Black Lightning: Year One #1 (DC Comics)
by Jen van Meter & Cully Hamner
The title character of this origin series has really transformed into little more than a superhuman crime-fighter. Even with a new lease on life as a member of the Justice League, Black Lightning seems to be devoid of any real personality. I’m most familiar with the character from his role in Mike W. Barr’s Batman and the Outsiders in the 1980s, and at that time, his non-hero moments were defined by his failed marriage. But as Jen van Meter reminds us here, creator Tony Isabella crafted the character as an inner-city role model, as a community organizer who faced overwhelming opposition from the forces of social corruption. Van Meter does a nice job of depicting Jefferson Pierce as someone equally devoted to family and community. She incorporates Isabella’s original vision of the character with revisions DC has made over the years. More importantly, she’s really done a great job of bringing a sense of history and community to Suicide Slum, the ugly little corner of Metropolis that several Jack Kirby characters call home along with Black Lightning.
The real draw of this book is the artwork. When this project was first announced, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in reading van Meter’s retooling of the Black Lightning origin, but I knew I’d want to see Cully Hamner’s art. While the visuals are brighter in tone that I would have expected, the action is entertaining. Again though, the artist like the writer has done a great job of establishing a real sense of place and realism in the setting. And the setting — physically and socio-economically — is as important a “character” in the story as is Black Lightning. 7/10