Welcome Back, Pierce
Except for the most recent stories featuring Jefferson Pierce, most readers probably have no knowledge of the early days of Black Lightning.Â And even those that do have detailed knowledge of one of DCâ€™s first black superheroes, are about to learn a little more as the company releases yet another Year-One mini-series.
Nothing against Jen Van Meter, but I would bet sheâ€™s seen an episode or two of Welcome Back, Kotter.Â There is very little, if any, display of powers by Jefferson Pierce, as the opening chapter of this tale is narrated by his wife, Lynn, who knows something is up with her husband, but doesnâ€™t quite know what.Â This issue features the Pierce family relocating to the Suicide Slums of Metropolis where Pierce has taken on the job of principal at his former high school.
Suicide Slums is not the place one would expect to find a former Olympic gold medal winner, but Jefferson believes he can make a change to the part of the city even Superman wonâ€™t visit.Â Readers get the grand tour of the Slums as the ghetto filled with gangs, leads Pierceâ€™s home surrounded by high fences and barbed wire, where his nephew guards the compound with a rifle.Â Even as the family car drives into the city, Pierce gives a very concise history of this part of Metropolis, that made the first two or three pages of the issue very interesting to someone like me who is very into the geography and history surrounding DCâ€™s fictional cities.Â Itâ€™s certainly not a place many would chose to live, but thanks to the local gang, The 100, and the political maneuverings of Tobias Whale hope is a thing that is on low supply.
Readers also learn that Jefferson about Jeffersonâ€™s powers as an almost after thought.Â We do discover that he has some kind of shocking ability thatâ€™s been with him since childhood, but an old family friend, Peter Gambi taught Jefferson to suppress his abilities.Â But as fate would have it, a student whom Jefferson believes could be an example for all the students, is ratted out and killed, forcing Pierce to make the decision to fight dirty.
For the most part, this first issue follows the same history you can find on Wikipedia, but unlike that entry, which is more than likely changed to incorporate this retcon, thereâ€™s nothing that indicates when this story takes place.Â Nothing in the art by Cully Hamner indicates this takes place in 1977 – it could very easily be happening in present day, if it werenâ€™t for the fact that a fully realized Black Lightning is kicking all sorts of ass in the Justice League.
I both like and dislike this move.Â I like it because I could easily see this as DCâ€™s attempt to Ultimatize its universe, as based on this first issue, I would like to see how far this story goes.Â Will it lead up to the take down of Tobias Whale?Â Will it see the beginnings of his daughterâ€™s lightning powers?Â In six issues, my guess would be no, but it sure would be interesting to see further adventures of this hero in his younger days.Â I donâ€™t like it because it is just another retelling of a characterâ€™s origin to incorporate some upcoming character change in the main titles.Â While it wasnâ€™t labeled as a Year One series, the recent Johns turn on Green Lantern rewrote history simply to incorporate the origins of the Red Lantern. Iâ€™m hopeful we donâ€™t see the same thing happening here.
There have been some rather successful Year One stories (Batman, Robin, and so on), and some Year One stories that really didnâ€™t deliver (Huntress and Teen Titans).Â With a mixed bag of good and bad, it would be interesting to see DC continue the Year Blank series to eventually bring the characters up to speed – providing there are stories to tell.Â Do we need a Robin: Year Five?Â Only if there is something so fantastic that happened in that year that would make a stellar story.Â For a first issue, I like where Black Lightning: Year One is going and am giving it 4 out of 5 Stars.