Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #5 – Tony Isabella, Writer; Clayton Henry, Yvel Guichet, Artists; Pete Pantazis, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Putting Pieces Back Together
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The penultimate issue Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, Tony Isabella’s revival of his most famous concept, is hitting at the right time, as Black Lightning is now one of the hottest characters on TV. This miniseries features some similarities, to be sure, but it commits to a sci-fi vibe infused with a realism that could only happen in the comics. As the cover indicates, this is finally where Black Lightning and Tobias Whale face off, but that doesn’t happen until the end of the issue. This is actually a bit of a slow burn, the series is better for it. One thing I’ve noticed about this series is the way every death counts, even those of random civilians – we learn all about the cops who died last issue, in the same way we learned about the people on the street killed by the explosion earlier. As the city mourns, and the police struggle to keep the city under control, Black Lightning devotes some time to his other important role – that of a schoolteacher, and in this issue, drama coach.
The setup for this segment, involving what seems like a shooting of a teenager, gives way to a clever twist that calls back to some classic stories about paranoia and neighbor turning against neighbor – something that’s more relevant than ever. I liked the introduction of Lynn Stewart – Black Lightning’s future wife, and here his assistant principal. Just from the early interactions between them, you can see they’re going to be a strong unit if the series continues and they wind up a couple. I’m almost sorry to see the scenes set at the school left behind when it comes time for the big showdown, but the confrontation between Black Lightning and Tobias Whale doesn’t disappoint. The villain has obviously been planning for this for a long time, and the battle does not disappoint. Tobias Whale is 90% intimidation and this new version has a lot in common with Kingpin, of course, but this series is close to a perfect comic to give to new fans of the character and should be upgraded to an ongoing as soon as possible.
Corrina: I’ll second Ray’s call for an ongoing series.
Isabella’s created a world somewhat different for Black Lightning than in his original run, and this world has come alive in just these five issues, especially since it’s populated with everyone from Jefferson, to the kids who were on the run with the weapons, to Tobias Whale, and to the police officers, who are allowed to have different personalities instead of being viewed as one monolithic block.
However, Jefferson is at the center of it all, as he should be, and this series has proved what a fantastic character he is. He’s the protector, determined to do what he can to the best of his abilities, and that includes not only being a superhero but being a teacher and a drama coach. This is a hero to love, though, I admit, it is odd to switch back and forth from the comic to the show. The only not-quite-there notes in the comic so far have been the introduction of Lynn, who hasn’t had enough screen time to make her distinct and the addition of the weird alien/mutant enforcers for Whale, which has not been fully explained.
As for the deathtrap that Jefferson willingly enters in this issue, I was thrilled to see Jeff shrug off the need for his powers during the battle. He is an Olympic gold medalist and a natural fighter and does not always need his powers. Indeed, in the original BL series, his powers were artificial, and he often fought without them. It was good to see an echo of that in this issue.
Of course, things are looking bad for him right now. But with Jefferson, there’s always hope.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.