Superhero Action Monopolizes Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 4

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Is there a limit to how subtle a superhero story can be? I’m certainly not of the mindset that tights and flights have to be bombastic or simple, but it seems obvious to me that, say, “being able to punch really hard” isn’t a solution that can be applied to every problem. Creators have found countless was to get subtler beats into their superhero work, but at some point, “being able to punch really hard” must come up, or the story might as well not feature a superhero. I’ll often regret that necessity when stories jerk away from compelling subtleties for generic action, which is unfortunately what Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 4 is all about. Continue reading

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A Statement of Purpose in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 3

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Superheroes have become so ubiquitous, we sometimes take their motivations for granted. Not everyone has a well-known origin story, so we often just accept that a given hero is fighting crime without any further explanation necessary. That may seem odd, but it’s also how most police stories go — we don’t always need an explanation for why the protagonist became a cop in the first place. But it does leave some personal investment on the table. Police stories often get around this by somehow making the case at hand personal, but that personal connection can have a lot more resonance if it reaches back to the character’s past — perhaps the very thing that drove them down this path in the first place. I hadn’t really been sweating Jefferson Pierce’s motivations — he’s a community-minded guy that happens to have superpowers, so I could believe him feeling some sense of duty — but Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands gets specific, drawing from the real-world shooting of Tamir Rice as a kind of Uncle Ben moment. Continue reading

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 2 Settles Into Itself

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 2

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

For as many superhero comics there are out there, it’s remarkable how little diversity there is — both in terms of representation and narrative variety. Those are both points that have been made to death, but are rarely mentioned in the same breath. But with Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands 2, Tony Isabella and Clayton Henry make a strong case that they might be related — or more precisely, that the solution to both can be the same thing: Jefferson Pierce’s blackness lends the character to stories totally unlike the reheated adventures of other superhero faire. It demonstrates the storytelling potential of diverse characters, emphasizing perspectives, obstacles, and motivations that otherwise might never come up at the Big 2. Continue reading

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 1 Gets Political

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

It’s remarkable how many comics fans claim their perceived politicization of superheroes is ruining the medium. It represents a profoundly ahistorical worldview that falls apart under even the lightest scrutiny. I’m not convinced any work of art could be apolitical, but superhero comics certainly aren’t — virtually every character, from Captain America to Superman, advanced very specific political opinions. More broadly, the relative cheapness of comics as a medium has long lent it to political advocacy. Comics have always been political. Superheroes have always been political. Readers may disagree with — or even resent — the political attitudes reflected in a given comic, but that a comic is political is not a valid reason to dismiss it. To me, the quality of a comic has everything to do with how clearly and effectively it makes its point — whether that point is political, emotional, or something else. Only looking at the first issue, it’s impossible to say exactly what point Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands will ultimately make, but this issue does suggest a rich array of political points it can choose from. Continue reading