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Black Lightning Vol. 1 Paperback – April 12, 2016
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Happily, Black Lightning was much better conceived and written. The basic premise was simple but has stood the test of time. A man leaves his home, achieves success in the world, and returns to find his home in the grip of evil and powerful forces. He decides to fight those forces. He has help from a number of quarters. Although he starts out as an athletic superhero in the Batman mold he eventually (although it is not explained how) acquires super powers along the way.
The first 8 issues collected here deal with Jefferson Pierce's/Black Lightning's war against the organized crime syndicate the 100 and its head, the albino black Tobias Whale. Whale is is very much like Marvel's Kingpin, both in position and physically. The setting is the Suicide Slum neighborhood of Metropolis which serves two purposes. It allows Black Lightning to interact with Superman and his supporting cast and it gives Metropolis, hitherto depicted as a nearly perfect urban setting, a more realistic look.
The last 4 issues are stand alone stories, albeit entertaining ones. It would have been interesting to see where the title would have headed had it continued. One hopes that Black Lightning would have remained a street level superhero.
Much of the series' interest comes from the supporting cast. Pierce's father figure Peter Gambi emerges as a complex character with a fascinating background that is only hinted at here. And I think that Pierce must be the first divorced superhero. His ex-wife seems like a real keeper so it would have been interesting to see what made their marriage fail.
The art is nothing to write home about but seems perfectly adequate. There seems to be no restoration done. I bought the Kindle/Comixology edition and once again I strongly urge reading this on the Comixology ap where the images can be resized to suit.
My only complaint is the omission of the Black Lightning feature in various World's Finest issues of the time. It would have been nice to have the entire '70s Black Lightning in one collection. It is to be hoped they'll appear in volume 2.
All in all, highly recommended. I hope we see a follow-up volume in due course. Black Lightning had a lot going for it and it was a pity it fell victim to the infamous "DC Implosion".