Comic Review – Aquaman #34

Corum Rath had long been a thorn in the side of The Aquaman, Arthur Curry. As leader of The Deluge – a xenophobic terrorist group which resisted Aquaman’s efforts, as King of Atlantis, to establish peaceful relations with the surface world – Rath led an attack on the American city of Boston. He was imprisoned until certain traditionalist elements with the Atlantean Council of Elders grew equally tired of the king’s progressive attitudes and decided to appoint Rath as the new King of Atlantis.

Rath’s first act as King was to seal off Atlantis from the outside world, using an ancient magical artifact known as The Crown of Thorns. He ordered the ancient houses of Atlantis to turn over their own hereditary magical objects and launched a campaign of terror against the so-called “taint-bloods” – those Atlanteans changed by the influence of the ocean, growing to resemble the animals of the deeps.

Despite his orders that the Aquaman be executed before he could leave Atlantis, Arthur Curry has survived and joined with the resistance to Rath’s reign. Now, as the councilors who placed him on the throne begin to question their wisdom in doing so and if Rath might still be an exploitable figurehead while they secure their own positions, Rath ponders his own past and takes steps to secure the future of his reign. 

Given the time it takes for a comic script to become a comic book and how far in advance books are prepared for publication, it seems unlikely that Dan Abnett meant for Aquaman to be the political parable it seems to have become. Certainly history is full of mad kings and despots like Corum Rath, who were driven to extreme measures by paranoia. Still, with a villainous ruler obsessed with destroying the legacy of his predecessor while promising to restore a nation to greatness, it’s hard not to see some obvious parallels to real world events in Aquaman #34.

Thankfully, whatever subtext may be gleaned from this, Abnett’s text is primarily concerned with exploring the background of Corum Rath and tying his background in to another villain – the street mage Kadaver – whom Abnett introduced in previous issues. The character study here is fascinating and while this issue is light on action until the very end, the issue’s cliffhanger conclusion promises big things in the future.

The artwork by Kelley Jones confused me at first. Jones is best known for his work on various horror titles and I found his style an odd fit for Aquaman at first. The first few pages of the issue are a little rough, but the reason for Jones’ inclusion on this series becomes apparent  by the issue’s end. Suffice it to say that fans of H.P. Lovecraft and weird horror will want to check this issue out for Jones’ art alone.

For what my money is worth, Aquaman is one of the most underrated treasures of the DC Rebirth initiative. Aquaman #34, in turn, is a great introductory issue for those looking to dive in to this series.


Aquaman #34 releases March 21, 2018.

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.


Comic Review – Detective Comics #976

Detective Comics 976 Cover

Tim Drake (a.k.a. Red Robin) had a plan.

Years earlier, he had taken up the mantle of Batman’s sidekick, realizing that Batman functioned best when he had a partner. Tim also realized that Bruce Wayne – much as he might deny it – was mortal and would not be able to be Batman forever. Tim devised a plan – to take all of the many vigilantes operating in Gotham City, and unite them officially as one group, training together and working to watch one another’s backs. This would establish a chain of heroes who could continue Batman’s legacy, generation after generation.

Dubbing this group The Gotham Knights, Tim pitched the idea to Batman, who approved it. He then placed the assembled team – consisting of Red Robin, Stephanie Brown (a.k.a. The Spoiler), Cassandra Cain (a.k.a. The Orphan) and a reformed Basil Karlo (a.k.a. Clayface) – under the control of Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman).

Now, Clayface is dead by Batwoman’s hand and she has left The Gotham Knights to join with The Colony – a militaristic vigilante group established by her father, who aim to protect Gotham City with lethal force. Stephanie Brown has hung up her cowl and broken off her relationship with Tim. And Cassandra – who was never all that stable to begin with – is in an even worse state following the death of Clayface, who was her closest friend.

Tim thinks he knows how he can fix The Gotham Knights but Batman is refusing to give him that chance, retreating into himself as he always does when he loses someone close to him. And as Tim Drake is approached about a new partnership by a most unlikely ally, The Colony moves to recruit more of Batman’s disillusioned trainees.

Detective Comics seems to be the least appreciated of DC Comics’ many Batman comics at present. It lacks the flash of Tom King’s Batman, which has redefined the Batman and Catwoman relationship and has now inspired a wedding between the two. It lacks the weight of Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal, which has built upon seven years of Batman comics by one of the longest partnerships in American comics. This is unfortunate, because James Tynion IV has done the impossible with little fanfare, restoring many beloved Gotham City vigilantes who were long neglected during The New 52 era to new prominence and introducing them to a new generation of readers.

