Like all good shows in the TV wing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Luke Cage is absolutely packed full of Easter Eggs and references to other shows and movies from the shared world the various characters inhabit. Because even whilst Luke Cage seemingly stands further apart from the MCU as the likes of its sister shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones, there are still some pretty strong connections there. From the multiple times "The Incident" (a.k.a The Battle of New York) of The Avengers is referenced, to the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Stan Lee cameo.
But one of our favorite Easter Eggs — and one that was reinforced multiple times throughout Luke Cage — was the numerous references to Hammer Industries/Hammer Tech. You probably picked up on a least one of these name drops, a call back to a villain we met many years ago in the MCU.
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Iron Man 2 — a.k.a. the Iron Man movie everybody just kinda forgets about — introduced a rival to Stark Industries in the form of Hammer Industries, and a rival to Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in the form of Hammer CEO Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). With a less than subtle name, Hammer wants nothing more than to crush Tony Stark and his company.
After seeing Whiplash / Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) fight Iron Man at Monaco, Hammer had him freed from prison and offered to supply him with the technology needed to combat Iron Man. In doing so he meant to strike a blow against Stark Industries — Hammer's major competitor — by seeking to replace the Iron Man suit technology with Hammer's "Hammer Drones" (inventive naming is not his strong point).
Of course, he failed. Manipulated and betrayed by Vanko, and caught by Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), the last we saw of Hammer he was incarcerated in Seagate Prison. And since then there hasn't been a sniff of Hammer in the MCU, until now.
Hammer's Presence Is Felt In Luke Cage
Hammer's role in Luke Cage actually chimes more with that of his comic book counterpart who operates as a black market arms dealer, supplying villains with weaponry to defeat Iron Man and topple Tony Stark. There are numerous references to Justin Hammer and Hammer Industries/Tech in the show, his name being dropped right from the get-go.
In Episode 1 the weapons sold by Cottonmouth / Cornell Stokes (Mahershala Ali) are purchased from Hammer Tech. In Episode 4 there's another Hammer reference, as it's revealed that they are the company which developed the infamous "Judas bullet" — the only weapon which can wound Luke Cage (Mike Coulter). And when Diamondback / Willis Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey) finally rocks up in his hilariously comic-book-y looking suit which was specially designed to combat Luke's strength, we discover that the suit itself was also a creation of — yep — Hammer Tech.
Another point of interest is the Judas bullet itself, which Shades / Hernan Alvarez (Theo Rossi) reveals to be made from an "alien metal" recovered during the Battle of New York. This isn't the first time relics of the battle have come back to bite the heroes of the MCU — it allowed for Kingpin's (Vincent D'Onofrio) rise to power in Daredevil, set the groundwork for Project Insight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and completely altered the character arc of Tony Stark, ushering in the events of Age of Ultron.
One more thing: Seagate Prison — where Justin Hammer ended up at the conclusion of Iron Man 2 — is of course, the very same prison where Luke Cage himself was wrongly imprisoned, eventually leading to the experiment and accident which gave him his superpowers. Coincidence? Probably, but somehow Hammer's fingerprints have ended up all over Luke Cage.
Could Hammer Return To The MCU?
The last time we saw Justin Hammer was behind bars at Seagate, in the Marvel one-shot All Hail The King from the Thor: The Dark World home media release, which you watch a snippet of below.
The one-shot focuses on Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), the false Mandarin from Iron Man 3, who is also incarcerated at Seagate Prison. But there's a little mid-credits scene of Hammer towards the end where he calls Trevor a jackass behind his back, whilst reading a Forbes magazine with Pepper Potts on the cover.
"Look at this guy. What is so special about him? I mean, I had an army of robots. What's he got? He's got some dumb accent. His name's Trevor. What is that? It's like if Bin Laden and Benny Hill had a baby."
It doesn't tell us all that much, except that Hammer is still in Seagate following the events of Iron Man 3. With his company already in danger during Iron Man 2, it's a bit of a surprise to hear that Hammer Tech is still going strong when Luke Cage rolls around. In fact, they seem to be doing better than ever.
Of course, it's entirely possible that Hammer Tech could be plugging on without Justin Hammer being in the picture. Even in Iron Man 2, he never was the most competent CEO. But it doesn't seem all that unlikely that Hammer could either be out of prison by now, or somehow still involved from behind bars.
While it's unlikely that we'll see this question answered in the movie side of the MCU, what with the shift in focus to the mystic and cosmic in the run up to Avengers: Infinity War, it's pretty likely that we could see Hammer Tech continuing to be a presence on the Netflix show side of things. Luke Cage left Diamondback down but not out, and given that he's wielded Hammer Tech pretty exclusively, through both the use of the Judas bullets and the Diamondback suit, it's a safe bet that he could return with something new from the company.
And the more important question for the MCU as a whole right now is, have Hammer Tech now becoming the leading producers of anti-superhero weaponry? After being humiliated by Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, you can bet Hammer will still be gunning for Iron Man should he ever find his freedom. Up until now normal people haven't had a means by which to take down their enhanced counterparts, but after Captain America: Civil War you can bet the tensions there are going to be stronger than ever.
For now it looks like we'll be waiting until The Defenders rolls around to find the answer to that question, as the larger MCU continues to trickle down to affect the street level heroes. But hopefully we shouldn't be waiting too long to find out, as the ensemble series is set for release sometime next year, exclusively on Netflix.
What do you think Justin Hammer has been up to all this time? Sound off your thoughts in the comments below!