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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Black Lightning: Year One #5

Black Lightning: Year One #5 [of 6]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 4, 2009

Cover date: May 2009

"Black Lightning, Year One - Part 5"

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

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Over the narration of Henderson speaking about the decline of the neighborhood, Jefferson Pierce mows the lawn on the dilapidated track. As he does, a 100 gang banger comes up and talks about Jefferson's daughter. Enraged, Pierce hops the fence to confront the banger, only to be stopped, oddly enough, by Black Lightning.

Tanner, in Black Lightning's costume, fights the hero in front of an unmarked police cruiser. A policeman sees the pair. Back at the apartment, Tanner takes off the outfit. A gang member outside the house sees Black Lightning, who offers a message to his boss.

The sorcerer realizes his rituals are not working, and is perplexed that Black Lightning isn't Jefferson Pierce. He is weak with the city finding hope, and commands Tobias Whale to bring Tanner before him before realizing there are other ways.

Jefferson helps students fix the field, installing a new sign and then sending the kids to class. He calls his wife in Chicago with news that the 100 have bought the land the school is on. She suggests trying to get the state to object to the purchase in court.

Black Lightning attacks Tanner and his crew while they extort money from a woman with a broken arm. Lighting apologizes for attacking Tanner when the rest of the crew is taken down, and asks why they're buying the school. Tanner thinks it's the upcoming track meet.

The Whale orates at said track meet, and when he's finished, he hangs Jefferson a picture of Tanner tied up and bloodied. Black Lightning makes for Tanner, but Superman stops him (Clark was reporting on the track meet) and tells him the magic is growing more powerful at the track, sending him back while Superman takes care of Tanner.

At the meet, people start to hallucinate creatures. Black Lightning tries to stop them, and with Henderson's help manages to stave off the chaos before it grows too grim.

Over Henderson's narration about how the city slipped into its chaos because of the creature's influence, Black Lightning takes a bullet meant for two track athletes. The athletes rally to protect him as the creature moves to make Lightning his new host.

A paramedic patches Lightning just in time for him to attack the creature as Superman returns bearing Tanner. Superman punches the creature, but the creature turns into a whiff of smoke and disappears.

Tanner leaves to be with Connie, and Black Lightning resolves to defeat the creature.

5Story - 5: These are the longest summaries I've had to write since Infinite Crisis, and for a reason. There's just ten different kinds of awesome and detail packed onto every single page of this. I can honestly say I feel like I'm a part of this neighborhood... literally.

The creature, the sapping thing that takes a community's identity away from it, is one of the most poignant and relatable metaphors in a comic I've read since the anthropomorphic Gog, and one of the best I've seen in comics. I have the singular issues, but I'm gonna buy the trade of this, because it's a repeat read.

The family feel, the subtle things (like the building behind the phone conversation to indicate Chicago, done so well), to Clark in the background without them saying, "HEY, KIDS! LOOK! SUPERMAN!" Using the character because it's, you know, part of the story! Amazing.

It's awesome to see the creature weakened by a community in harmony, and heroic to see Pierce take a bullet so readily. All of that power, and he's still a human, and this book isn't afraid to show that. In fact, it shows it so well that you care deeply for all involved.

I want the Whale in the main DCU. He's that much of a slimebucket, provided he isn't dead by the end of next issue.

There are few books that I feel like it's my privilege to review them, mostly because the act of creation necessitates that it's our privilege to read. In this case, however, I'm quite the opposite. My life would be worse without this experience. That's rad.

5Art - 5: Cully continues to knock it out. Subtle character nuance coupled with a real sense of distinction for each and every scene. That creature is just hands-down bloody well creepy.

I also particularly enjoyed the scene where Tanner plays Black Lightning, because you can tell, looking at it, that he'd pass, but it's still obviously Tanner, as it would be in real life. That was pulled off exceptionally well.

5Cover Art - 5: A symbolic representation of most of the issue's practical dilemmas, with the oddness of seeing Pierce fighting himself in costume. Intriguing, and a great cover.

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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