Sadly, Detective Comics #976 – the first chapter of the Batman Eternal arc – is not the best issue of this series to start with. While all of the new arc openings on this series to date have been good entry points for new readers, the mythology James Tynion IV has established has finally become too involved to be easily summarized and absorbed. While a new reader could pick up this issue, it would lack the punch that is felt by those who are, much like Cassandra, still coping with the loss of Clayface. There’s also a distinct lack of explanation regarding who certain characters are and why they are significant to the story.

A larger problem is the artwork by guest artist Javier Fernandez, which is incredibly inconsistent. Fernandez’ style is largely sketchy and thinly outlined, save for the occasional panel that is drowned in black ink with shading that almost seems to be randomly applied. This leaves the book with an odd look that is further distinguished by the muted colors chosen by John Kalisz. Those who have been reading Detective Comics since the start of DC Rebirth won’t have much trouble muddling through the artwork for the sake of the story, but new readers would do better to start with Vol. 1: Rise Of The Batmen and work their way up to this issue.


Detective Comics #976 releases March 14, 2018.

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.


Comic Review – The Terrifics #1

The Terrifics #1 Cover

The Terrifics owes its existence to Marvel Studios trying to spite 20th Century Fox. Shocking but true! In all the feuding over film-rights over the past few years, Marvel Comics stopped publishing a monthly Fantastic Four comic book series so as to deny Fox any free publicity at their expense. Given how utterly un-Fantastic the 2015 Fantastic Four movie turned out to be, they shouldn’t have bothered. Still, the last few years saw Johnny Storm mostly hanging out with The Inhumans and the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing joining The Guardians of the Galaxy.

This apparently led to writer Jeff Lemire asking “Why, apart from the threat of lawsuits, don’t we create a team for DC Comics that will tell the same sorts of weird stories involving fantastic powers and scientists exploring the unknown that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used to tell in Fantastic Four?”

Enter… The Terrifics!

The parallels between the two groups are immediately obvious. Leading the team we have Michael “Mister Terrific” Holt – a gold medal athlete and doctor of many disciplines in the Mister Fantastic role. Rex “Metamorpho” Mason is our stand-in for The Thing – a salt-of-the-earth adventurer transformed into a hideous monster. Patrick “Eel” O’Brien aka Plastic Man is our Human Torch analog – a wise-cracking smart-alec more concerned with the fun aspects of being a superhero than the serious side of things. And Phantom Girl who is… well, a girl that can walk through things and become kinda see-through.

It’s not a perfect analogy but it is an interesting one. It should be noted though, for the benefit of those Legion of Super Hero fans awaiting the group’s return to DC Comics, that the Phantom Girl pictured here is not the heroine from the classic team, but her ancestor. She’s also the least-developed character in this first issue – a preview of which you can view below.

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Though spinning out of Dark Nights Metal and making references to events in books that we haven’t seen yet, The Terrifics does a fair job of introducing its protagonists and exploring their powers. It’s somewhat less skilled, however, in how it handles its supporting cast and more care could have been taken in introducing Metamorpho’s corrupt boss Simon Stagg, Stagg’s right-hand caveman Java and Metamorpho’s girlfriend, Sapphire, for the benefit of new readers. The action flows somewhat more smoothly after the semi-awkward opening, once Mister Terrific, Metamorpho and Plastic Man begin searching for the source of a mysterious distress call from within The Dark Multiverse.

The artwork is similarly mixed in terms of its results. Ivan Reis is a fantastic penciler, whose past work on Green Lantern, Aquaman and Action Comics has been rightly praised. Reis varies his usual style up a bit in this first issue, with many panels that evoke the spirit of Jack Kirby even before the trio of heroes discover the corpse of a giant god in an ornate helmet in deep space. Unfortunately, the inks by Joe Prado do more to obscure the pencils in some panels than they enhance them and many of the lighting effects introduced by colorist Marcelo Maiolo leave the final artwork looking washed out.

It’s hard to judge The Terrifics one way or the other by this first issue. While not the slam dunk DC Comics had hoped for, there is not enough wrong with it to merit it being completely written off either. Fans of pulp adventure and classic superheroes will find it enjoyable enough, but there’s little so far to suggest the sense of wacky fun the premise suggests. Still, it serves as a tribute to the classic weird science superheroes of The Silver Age.


The Terrifics #1 releases February 28, 2018.

