Thirty years later, Black Lighting’s creator returns to the hero he brought to life back in ’77. How much has changed for Jefferson Pierce? Your Major Spoilers review of Black Lightning – Cold Dead Hands #2 (of 6) awaits!
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Josh Reed
Editor: Jim Chadwick
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Black Lightning – Cold Dead Hands: “Wrongly accused of killing a gang of armed robbers, Black Lightning must stay ahead of the police while fighting to remove a deadly arsenal of high-tech weapons from the streets of Cleveland… and while facing civilians who are no longer certain he’s one of the good guys. As teacher Jefferson Pierce, he must also try to keep drug dealers away from his students. Meanwhile, Detective Colavito investigates mystery man Tobias Whale. Beware: news in this city breaks without pity…”
A WHOLE NEW TAKE?
This issue opens with Black Lightning already wanted for murder after last issue, crimes that the police force already knows he did not commit. At the same time, Jefferson Pierce has to deal with an influx of drugs and high-tech, possibly alien, weapons to the halls of John Malvin High School. The 1990s series took place in Brick City, which seems to have been based on Chicago or Cleveland, this series takes away the pretense and puts Black Lightning on the streets of Cleveland. We’re also seeing the ‘Rebirth’ take on the character, with his short-lived New 52 incarnation overwritten by a Black Lightning whose adventures are evocative of his original 70s series with modern takes. Throughout the issue, the question of police brutality and racial injustice come up, leaving a very young Black Lightning angry, while his traditional nemesis Tobias Whale seems to have some connection to the strange guns coming into the city. Even Anissa Pierce, who was his daughter in previous continuities, appears as (possibly) his cousin and one of the few people who know Jefferson’s secret…
NEW DIMENSIONS TO THIS CHARACTER IN 2017
Throughout the issue, Black Lightning clashes with police, with the people of the city and with the limitations of school funding, but the biggest conflict for me is with his own (entirely justifiable) anger, giving a whole new edge to DC’s first black solo hero. I enjoy the art here quite a bit, as Clay Henry assembles each scene with an expert eye for storytelling, choosing unusual but clear perspectives and making each panel interesting. This issue’s timing means that there will be a Black Lightning series on the stands when his solo series debuts next January, but it also makes for a different take on the character than we’re going to see on TV, which I’m actually sort of fine with (I’ve never been 100% on the timeline of Jeff having twenty-something daughters, to be honest) but it does seem like it might be a risk conceptually. Then again, we have two entirely different and reasonably successful takes on The Flash available at the same time, so modern audiences may have no problem at all with seeing a different character on TV than in the comics…
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD TO HAVE ISABELLA BACK AGAIN
The real truth here is that Tony Isabella writes great comics, Black Lightning is a fascinating character and they’ve got a decent costume on him for the first time in years, so what’s not to like? Black Lightning – Cold Dead Hands #2 is well-drawn, well-written and doesn’t just rehash 1977’s story lines for a new millennium, giving us a modern spin on the character, his cast and surroundings, earning a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. I’m hoping his upcoming TV show is this good, as well…