Comic Review: Black Lighting - Cold Dead Hands

"Last night I saw a superhero, he was black, he said this is for the streets, Black Lightning's back," in more ways that one. Running side by side with the TV show we got Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands, the first appearance of Jeff in the Rebirth universe of DC Comics. The difference this time is Jeff was back in the hands of Tony Isabella, the creator of Black Lightning (with Trevor Von Eeeden). I don't know what magic DC is working over there to resolve decade old disputes with creators and wrangle others, but I'm glad it's happening.

Cold Dead Hands follows Jeff as he returns to his home town of Cleveland. There he goes back to work teaching as he deal with his father's death. Little does he know that his downfall is being planned by Tobias Whale. Not the Tobias Whale we all know, but his uncle, who murdered him displeased because he was using the name.

Jeff has an already tense relationship with the police. It doesn't help that he shows them up while stopping a group of thieves using new high tech weaponry. Things are intensified when Tobias Whale frames him for murder. Suddenly Jeff is forced to flee from the police, avoid Whale's goons while trying to prove his innocence. Meanwhile the weapons are falling into the hands of children and causing massive damage, that's all I can give you for free.

Jeff gets an entirely new supporting cast for Rebirth including Red Bee, who I have made fun of in the past. Denise Simms and Tommi Colvito are two bad ass police officers and probably the only officers who don't hate Jeff. Then there's Kitaro, a kid in Jeff's class and the grandson of Usagi so he knows Jeff's identity. Kitaro is a shy kid but a really great actor. I love Usagi. Sometimes Usagi is a woman, sometimes Usagi is a man. Usagi is shape shifter who has been on Earth for a few decades and has a love of anime. I kind of love Usagi. Of course the regular cast is there, even in different roles.

That's one of the things, I don't really care for about Rebirth as a whole. Everyone is younger, and that means things have to be changed to make sense. Jeff is no longer a middle age, experienced crime fighter who's been Secretary of Education and makes great advancements in the community. He's a twenty something babyface teacher and his best friends in the super hero community are Cyborg and Barry Allen because they're in the same age group now. (Which is weird because Red Head Wally, is now the same age group as Barry too) The reason this bugs me most of all is that now Anissa and Jenn are no longer daughters, but cousins. I know Jeff is a bad ass, but now he has to relearn everything like this is new to him, and it's weird to read. If I want to see the Black Lighting I know from the past, I have to turn on the TV for a more faithful adaptation than Rebirth. Which is fine, because it's a great TV show. Despite that, we still get references to the JLA, Gambi and even The Outsiders so we have to take what we can get.

Despite all that, Jeff is back in the hands of Tony Isabella and Tony Isabella knows Jeff. He know the issues Jeff cares about and the way he operates. Yes, he's a more bold and boastful 20 something, but he's Jefferson Pierce all the way through and we get glimpses of that throughout including his final showdown with Tobias Whale. There's plenty of commentary on social issues from various communities. But here's the thing, it's not forced into the story and in some cases it isn't even addressed at all because these are Jeff's friends and it's not new to him. He doesn't bother explaining anything. If a character is lesbian or trans, it just is because everyone in the story already knows and there isn't a big arrow pointing to them with the word "DIVERSITY" above their head.

I'll be honest, there's one issue I have with the artwork, and it's completely 100% just me nitpicking. It's not even a real issue, because it's just me being picky. The artwork is beautiful. See, some artist will depict Jeff with actual black Lightning. It's rare and I really love it. There is one panel in Issue 4 that depicts this.

Speaking of Issue 4. It's my favorite in the series. It's one of those glances that we get of Jeff being a hard nosed vet. It's an all out war with Jeff and the police forced to call temporary truce to take on Tobias Whale's goons lead by White Tunder. Jeff puts his all into the fight while essentially leading the police in keeping the pressure on. It's a great issue with some great art work from Clayton Henry, Yvel Guichet and Pete Pantazis.

Cold Dead Hands is a intro. Sure, there's some missteps but that can't really be blamed on the crew. That's more of Rebirth putting a lot of characters in this weird position where their entire history happened in a few brief years. It causes things to be switched around from what people love about characters unless they're one of the major Justice League members and that's okay. Cold Dead Hands is a big leap forward in a new Black Lightning lore hopefully there's more.

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Comic Review: Black Lighting - Cold Dead Hands Comic Review: Black Lighting - Cold Dead Hands Reviewed by Darrell S. on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 Rating: 5

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