With the second season of Netflix’s Luke Cage looming just over the horizon, it’s time to take a closer look at one of the new villains appearing on the scene: John McIver, A.K.A. Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), an up-and-coming crime lord with his sights set on Harlem and a few tricks up his sleeve.
In the comics there have been a couple different incarnations of Bushmaster, but the McIver version is the first. Introduced in Iron Fist #15 back in 1977, McIver had a fairly standard villain upbringing: raised poor and forced into a life of crime from an early age that later became an all encompassing career. In his original stories, he went on to take over an organized crime syndicate named the Maggia, which got its start in Europe before working its way over to New York City. After his rise to power, he changed his name to John Bushmaster and finally just “Bushmaster,” which, admittedly, sounds a lot cooler.
The bulk of Bushmaster’s real bad blood isn’t actually with Luke himself, but with Misty Knight, who went undercover to get some intel on the Maggia’s activity. After blowing her cover and thoroughly besting Bushmaster in a fight, Misty went on to disrupt his plans to assassinate Danny Rand, earning her a permanent spot on Bushmaster’s most wanted list. One thing led to another, and soon Bushmaster was obsessively trying to back Misty into a corner, even going as far as to kidnap people close to her (like, say, Claire Temple, for example) to try and force her friends (like, you know, Luke Cage) to give her up.
Around the same time as his attempts to finally off Misty for good, Bushmaster managed to con his way into having the same experimental procedure that turned Luke into Power Man, giving him his trademark invulnerability, performed on him. Unfortunately, the process backfired, sparking a continuous mutation in Bushmaster’s body. Rather than simply gaining impenetrable skin, he slowly turned into solid, immobile metal.
This was actually how he met his end, rather than any big climactic defeat by either Luke or Misty’s hands–his body just solidified entirely and then shattered, leaving only his skeleton behind. Maybe it’s not the most intimidating way to die, by supervillain standards, but certainly pretty memorable.
From what we’ve seen in the trailers, it looks like Bushmaster already has his powers when he encounters Luke for the first time, and,while they might be killing him secretly, they don’t seem to be actually physically turning him into a statue–at least in any way that we can see. More likely, we’re going to learn something about Bushmaster’s past in the same way we did with Luke in Season 1, though there’s potential for a reveal that he actually chose to undergo the experimentation rather than being backed into the corner in prison like Luke was.
Alternatively, there’s a brief scene in the season 2 trailer of Bushmaster performing what looks like some sort of ritual, so there’s a chance that his powers might actually be spiritual or magical in nature for this incarnation. There isn’t much magic in Bushmaster’s comics history, but the second Bushmaster, John’s brother Quincy, did undergo a serious bout of bionic augmentation to make him look more like a snake-human hybrid (basically the dress code for the Serpent Society, a gang he later joined) so there’s certainly room for that sort of overt sci-fi/fantasy twist in Bushmaster’s history and lore.
It’s difficult to tell based on the information we have what Bushmaster’s real stake in Harlem will be this time around–it looks like he’s going to be going to war with not just Luke, but Mariah and Shades (making their return from Season 1) as well. Whether or not he’ll have some sort of personal connection to Misty remains to be seen, but it’s best not to rule that out, either. The chances are that Bushmaster’s goals will be multifaceted–things in the Netflix Marvel Universe are rarely what they seem–so revenge against a woman who wronged him is definitely still on the table as well as power and control over the community.
Luke Cage Season 2 is available on Netflix as of today, June 22.