BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 Review By Tony Isabella, Clayton Henry, and Pete Pantazis
Black Lightning returns in this fantastic new series BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS. This issue excels from Tony Isabella's fascinating writing style and gorgeous art.
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DC has been highlighting some of its minor heroes in recent miniseries. Alongside RAGMAN and DEADMAN, we have the first installment of BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS! This series is such a treat because Tony Isabella, the creator of Jefferson Pierce, has returned to write his character’s latest series. BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 is an exciting comic and a splendid dedication to DC’s first major black superhero, celebrating the character’s 40th anniversary.

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Back to the Mean-Streets of Cleveland

Besides GREEN ARROW and NIGHTWING, DC hasn’t highlighted many street-level stories recently. I define street-level stories as stories based around characters dealing with local threats and issues. These comics often focus on more grounded urban issues and themes such as corruption, inequality, and organized crime. These street-level books usually don’t depict godlike entities or powerful alien invasions.

I am as a much of a fan of your intergalactic powerhouses as the next comic book reader. However, I think that there needs to be a balance of lavish grandiose stories and more grounded superhero comics. I think Marvel has pulled this off splendidly by having the Avengers deal with major cosmic threats while the Defenders handle street-level violence. This comic pulls very much from a DEFENDERS style comic by focusing on Black Lightning fighting local crime in Cleveland.

BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 page 8. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 returns one of DC’s most crucial heroes to prominence. This issue is a decent introduction to the character for new readers. It’s clever for DC to do this now since Black Lightning will have many new fans once Greg Berlanti’s TV series comes out this December. Meanwhile, this issue does manage to continue the story from previous Black Lightning books. Here, Jefferson Pierce decides to move to Cleveland and protect its streets from a gang called the “Weathermen.” Unlike New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, Cleveland isn’t the type of city I’d consider the first stop for a superhero. However, that’s the charm of the local-street level heroes who protect their hometown. It helps that Tony Isabella is a Cleveland native which makes the story feel unique to this creator.

Who is Jefferson Pierce?

Tony Isabella’s BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 never has a moment of dead air. It’s extremely quick to introduce you to Black Lightning, the conflict he faces in Cleveland, and the villains opposing him. From this point of view, this comic has a blockbuster level story. Black Lightning must reintroduce himself as a hero to Cleveland while also negotiating his precarious relationship with the police.

BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 page 16. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

However, the major flaw of this comic is that the reader never gets a great idea of who Jefferson Pierce is. There are moments which allude to Pierce’s principles and relationships. Parts which highlight Pierce’s relationship with Tommi Colavito and his late “Pop” are among the strongest of this comic. However, these moments are few and far between. It’s understandable that Isabella may not have enough space to develop Pierce in this comic since it’s only a six-issue miniseries. Yet, I can’t help but feel that people would be more excited for the BLACK LIGHTNING TV series if this comic were to give us more of a connection to Jefferson Pierce. Perhaps Isabella will accomplish that in the next few issues.


BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 triumphs from exquisite art which manages to jump off the page. Artist Clayton Henry and colorist Pete Pantazis put in a lot of effort to make the city in this issue look just like Cleveland. This gives this series a sense of identity which adds to the drama of this installment. In man, ways this city is as much of a main character as Jefferson Pierce is.

BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 page 7. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Furthermore, the action is absolutely exhilarating. Henry and Pantazis beautifully represent Black Lightning’s capabilities. I was surprised, as a Black Lightning newcomer, to realize the vast extent of Pierce’s powers. Not only does he use them to zap people, but he utilizes electromagnetism to fly, manipulate objects around him, and create a surrounding electrical aura. Pantazis ensures that Pierce’s blue costume and bright white lighting bolts stand out against the morose background. This usage of color makes the reader have an instant connection with Black Lightning.

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This issue is also ruthless and quite dark. I won’t spoil anything for this installment, but there’s one surprising panel which reminded me of the Netflix DAREDEVIL series. I think it’s wise of DC to allow its writers and artists to push their boundaries when they do it as effectively as this.

Final Thoughts

BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1 is a thrilling reintroduction to this classic character. I only wish that Isabella will help readers familiarize themselves with who Jefferson Pierce is behind the mask. I think there’s room for Isabella to do this and continue the intriguing story he’s established in this issue. Be sure to keep up with this shockingly awesome series!

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