This discussion will focus on DC's character Black Lighting. For this project, I'll be reading the following comics:

Black Lightning 1-11
World's Finest 256-261
Dc Comics Presents 16
Justice League of America 173-174
Brave and the Bold 163
Detective Comics 490-491, 494-495

Hopefully, I'll be able to do these in order.

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Randy Jackson said:

My rating: 4/10

Let's begin with the cover. I know I've been kvetching throughout this reading project that Trevor Von Eeden wasn't getting the covers and I'm happy to see that now he is. However, this one's pretty...pedestrian. It's got some nice composition, but it doesn't really grab me. If I'm a Superman fan who saw this on the news stand, I'd find it really difficult to believe that he was in any danger from the Cyclotronic Man, and even worse, nobody--not even the titular hero--is doing anything about the situation other than standing around like a Greek Chorus. 

So, on to the story. The fight between Superman and Black Lightning was unsurprisingly pointless other than to fill space and I guess establish that Black Lightning could last longer than five seconds against Superman. The bits with Creegan fighting Superman--I kept expecting Kal-El to suddenly say "Psyche!" and knock the Cyclotronic Man's block off. As has been said many a time, "that dog don't hunt."

Probably the most interesting part of this comic was the discovery of who the masked man is, although I think they could have done a better job of establishing just who he is well before this issue--not so much in being Henderson's son, but what he was specifically doing for the 100.

Anyway, I just felt this was a lackluster, uninspired issue. I'm hoping for better soon.

I am in agreement with you here.  Low level street crime just wasn't a good fit for Superman's world back then.  Batman would have been a much better choice, or Green Arrow, or maybe even the Flash (with the ties to Gambi).

Using Superman as a guest star was a classic tactic back then, and I don't mind it so much, but he could have been utilized better. I would have loved to see Clark Kent investigating the charges against Black Lightning and realizing that he was innocent and coming to see if he needed help against the Cyclotronic Man, or something similar, or seeing him get sidetracked by an attacking monster or another Lex Luthor plot. Having them fight just didn't make sense at all.

I remember really liking the way Green Arrow related to / connected with Black Lightning at the point of his refused JLA membership.

That marked to me an understanding that heroes work on different levels.

(Shame those issues are not in the Black Lightning collection)

Randy Jackson said:

Using Superman as a guest star was a classic tactic back then, and I don't mind it so much, but he could have been utilized better. I would have loved to see Clark Kent investigating the charges against Black Lightning and realizing that he was innocent and coming to see if he needed help against the Cyclotronic Man, or something similar, or seeing him get sidetracked by an attacking monster or another Lex Luthor plot. Having them fight just didn't make sense at all.

Black Lightning #6 - "One Man's Poison!"
Cover Date: January 1978
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

Peter Gambi is missing, and Black Lightning can't find him. When he returns to his headquarters, he finds two costumed individuals skulking around outside. One of them mentions to the other that the boss didn't mention that Black Lightning would be around. Black Lightning attacks, and since he now knows they have a boss, he wants to interrogate them about Gambi's disappearance.

One of the gentlemen identifies himself as Steel Fist Feeny (because he's got a  steel fist) and attacks, but Black Lightning disposes of him easily.  The other character, a martial artist type, attacks our hero with shuriken, but Lightning manages to block them with a convenient trash can lid. Throwing the lid at the martial artist, he then follows up by throwing Steel Fist Feeny at him as well, an object he's unable to duck.

Having subdued the two men, Lightning begins to interrogate Feeny, only to discover that their boss is nearby. He shoots Black Lightning with a tranquilizer gun, and he falls to the ground. Feeny and the other guy run away while someone else steps out of the shadows. It turns out to be Two-Bits Tanner. He tells Lightning that he has no information about Gambi. Lightning asks Tanner what he owes him but Tanner tells him it's gratis as Peter is a friend of his as well. He then shows Black Lightning the morning's Daily Planet, with a lead story written by Jimmy Olsen of the 100 putting a contract out on Black Lightning--a million dollars for his head (which in 1978 was quite a bit of money). Tanner tells Lightning that the contract wasn't just Tobias Whale's idea,but the idea of the entire council of bosses. He suggests Lightning disappear for a bit, but our hero is resolute, as Gambi "has been like a father to him". He then relates how his own father was killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a scuffle between a cop and a contract killer. Gambi had shown up about a year later and pretty much became part of the family as well as a business partner to his mother.