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Raven: Daughter of Darkness #1

Raven Daughter of Darkness #1 Cover
Rachel Roth is like many teenage girls. She feels awkward around other teenagers, doesn’t think she fits in anywhere and is worried about finding acceptance. She’s also secretive and ashamed of her family.

Unlike most teenage girls, Rachel has very good reason to think that she’s different. There’s nobody else she’s met who was raised in another dimension. None of her few friends (well… acquaintances, really) had a mother who was part of a cult. None of their fathers are demons. And none of them are secretly superheroes.

This is because Rachel Roth is Raven. Born to serve the darkness, but possessed of a good soul that rejected the evil purpose that was her destiny, she is a powerful magician and part of the Teen Titans. She is also, unbeknownst to her, the fulcrum in a future apocalypse that must end in her death in order to maintain the balance between good and evil.  

The character of Raven has never been more popular and yet never been more unknown. This is something of an accomplishment given that the character was already a figure of great mystery when she was first introduced in Marv Wolfman’s and George Perez’s now legendary The New Teen Titans series.

The young half-demon was originally more of a deus ex machina than an actual character in her earliest appearances, existing only to magically pull the other Teen Titans to some crisis before disappearing, not explaining who she was or how she knew the rest of them. She was also sweet but restrained – a far cry from her fear more moody incarnation in the Teen Titans animated series and certainly nothing like her violent counterpart in Teen Titans Go!

Given that, Raven: Daughter of Darkness #1 will prove something of a revelation for fans of Raven, regardless of how they first came to know her. Given that Marv Wolfman has returned to write this mini-series, it’s no surprise that the version of Raven we see here is closest to her classic comics incarnation in terms of character. Rachel Roth differs from the original Raven, however, in that she is trying to develop a life outside of her superheroics and is struggling to learn more about ordinary humans and life on Earth after being raised entirely in the plane of Azaroth. This includes staying with her aunt and uncle in San Francisco and developing friendships with a group of local teenagers, who write off Rachel’s overly formal speech patterns as the result of her being home-schooled alone for way too long.

This proves a brilliant conceit on Wolfman’s part. Not only does this serve to develop Raven better as a character but it also makes her into a more sympathetic figure. While not every reader may have been as painfully awkward as Raven growing up, most will be to relate to her fears of opening up too much to others and her need for secrecy… even if her reasons for those feelings go beyond the usual teenage paranoia. There are also some wonderful little moments that emphasize Raven’s ability, as a person, to find the magic in ordinary things such as her reaction to seeing Christmas decorations for the first time.

Unfortunately, the artwork doesn’t quite match up to the script. Pop Mhan is usually a fantastic artist but the inks for this issue are horribly erratic. Most of the pages look fine, with the inks barely outlining Mhan’s original pencils, which suits his sketchy, detail-driven style. Unfortunately, many of the scenes set in darkness (such as the opening page) are heavily over-inked in such a way as to make it seem like black paint was spilled on the page and hastily wiped off. These moments are few and far between, thankfully, but they do throw off the visual rhythm of the reading experience.

Despite this, Raven: Daughter of Darkness #1 is a solid read. You don’t have to have any pervious experience with the character to enjoy this book. In fact, new readers who don’t have any expectations of what they’ll see, may get more out of it than those who think they know Raven from the cartoons or classic comics. Just come into this book with an open mind and you’ll enjoy getting to know Rachel Roth.


Raven: Daughter of Darkness #1 comes out January 24, 2018.

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Titans #19

Titans 19 Cover

Once they were the proteges of the World’s Finest heroes. Then they joined together as The Teen Titans. Even in the face of an unseen force that tried to erase them and their friendship from history, they remained Titans Together!

Recently, The Titans triumphed over a union of some of their greatest enemies. The demon called Mister Twister, the telepathic Psimon and the psycho-chemical empowered Key all joined under the banner of Troia – a future version of Donna Troy, who traveled back in time to eliminate The Titans so that her past self would not waste time in fulfilling her destiny to be a heartless defender of the universe by befriending people she was certain to outlive.

It was their greatest victory ever and it should have been a happy occasion. Unfortunately, the resulting battle got the attention of The Justice League. And they are concerned about The Titans, to put it mildly.

