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Black Lighting #1 Review: A Hero For Today's Non-Specific Headlines

There is a crime spree ongoing across Cleveland by a group of thugs with elemental weapons. Black Lightning has just returned to his hometown to fight back against this wave of terror. Unfortunately, the police aren't ready to trust Jefferson Pierce. He's up against both criminals and the police in this struggle for the soul Cleveland.

In the shadows, the original Tobias Whale is making moves, and Black Lightning may find himself in Whale's path.

Black Lightning #1 cover by Clayton Henry and Tomeu Morey
Black Lightning #1 cover by Clayton Henry and Tomeu Morey

The cover says "A hero for today's headlines," but it's pretty tentative in regard to said headlines. Where Falcon and Black Panther and the Crew lay the social commentary on smartly and Green Arrow lays it on heavy and haphazardly, Black Lightning lays it on lightly and nervously. The cops are indeed hostile towards Black Lightning, but it doesn't really get into it beyond the broad hostility. It doesn't really say anything about it. It doesn't seem committed to the commentary, either.

The pacing is really fast, too. The plot moves haphazardly forward, and it doesn't establish too much beyond the reason Black Lightning came back to Cleveland: the fact that he has an ally on the police force, and that there is another Tobias Whale who is muscular instead of fat.

And then Whale has a sister whom he kills shortly after she is introduced.

Trust me, I get it. Comics don't have an especially long runtime. 20 pages can be really hard to work with. However, people do manage to make it work in these constrictions, and this comic doesn't really do it.

That's not to say that this comic is bad or unreadable. Black Lightning is a great character, and Tony Isabella definitely understands him. Jefferson even makes a lot of dad-puns in the form of teacher jokes, and that adds a nice bit of flavor to his character.

Black Lightning #1 art by Clayton Henry and Pete Pantazis
Black Lightning #1 art by Clayton Henry and Pete Pantazis

Clayton Henry's art is mostly quite good here, too. It's eye-catching and energetic, but the body proportions do get a bit weird at times. The ankles especially get a bit too small — it can look like some characters are balancing on toothpicks. However, the art is good beyond that, and Pete Pantazis's color work helps each page pop.

I'm definitely a fan of Black Lightning, but this comic doesn't make great use of the character. I respect the attempt to be culturally relevant, especially making use of the term "DWB." However, the pacing is overenergized, and the social commentary feels shallow. If you like Black Lightning, feel free to pick this one up. However, I can't recommend this one to everyone.

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Joshua DavisonAbout Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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