Black Lightning Strikes Back!
By the time Tony Isabella was writing the adventures of his creation Black Lightning once more the world had changed, at least the world of comic books. In the early 90's when this series dropped the gandiose Image style was ascendant and that bombast is evident to some degree in this comic, sometimes to its detriment. Eddy Newell is a dandy artist, but the storytelling loses its way on occasion. "Brick City Blues" tells us of the 90's when the evil of Crack cocaine was the dominant drug of choice for the folks on the street and the "War on Drugs" was in full swing. (Lacing any foreign conflicts we decided to wage war on ourselves to keep the juices flowing.) That the "War on Drugs" was a debacle is well documented now with even Republicans wanting to garner some pity from above by seeking to modify prison sentences.
"Brick City" is an area of Cleveland, or at least that's what is on Isabella's mind. Olympian Jeff Pierce is teaching again, bringing his talents to Brick City to dazzle the his tiny classes with inspiration and positive thinking. I have to confess that this kind of "hero teacher" trope is one of my least favorite and has done harm to my profession, one which I'm wrapping up after three decades and a bit. The public thinks all it takes is a little razzle dazzle and clever quotes from Whitman and children can be elevated and rescued from frightening home scenarios. It's actually a lot of hard tedious dogged work by folks who only want to find a few minutes for lunch who make the difference, that is if the powers that be will let them alone long enough.
I shouldn't take all my animus on these "hero teachers" out on poor Jeff Pierce, as he's better than many fictional teachers I've tumbled across. But if I knew that I could send an electrical tingle down the arm of my least favorite student once in a while, I might be proud classroom warrior for justice too. I've always said you are not a teacher unless you don't imagine the discreet use of a little electricity might not improve the gig.
But it's not just about Jeff Pierce in this one, it's about Black Lightning, the new superhero in town. He gets some help from the diligent cops and less from the others. He's seen partly as a nuisance unless he's just saved your personal bacon. The main baddie in the first several issues, aside from assorted gang-bangers, is a chap dubbed "Painkiller" who has an assortment of powers, he can either make you numb where he chooses or he can affect your senses, making you blind for instance. Black Lightning's electric field seems to give him just enough of an immunity that the two can fight ferociously.
Just like in the original series by Isabella, this one features a gritty realism in that death strikes quickly, surprisingly and without remorse.
One of my favorite issues is the one when Black Lightning is recuperating from his battles and a near-death experience. The inside view of his thoughts really make the character stand out.
Isabella wraps up his return to the Black Lightning with a trio of tales involving the Metroplois hero Crimebuster. It's a convoluted yarn and not as as good as the first series, though it does to some extent offer up an ending of sorts. It's not discussed but Isabella is taken off the book as well Newell who got a lot of help in these final issues.
When the story picks up we have a new writer and a new artist and they are quick to make some changes to the status quo of the series. Jeff Pierce fights for his job and the Black Lightning operates in the shadow of a deadly serial killer. A villain from his past resurfaces as well.
For a time Lightning himself is thought to be the villain, but it's eventually cleared up with some "outsider" help in time for the series finale. And unlike the first Black Lightning series, this one does get some closure.