Wonder Woman is disturbed by the news that a future version of Donna Troy – who was originally an evil clone of her until Donna was given new memories by Amazon magic – could become a violent avenger in defiance of The Amazon Way. The Flash is disturbed that Wally West, the first Kid Flash, has developed some kind of heart-condition that limits his ability to run and that his connection to The Speed Force is becoming unstable. Batman is worried about how Nightwing could ever go into battle with an team that includes a recovering drug addict and an unstable psychic. And Superman is worried that the team may be biting off more than they can chew.

Naturally The Titans aren’t too thrilled about the implication that they’re somehow lacking in their efforts to fight crime. But what can they do if The Justice League decides The Titans need to be shut down permanently?

Titans #19 is a wonderful jumping-on issue for those readers who have yet to discover one of the best-kept secrets of the DC Comics Rebirth Initiative.  Though this issue is largely concerned with recapping the most recent events of the series, Dan Abnett’s script is hardly heavy on exposition. The argument between The Titans and The Justice League is as gripping as any superheroic action sequence, though the end of the book does offer a climactic fight right before a stunning cliffhanger.

This issue’s artwork is equally fantastic. The layouts of Paul Pelletier are crisp and clear, with the perspective ever-shifting from angle to angle, keeping the point-of-view continually fresh despite most of the issue being concerned with people talking. The finishes of Andrew Hennessy offer the perfect amount of definition, enhancing Pelletier’s pencils without drowning the page in ink.  And Adriano Lucas’s colors pop on the page.

The only real flaw to this issue is the problem that all comics based around a large ensemble suffer. Inevitably, someone has to get the short end of the stick when it comes to how much time the issue can spend on them. In this case, all the Titans who don’t have a mentor in the room arguing with them are largely stuck in the background. The one exception to this is the outspoken Arsenal, though the usually soft-spoken psychic Omen does get a sick burn off against Batman at one point.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Hawkman Found #1

Hawkman Found #1 Cover

There are few heroes in comic book history who have a history and lineage as confused and conflicted as Hawkman. First appearing in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940), the first Hawkman was Carter Hall – an archaeologist who discovered that he was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. Using ancient artifacts made of an “nth” metal that defied gravity as well as the ancient weapons in his museum’s collection, Hall became a savage champion of justice and a founding member of The Justice Society of America.

Many classic superheroes were reinvented with a scientific edge, as The Silver Age of Comics started in the late 1950s. Hawkman was no exception, with Carter Hall becoming Katar Hol – an alien policeman from the planet Thanagar, who settled on Earth to study their peace-keeping techniques and lend a hand to a newly-founded Justice League. Thus for a time there were two Hawkmen – one on Earth One and one on Earth Two.

The trouble came following Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986, when both Earths were merged into one Earth with one timeline. While things started out simple with Carter Hall and his comrades fighting crime in the 1940s and the alien Hawkman arriving on Earth in the 1980s, it became complicated by the decision to make Hawkworld – an Elseworlds mini-series depicting Thanagar as a fascist society – the official background of the modern Hawkman. This, coupled with a series of contradictory stories that confused the two versions of Hawkman, resulted in DC Comics merging all their Hawk-themed characters into a single Hawkman character who was supposed to be an “avatar of the hawk god”!

Order of a sort was restored in the late 1990s, when it was decided that Katar Hol was one of Carter Hall’s many reincarnations as an eternal champion compelled to fight injustice, using the hawk as his symbol. It was also determined that the source of the Nth Metal artifacts used by Carter Hall was a Thanagarian ship, which landed in ancient Egypt.

This seems to once again be the status quo of the character in the DC Rebirth reality, after a brief false start in The New 52 where the character was reintroduced as the alien Katar Hol and summarily killed off. The Dark Nights: Metal mini-series has reintroduced Carter Hall as an archaeologist driven by strange visions of the past and a sensation of being connected to something greater. This is the figure at the hrart of the story in Hawkman Found #1.

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Longtime comic readers hoping for a definitive answer to The Hawkman Question will be sadly disappointed. Jeff Lemire’s script is more concerned with introducing the base idea of Hawkman to new readers than it is unraveling the tangled web of history around him. Indeed, Carter Hall seems just as confused as to his origins as everyone else and the story does a masterful job of walking us through the important facts behind his character. This does, unfortunately, mean that almost nothing happens regarding the basic plot of Dark Knights Metal, so those who come to this special hoping for insight into the ending of Dark Knights Metal #4 will be disappointed as well.

