Review: The Brave and The Bold #24

by

Or – “Persistence Pays Off…”

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When Stephen and I were in college, there came Image Comics, a coalition of guys who drew and whose drawings sold comics, they were a huge financial success.  In their wake came half a dozen other companies that tried to launch entire comic book universes, all at once, to rake in some of the proverbial phat cash.  The Ultraverse.  Comics Greatest World.  Valiant.  To my mind though, the most successful launch came in the form of Milestone comics, a universe that chose to focus on diversity, giving us the adventures of characters of differing colors, creeds, orientations, and what have yous.  And of those Milestone characters, my favorite was certainly the teen hero of Hemingway High, the man-boy called Static.  Now that the Milestone characters have been absorbed into the mainstream DCU, it seems that we’re finally going to see Static achieve his full potential.  Eat that, X-O Manowar, Hardcase and Motorhead!

Previously, on The Brave and The Bold:  Virgil Ovid Hawkins was a normal kid, maybe a little geeky, when a foolish decision led him BB1.jpgto be present at the gang war that came to be known as the Big Bang.  Exposed to experimental “Q-Juice,” Virgil was given amazing electromagnetic powers which, combined with his inherent cleverness and a thirst for justice, and aided by his closest friends, allowed Virgil became the Hero of Dakota, the man called Static.  You don’t start none, there won’t BE none…

Jefferson Pierce, gold-medal decathlete and educator, grew up in a rough neighborhood on the South Side of Metropolis, a place where Superman never seemed to fly by.  With the help of his father’s old friend, Peter Gambi, he returned to Suicide Slum, and created a second identity, that of Black Lightning.  Using either a mechanical belt or innate metahuman powers, (depending on which origin you’ve read) Black Lightning was one of the very first African-American superheroes, and his years of respect and tenure were only slightly tarnished by his years working undercover in the corrupt cabinet of President Lex Luthor. 

Two men.  Similar powers, different paths.  How many different jokes could I make involving “sparks flying” at this point?

We open with another Milestone graduate as Holocaust, formerly of the Blood Syndicate, burns his way into Blackgate Prison seeking out a man named Purcell.  He’s up in arms about a bribe he sent upstream during the Luthor Administration, a large sum of money that should have given him control of a Riverboat Casino in Dakota.  Purcell swears he did everything that he could, that somebody in the administration had to have played them both.  “I need a name,” snarls Holocaust, “And the more I believe you, the more of you makes it to the burn ward.”  (Foreshadowing:  Your key to quality literature.)  Cut to Jefferson Pierce, former Secretary of Education, speaking at the Hemingway High school commencement ceremonies.  Students Frieda Goren and Virgil Hawkins are present to record the graduation, when Holocaust comes out of the crowd and flames on, sending a blast of fire straight at Pierce.  “You took my money!  When I’m done, they’ll be calling you BROILED Lightning.”  Pierce takes a head-on blast of flame, which burns away his suit, and reveals the familiar costume of Black Lightning!  (Is he invulnerable now?)

Meanwhile, a few yards away, Virgil desperately tries to change into his Static costume, finally using Frieda and her amazing teenage girl shrieking powers as a diversion.  Static leaps in, blasting Holocaust with electricity, and using magnetism to enwrap him in steel goalposts.  Lightning manages to douse his fire for a moment, and Static takes a shot at his elder.  “Not big on the hero chatter?  I guess GRAFT doesn’t pay by the word, huh?”  Holocaust quickly breaks free and flashfries a passing helicopter, taking Static out of the picture, then reveals to Lightning that he knows that this whole thing is a setup.  He knows Lightning DIDN’T take his money, but he’s going to take him out anyway.  “I’ll kill you because I CAN, Pops.  Strength don’t need a reason.”  Static uses his head (and the bleachers) to knock Holly for a loop, and the two electrical heroes finally get on the same page.  “You still have a NERVOUS SYSTEM,” says Lightning, “and we’re basically bioelectric batteries,” says Black Lightning.  “Actually, I’m pretty sure I manipulate ambient electro-magnetism,” says Static before they lay the firebug out with a heavy dose of voltage.  With the villain down, Static realizes that Black Lightning is playing a con, using his rep as a Luthor guy to keep tabs on villains.  Black Lightning reveals that, while he didn’t take the money, he is responsible for the casino bing shot down.  Some time later, Jefferson Pierce gets bandaged up from his burns and bruises, while Virgil tries to keep up his secret identity.  “Apropos of nothing,” says Pierce, “I find that extra deodorant and a fresh costume every day conceal one’s civilian identity better than changing one’s voice ever could.”  Heh…  “Forget what you heard,” says Virgil.  “Black Lightning is my hero.  Um… and Static’s.   I’d imagine.”

Let me start with the obvious: It’s good to have Static back.  Writer Matt Wayne captures the goofy intellectualism of Virgil Hawkins well, as well as his relationship with best friend Frieda, and the vitriolic response he has to “sell-out” Black Lightning before the truth is raised is very well-handled.  The use of Holocaust made sense in this setting, although I can’t recall whether or not Black Lightning’s electrical field should be able to shrug off super-heated plasma that easily.  Doesn’t matter, though, as Howard Porter’s art makes the whole issue sing, using an art style somewhere between his old JLA style and the new painted rendering his did on ‘Trials of Shazam’ not so long ago.  Black Lightning in any context is awesome, and the acknowledgement of his status as first DCU hero of color feels right, as well.  The issues conflict is a little bit cardboard, but it’s not really supposed to be a deep sturm und drang story, just a setup to get these two in the same room for the first time (unless you count the “Soul Power” episode of Static Shock, or the recent Static-tinged version of Black Lightning seen in the ‘Batman: Brave And The Bold’ cartoon.)  The upshot is totally worth it, and The Brave and The Bold #24 earns a very strong 4 out of 5 stars overall.  An anthology team-up book like this one lives and dies on the strength of it’s concepts, and this issue is pure gold.

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