Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1
Written by: Tony Isabella
Art by: Clayton Henry
Colors by: Pete Pantazis
Letters by: Joshua Reed
Cover by: Clayton Reed and Tomeu Morey
Published by: DC Comics

A review by Stacy Dooks

I’ve been a fan of the character of Black Lightning since I first encountered him back in the pages of Batman and the Outsiders. Jefferson Pierce is a schoolteacher with lightning-based superpowers who fought crime both in the Suicide Slum section of Metropolis and the mean streets of Gotham City. He’s long been a mainstay of DC Comics, but with his television debut upcoming the timing was right for an all-new series. In Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 we get the opportunity to catch up with the character not only in a new series, but in an entirely new city with a new status quo that’s definitely a product of our modern times.

The series opens with Jefferson setting up shop in Cleveland, Ohio and taking down a group of thieves robbing a casino with some high tech hardware. Black Lightning saves the day and manages to save the lives of some local police… who immediately want to arrest him. As this is happening we find out an old enemy has returned in a new guise and Jefferson himself is dealing with some painful family business, building up to an ending that leaves our hero definitely up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

To discuss the plot any further would give away far too much of the gold, but I’ll do my best to focus on what I liked about the issue while keeping things as vague as I can. Isabella knows this character inside and out (he should, as one of Black Lightning’s creators) and it’s clear over the course of the issue that a he’s got some things to say about media and the police, and how our respective relationships with both institutions have changed over the years. In the Silver Age, police were the intrepid men and women who supported superheroes and did their part to ensure law and order. Today, our mental image of police is considerably less rosy, and there are moments in the book where our black superhero finds himself facing down police officers who  seem only too eager to jump to the wrong conclusion. Isabella is a deft hand though and does introduce sympathetic officers and detectives, but if this issue is any indicator Black Lightning’s not going to be getting a Commissioner Gordon anytime soon. Isabella’s a deft hand with humor too, and there’s one particular line when Black Lightning pulls off a surprise appearance behind some police officers that made me snort. The choice to move the character to Cleveland is a nice touch as well, providing some real-world verisimilitude while still calling back to the character’s connection with Superman. The art by Clayton Henry is top-notch and he manages to pull off some nice effects and variations on Black Lightning’s powers and fighting style, and the colors by Pete Pantazis make the already impressive art and inks pop.

The Verdict:
Buy It!
Whether you’re a long time fan of the character who wants to catch up or a new reader who wants to get in on the ground floor of a new run with a classic hero Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 has plenty to offer. It’s got superhero action, drama, and some societal commentary that provides some things to think about amidst all the slam-bang action. Recommended.

Stacy Dooks
Stacy Dooks is a writer and assorted pop culture fanatic whose childhood fixations on the works of Jim Henson, George Lucas, and DC Comics laid the groundwork for his current status as a pop culture junkie chatterbox. He currently resides in Calgary, Alberta while he waits for his TARDIS coral to finish growing. For more of his observations on popular culture, check out The Fanboy Power Hour:

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