Does this mean that Hawkman Found #1 can be skipped?  It can, but it should not be. If nothing else, the series has fantastic artwork that is well worth appreciating even if the story doesn’t do much. The artwork by Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowland, Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper looks fantastic throughout, full of vivid details, wonderful shading and striking imagery with enrapturing colors. Taken for what it is – an exploration of Carter Hall as a person and Hawkman as a concept – Hawkman Found #1 is brilliant.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Doomsday Clock #1

The world stands poised on the brink of another World War.

God is not dead but he is absent.

The smartest man in the world is Public Enemy Number One.

The black and white man who died rather than compromise his code of honor lives again.

It is November 22nd, 1992.

Or maybe it’s the 23rd.

Either way, this is the day the world ends.


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Those who come to Doomsday Clock #1 expecting immediate resolution regarding anything in any on-going DC Comics story line will be sorely disappointed. There are no stunning revelations regarding the Machiavellian schemes of Mr. Oz and his plans for Superman. There is no new data regarding the odd button which Bruce Wayne found embedded in the wall of The Bat Cave. There are no clues as to what force was responsible for trapping Wally West outside of time. And there’s certainly no explanation for that giant light-blue hand that created The DC Universe and whose hand it might have been.

What Doomsday Clock #1 is thus far is the first chapter in a straight-forward sequel to Watchmen – the classic graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. The sheer audacity of such a thing has already turned many readers against this book and this is completely understandable. Writer Geoff Johns has been accused of strip-mining the works of Alan Moore for his projects before, the most famous example being Moore’s Green Lantern story Tygers providing the seed of the ideas which informed Johns’ run on Green Lantern and his redevelopment of the DC Universe’s cosmology.

It is far too early to draw comparisons between Watchmen and Doomsday Clock textually. Taken on its own merits, unfortunately, there’s not much to Doomsday Clock so far. Anyone who hasn’t read Watchmen will be rendered hopelessly lost by the story and Johns’ dialogue reads like a parody of Moore’s textual style rather than a pastiche of it. There’s far more comedy at play in this issue than its original source material and most of it falls flat. When the jokes work, however, they work incredibly well.

Gary Frank’s efforts to emulate Dave Gibbons are far more successful. Ignoring that Doomsday Clock #1 utilizes the same three-by-three, nine-panel grid structure as Watchmen, Frank’s detail-driven aesthetic is a good match for Gibbons’ visually. It’s truly stunning how much Frank depicts in each panel of this comic and eagle-eyed readers will no doubt reread this book several times trying to winkle out every last Easter egg. Brad Anderson’s colors provide the perfect finishes and Rob Leigh’s font selections deliver a little extra punch every time Rorschach speaks.

It remains to be seen precisely what manner of beast Doomsday Clock will be in the end. This first issue gives readers enough reasons to be optimistic, with amazing artwork and a story that is gripping so long as you’ve read the original Watchmen. Hopefully the series will continue to build momentum in the coming year.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

New Comics for November 22, 2017

This is it, kids. The moment that DC’s Rebirth has been leading up to. DOOMSDAY CLOCK #1 comes out tomorrow, but the first 20 people to come out to The Multiverse at 11:57pm TONIGHT can score an AMAZING variant cover!

Come get some awesome comics. Click below to see what else is coming out. See something you like? Let us know what you’d like us to hold. Did you miss out on that rad new book? Be sure to ask us about our free subscription service!

TP Review – Batgirl: Son Of The Penguin

Batgirl: Son Of The Penguin Cover

Newly returned from an extended vacation that proved anything but relaxing as she made her way across east Asia tracking down a cabal of criminal martial artists, Barbara Gordon is happy to be back home in Burnside – the Gotham City borough that houses most of the city’s tech-savvy and trendy.

Unfortunately, while Babs was out of town, the neighborhood became a whole lot trendier. Her favorite coffee shop was turned into a pet supermarket specializing in fat-free, gluten-free, all-organic dog food. Her roommate and business partner just elected to move in with her girlfriend, leaving Barbara paying all of the recently doubled rent. Throw in the fact that Barbara is going back to school to start work on a Masters Degree in Information Science and its a lot to cope with at once, even ignoring her getting back into the swing of things as Batgirl at night!

Thankfully, Barbara seems to have found a sympathetic soul in Ethan – a fellow tech-genius and entrepreneur who seems more interested in what Barbara has to say than in how well she fills out her swimsuit when the two meet at a charity pool party. Ethan is smart, kind-hearted and, well, let’s be honest, really cute. In fact, there’s only one thing that gives Barbara any reservations about Ethan apart from her rules about mixing business with pleasure – the fact that Ethan’s last name is Cobblepot. As in Oswald Chesterfield Copplepot – the crime boss known as The Penguin.

