Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colourist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Josh Reed
Release Date: 6th December 2017
In the second installment of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, two weeks following his framing for the murder of two gang kids with powerful weaponry, Jefferson tries to lay low while he attempts to find out who framed him and why. However, another attempted robbery and Black Lightning’s tracking down of dealers means that our villain’s productions of these dangerous sci-fi weapons increases, with even more disastrous consequences…
However, as this series finally moves into the ‘meat’ of its story, I can’t help but feel it’s still plagued by the issues that faced its first outing. Namely, its lack of feet for a new and exciting take on a Black Lightning story for 2017.
Issue #2 gives a us a better insight Pierce’s life outside of being Black Lightning as we see him rejig his priorities to put as much time into being a teacher as being a vigilante, making this issue feel a bit more personal. We see more of Pierce as a person and discover more about the community that he wants so desperately to protect, all while his supporting cast grows with more substance behind each character, allowing Isabella’s writing flourish as he tackles topical issues. Issues of minority, prejudice, community and struggles of gang violence and drugs.
It’s most certainly the part of the book I enjoyed the most, and there’s a rather shocking ending that makes this all the more poignant, but when it comes to the actual Black Lightning side of things, this issue’s storytelling feels flat.
A superhero dealing with being framed for murder, outwitting the police and facing off against a kingpin of crime dealing his goods to all of the gangs/criminal underworld of a city just isn’t as fresh or exciting as once was.
And without any extra substance or introspection behind it, there’s nothing to set this story apart from countless other greats that can be enjoyed right now. Nor make me invested in watching Black Lightning evade the police against a fairly faceless villain at this point, with the villain only getting a page of time dedicated to his motives.
Henry’s and Pantazis’ artistry here is still a whole lot of fun, with some great pages dedicated to their mastery of explosions, “sci-fun guns” and Black Lightning awesome powers.
The personal side of Jefferson Pierce and Isabella’s writing on the character and his supporting cast during those moments are definitely the reason to read here, and with more weight given to its themes and current issues, I certainly became more attached. However, the flat and standard superhero story happening alongside leaves me more than a little disappointed.
If that personal side very much appeals to you, then Cold Dead Hands may still be a book to keep reading, with great art to boot. But otherwise, Black Lightning may just be fizzling out.
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The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP