Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colourist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Josh Reed
Release Date: 1st November 2017
Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, is back in his home town of Cleveland. He’s passing time by being a high school teacher, an upstanding role model for his students and, of course, a crime fighter with the objectively coolest superpower. But his return to super-heroics take a grizzly turn when a skirmish with a local gang armed with deadly super-weapons leads their supplier to taking matters into his own hands… making sure Black Lightning’s reputation doesn’t survive!
It’s a classic return-of-a-hero story to introduce Black Lightning to old and new readers alike, with Tony Isabella introducing Pierce and his supporting cast back into his home-town and crime fighting role before ripping it all apart in the last few pages.
But this classic storyline has also been done to death a million times before, meaning it’s use and the inevitable big twist to push this issue forward feels a little flat and not all that interesting. This issue ends up becoming more like a collection of superhero story tropes and trappings rather than something overly unique.
This is only really keenly felt because 2017 has been a highlight of great new #1s. Even DC’s Ragman last month felt it had more to offer in terms of a story in its issue #1 outing than here. And, for a missed character with such great history like Black Lightning, the setup of the story to come in the next five issues doesn’t feel becoming.
This issue isn’t all one big drag though, as these characters are still worth reading. And they are of course the reason you’ll really be picking this issue up. Isabella’s pen immediately makes these characters feel fleshed out and at home. Pierce and his supporting cast of family, friends and detectives alike become immediately real-feeling and alive, as if they haven’t been left out of DC’s storylines for the past few years. It should be an absolute delight for long-time fans to be right back with Pierce and co through Isabella’s writing again.
Our villain here too, is as cruel and evil as you’d want for the someone who will tear Pierce’s world down around him.
Henry’s pencils here are also a stand-out and genuine reason to read. From some of my favourite runs like Ivar, Timewalker, his now mastered style is so much fun for a character like Black Lightning and fits any superhero tale well regardless. His character work is expressive and emotion fuelled, with incredible face work telling the story and feeling of any situation – even on the most stone-faced of villains. And where would the superhero with the objectively coolest superpower be without amazing effects? Each lightning strike, super-weapon shot and explosion is gorgeously rendered and glorious to see filling the page – with colourist Pantazis’s work feeling like a natural extension of the art as if they were one in the same person.
It’s my hope that Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands will make a better five issue mini than six, and that this first issue was just an exercise in reintroducing the character to audiences before the series really kicks off. From here also hopefully living up to the tag-line of “Real-world issues in a super-hero world! Expect the unexpected!”
But regardless, judging this issue on its own merits leaves it a tad disappointing. Because for all the great character and artistry in this issue, the lacklustre story feels like a fairly flat and basic event for the return of character like Black Lightning! Here’s to the next issue, though. And a good TV show! I definitely appreciate all the love Black Lightning is getting here DC, and you should too.
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The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens