1 reveals the here isn’t as impervious as we all thought. While his skin may be impenetrable, it turns out Luke has developed CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) from decades of head injuries.
CTE has been a hot topic over the last few years, with the football world in particular set afire by players who were diagnosed with head trauma and who kept playing. Issues on how it was treated, ignored or downplayed made news, even resulting in a movie — Concussion starring Will Smith. Far form resolved, it’s still being addressed today in various other sports as well, such as boxing, hockey, MMA, wrestling and extreme sports.
That Luke has been diagnosed with CTE isn’t a big shocker given how he’s been banged around fighting otherworldly threats on a constant basis. As his doctor tells him, his head acts as a helmet, keeping him safe on the outside, but his brain has been undergoing severe damage.
Luke gets the diagnosis at the newly opened Harlem Healthcare facility after taking on a gig as a bodyguard protecting its owner, Kenneth Newton. Kenneth ends up murdered by a villain called Everyman, a vigilante who’s seemingly poisoning corrupt businessmen, and Luke’s left wondering if he’s been poisoned, too. He checks in after he realizes he’s dizzy and experiencing major anger issues, almost killing innocent people he thought were Everyman’s henchmen. It’s only when he tries to hug his daughter, Danielle, he realizes something’s wrong — because he can’t remember her name.
Thinking it’s a side effect of the poison, he undergoes a series of tests, but he checks out healthy. However, a CT scan highlights clumps of tau protein on his brain, indicating brain damage. Symptoms of CTW include are dementia, depression and suicidal behavior, but aggression is what Luke’s exhibiting as of late. Given his own athletic background, Luke immediately draws reference to it as the brain disease football players get, but the doctor makes it clear it’s Luke career as a superhero that has placed him in this situation, and it “doesn’t look good.”
Behavioral problems, memory loss, mood problems and problems thinking straight are signs of CTE which Luke quickly starts pinpointing as red flags in his life, accepting years of taking hits to the head appear to have finally caught up with him. With Luke scared, trying to brush aside the issue and dodge treatment, it remains to be seen how Jessica Jones will take the news — if he even he decides to tell her. Not to mention his friends, in what will surely be a dose of reality which speaks to the toll being a superhero takes on the body… and the mind.
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