Are Diamondback & Luke Cage Really Brothers? Willis Stryker Has A Complicated Past

A shocking thing happens halfway through the first season of Marvel's Luke Cage. Spoilers for Luke Cage Episode 7 and beyond ahead. After spending seven episodes getting to know main antagonist Cottonmouth, a Harlem crime lord, the show suddenly kills him off and a new major antagonist steps up to fill in his spot — Diamondback. While Cottonmouth's motivation for getting rid of Luke Cage was strictly business, Diamondback has a personal history with the hero that pushes him to go above and beyond to take down Luke, even if it means leaving Harlem in ashes. And in Episode 8, that history gets even more personal when it's first suggested that Diamondback, aka Willis Stryker, and Luke Cage are brothers, a claim from the villain that only gains more evidence as the season progresses.

After Diamondback comes to Harlem, Luke Cage recalls that they were childhood friends until Diamondback framed him for a crime, which resulted in Luke — then known as Carl Lucas — being sent to prison. That's where an experiment gave him his powers and escaping is what forced him to change his identity and go on the run. When Stryker claims in the present that they were actually related by blood all along, it forces Luke to confront some unfortunate truths from his past.

After Luke Cage revisits the church where his father used to work, his memories begin to bleed together and paint a more solid picture — his father was having an affair. Carl Lucas grew up believing that his mother and father had a happy marriage, but the truth is that his father had a child with another woman, his secretary. That child's name was Willis Stryker. It seems that Diamondback's motivation for taking down Luke Cage comes from jealousy, jealousy that Carl had the love, approval, and last name of their father, and Willis did not. Their relationship as half-brothers culminates in a destructive showdown on the streets of Harlem for a crowd of local citizens, intercut with a boxing match from when Willis trained Luke in their youth.

In the comics, Cage and Stryker's relationship is less familial. They were both members of the same gang as young adults, and both fell in love with Reva Connors. However, Connors chooses Luke Cage, and Stryker gets Cage sent to prison out of jealousy. After Diamondback dies in the comics, a series of superheroes take up the mantle in different parts of the Marvel Universe.

While Diamondback's fate at the end of the series isn't clear — he's pretty badly messed up — villains have a way of coming back to life in comic books, as well as the series and films that are inspired by them. With tension that goes way back, don't expect Diamondback to lay down and just let Luke Cage win anytime soon. Someone as unpredictable and vicious as Diamondback is likely to show up when you least expect his return — but by then, chances are Luke Cage will be even stronger and less willing to forgive his half-brother and former friend.

Images: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix; Netflix