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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Black Lightning: Year One #3

Black Lightning: Year One #3 [of 6]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 4, 2009

Cover date: April 2009

"Black Lightning, Year One - Part 3"

Writer: Jen Van Meter
Penciller: Cully Hamner
Inker: Cully Hamner

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

As Peter Gambi narrates, Black Lightning takes out a mob leader named Toledo while surrounded by flunkies with guns. A shield of lightning protects them. Black Lightning lets the shield down and the mob leader tells them to stow their guns. Black Lightning proceeds to take the mobsters out, over Gambi speaking of a woman he once loved who died at the hands of mob violence. Toledo warns Lightning about the 100.

Lightning goes to Gambi, and the pair celebrate catching Earl Clifford's killer. Together they work on the belt that enhances Jefferson's powers. As they do, a radio report claims that Toledo is dead, killed by electrocution.

Frank tells Jefferson that he's sure the 100 are behind the electrocution. When Jefferson indicates that he's putting himself in danger, Frank indicates that he'll be safe, because he did as Jefferson suggested and is going back to Chicago to be with his wife.

The 100 crash a dance at the school, and Black Lightning shows up, taking out gang members until Bill Henderson shows up. Black Lightning indicates that he can't be taken in, and Henderson tells him in response that Toledo is in custody, rolling over on bad cops, and the death was faked. Henderson tells Lightning he wants to work with him and will clear his name.

Jefferson and his wife are soon beset with reporters, wanting to know if she accepted bribes, sniffing out corruption in the justice system of Suicide Slums. Clark Kent and Lois Lane garner Jefferson's attention, and he invites them home, where they talk about the case. As they do, a phone call comes from the judge, telling Jefferson to have Black Lightning meet him, and the political pressure on his family can go away. Clark hears the conversation with his super-hearing.

As Pierce watches in Black Lightning costume, Talia approaches him and offers the help of the League of Assassins. Pierce avoids her, dropping down to his meeting.

The Judge peels off his skin to reveal a pale, tall human twice the size of the average man. He indicates that he wants to wear Black Lightning, and sics goons with guns on the hero.

Superman hears, and goes to the scene of the fight, but is held back by a magical barrier. The villain reveals that he will allow Lightning to live for now, to suffer, and reveals to him that Gambi is the reason Jefferson's father Alvin is dead. As the police approach, Superman flies in.

Jefferson confronts Gambi, who says that he was given a choice by the 100 to either set Alvin up and send him to a meeting where he would be killed, or Alvin's children would be killed. Jefferson throws his plaque about justice across the room and flees into the night to track the sorcerer.

5Story - 5: Take a look at this summary, and compare it to the Trinity summary, and you'll have a clear rationale as to why I favor one over the other, and what makes a good story for me. Thought, detail, character, and a plot that has personal relevance. This story has all of that and more.

As Pierce continues to evolve, this issue resolves a number of issues and ideas thoughtfully. Why Superman can't come to Suicide, why Gambi feels such a need to help, what the true menace of the 100 is, and how Black Lightning will relate to the police. All of the twist and turns work really well for me, and now I'm totally endeared to this character where before this series I was apathetic at best. Now I read that Black Lightning is going to be a big part of Superman, and I'm excited.

The thing that makes this work so great is not necessarily the plot, it's the execution, though the plot is fine. The overnarration is brilliant, and makes you want to read the issue again (and I did, just to see how it was crafted, which is extraordinarily well). There are also little things that leap out on subsequent reading, like with Adventures. You remember how the OMAC units would pop up in the background in completely unrelated scenes, almost imperceptible? That happens here, too. You see Talia in the back of the initial scene despite her not appearing until later, just casually hiding in the background. There's also some great subtlety with the "bird/plane" metaphor, used in a way that's so creative I'm jealous I didn't think of it. It's just awesome. Clark folds origami, and the little girl asks him if it's going to be a bird, and he folds a paper airplane, and then there's the unspoken illusion, that no, it's not what the girl thinks, or what we see, in the form of Clark, but it's the implied, unspoken Superman that permeates the scene.

And THAT is literature, not funnybooks. More Jen, please, DC.

5Art - 5: As much a character in the piece as the writing, each person and scene has a distinct flair. Great work from the top to the bottom. I like the design of the big bad, I like how Superman is used. It's also awesome to see gang members distinguishable from kids in the inner city, a distinction I often see missed. I love how that's cared for and crafted her.

Fine work all around.

4Cover Art - 4: The cover has that kind of creepy vibe going for it, so the black background makes much more sense than it did in the first cover, which was just kind of a static image. It's much better in terms of impact and composition, and draws you in more.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2009

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