When questioned about his name, Ethan admits that he is The Penguin’s illegitimate son. He’s quick to add, however, that his infamous father wants nothing to do with him and the feeling is mutual. So why does Barbara still get a bad vibe from Ethan? And why is it that all of the apps funded by his company that are meant to fuel community outreach and help people seem to keep finding ways to be exploited by Gotham’s super-criminals?

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Despite being the second volume of Batgirl following DC Comics Rebirth revamp, Son Of The Penguin is a perfect entry point into the world of Barbara Gordon. Author Hope Larson does a fantastic job of establishing the new status quo of Barbara’s life, as she tries to balance work, school and being a superhero. The overall effect is reminiscent of the classic Stan Lee-penned Amazing Spider-Man comics where Peter Parker faced the same struggles. Larson’s stories feature the same smooth balance of comedy, action, romance and drama.

Larson’s story is brought to life by an equally skilled art-team. Chris Wildgoose boasts an animated aesthetic that proves a perfect partner to Larson’s script. His inks are largely thin, barely outlining the original pencils – a choice that gives the artwork a light, airy aura. The color art by Mat Lopes is wonderfully varied, with a plethora of vivid palettes breathing life into the finished artwork.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 Cover

With a TV series based upon him in the works on The CW, Black Lightning’s star has never been higher. Yet despite being one of the most prominent Heroes of Color in American Comics, few fans know much about him and his complicated history.

It all began in 1977 when writer Tony Isabella – who had written Luke Cage for Marvel Comics – was brought in to create an African American hero to headline his own series for DC Comics. Enter gold-medal athlete turned inner-city teacher Jefferson Pierce. Born with the power to generate and control electricity around him, Jefferson repressed his powers until the day one of his students was killed by gang violence the police were reluctant to address. Inspired by a quote which said “Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some men hope, to other men fear,”, Jefferson created his Black Lightning persona and began fighting the one-man war on crime his neighborhood needed to survive.

Tony Isabella’s relationship with DC Comics would wane and wax over the years, due to problems stemming from the rights to the character and Isabella’s belief that he was being treated unfairly due to his contract granting him a cut of any merchandise or licensing that came from the character. As a result, despite being used as a frequent guest star in other comics, Jefferson Pierce has only had his own comic twice and then never for longer than a year!

Isabella was also vocal in his disapproval when writer Judd Winick decided to create two super-powered daughters of Black Lightning for his own book, Outsiders. This occurred despite Jefferson Pierce having never been depicted as having children. Indeed, he once directly said that he would he’d give up his heroic life if kids entered the picture because it wouldn’t be responsible for him to risk leaving behind orphans.

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Thankfully, DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns approached Isabella about his past mistreatment and made amends. Not only did Isabella agree to write a character guide for the upcoming TV series but he agreed to come back and write a new Black Lightning mini-series that would reintroduce the character for modern audiences – a task which Cold Dead Hands accomplishes with style.

This first issue comfortably establishes Black Lightning’s status in the world of DC Rebirth. Fans of the classic character may wonder at changes like Jefferson Pierce now being based in Cleveland rather than the Suicide Slum neighborhood of Metropolis, but such modifications are merely cosmetic. The core of Jefferson’s character – an uncompromisingly moral man who believes in Power and Responsibility as immutable forces just as strongly as Peter Parker – remains untouched.

Even in this first chapter Isabella’s script is not afraid to tackle big issues like racism and police brutality but it does so without getting preachy about them. This issue also takes care in establishing Jefferson’s supporting cast, his arch-enemy Tobias Whale and Jefferson’s status as a peer of The Justice League, who has gotten personal training in being a better crime-fighter from Cyborg and Batman.

The artwork by Clayton Henry isn’t quite as strong as Isabella’s writing.  There’s something oddly flat about Henry’s characters, who don’t seem quite as animated or vividly detailed as his backgrounds. It seems that in trying to streamline the appearances of his people, Henry may have gone too far in the other direction, crafting figures that look unnaturally smooth and undefined. Colorist Pete Pantazis deserves credit, however, for his use of a varied palette that utilizes a variety of colors and little details like the night sky in the inner city being a defused blue rather than pitch black.

Despite the minor imperfections in the art, those who are unfamiliar with Black Lightning will find this first issue of Cold Dead Hands to be a wonderful introduction to one of comics most underrated heroes. Fans of Isabella’s original comics will find it to be a welcome homecoming.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.