Tanner tells him that he doesn't need to tell him all of this, but Lightning tells him that sometimes you just need a friend to talk to(Awwww!). However, while they're having this moment, someone is retrieving the tranquilizer dart from the alley.

The scene shifts to Inspector Henderson's house, where he's getting ready to go to work. His son Andy asks him if he's going out, and he tells Andy about an upcoming raid the police have scheduled. However, after he leaves, Andy is on the phone to Tobias Whale, letting him know about the raid.

Back at school, Jefferson Pierce is working with some of his students on Romeo and Juliet, having some of them act out the pivotal swordfight between Tybalt and Romeo. As the bell rings ending class, Pierce reflects that he's getting through to the kids.

At this point Principal Chapin enters the classroom. He tells Pierce he's doing a great job, but there's a problem, namely his treatment of fellow teacher Lynn Stewart. He doesn't like how they haven't been getting along, and has asked Lynn to join them so they can talk things out. As soon as he sees her, Jefferson exits stage left, not wanting to talk about anything. The Principal is confounded, but then Lynn reveals that she used to be married to Jefferson.

We shift scenes to an abandoned warehouse, where we find Peter Gambi is a prisoner of the man they call Syonide(seriously?). He's also the man who shot Black Lightning with the tranquilizer dart before. Syonide tells Gambi that he kidnapped him as a lure for Black Lightning. He's going after Black Lightning for the bounty on his head, and tells Gambi that once upon a time, he would have done the same, and Gambi realizes that Syonide knows his secret.

Out on the streets, Feeny and the other guy are wondering what they're doing out there, as the boss told them to wander around outside. Feeny tells his mate that he could have taken Lightning, but Black Lightning has already gotten to his partner, and now picks up Feeny for interrogation. However, he's interrupted by Syonid with some sort of electric whip. He introduces himself as the boss that Lightning's been looking for. Lightning manages to take the whip away from him and decks Syonide with a haymaker. However, Syonide pulls out a strange device, allowing him to short out Black Lightning's force field. He tells Lightning that the device was created by Peter Gambi. Lightning is then sneak attacked by Feeny and the other guy. Syonide then tells Lightning how he tortured Gambi for the information.

Black Lightning has had enough. He realizes that Syonide is just toying with him, but he's really ticked off now since he realizes he's the one who kidnapped Peter. He stuns Syonide with a punch, then takes out the other guy (seriously, a name would be helpful) and Feeny. Syonide then tells Lightning he has plenty of weapons, but our hero isn't having it and mops the floor with the villain. However, Syonide has an ace up his sleeve: he commands Black Lightning to stop where he stands, and our hero finds himself unable to move. Syonide then explains that the dart he shot Lightning with last night contained a special numbing agent that would put him under the power of anyone who'd taken the corresponding serum (comics, everyone). He then tells Lightning that he's going to take him to the 100. Ligntning asks him about Gambi, and Syonide tells him that perhaps his concern is misplaced, as Gambi is the man who killed his father.

To be continued...

My rating: 4/10

We're back to Rick Buckler on covers again, and I don't think that helps. However, the real problem is that there's just too much going on and it's not presented well.

We don't find out about the bounty on Black Lightning's head until after Gambi has been kidnapped, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Isabella also drops two bombs on us this issue with the reveal of Pierce's former marriage and Gambi being his father's killer, adn there's already plenty going on well before this issue came out. Just too many things to keep straight or allow the telling of a cogent story.

This story also isn't helped by the lackluster villains. One never gets the feeling that Lightning is threatened by any of his adversaries--in fact, none of them get an upper hand over him until Syonide uses his special mind control serum to stop Lightning from kicking their butts.

The artwork is clean and easy to follow, so I'll give Trevor Von Eeden credit for that.

I like this issue welcoming the plot advancements with the revelations but the pacing is all over the place and robs the tale of its drama.

I'm liking Lightning but not getting any sense of Jefferson Pierce blazing trails for equality and justice -as a teacher - despite billing the book like that.

I've added the cover to BL #6 to your post.  No need to thank me - because it's a rather dull one.  Buckler was capable of so much better than that.

Isabella just has too many subplots going on and his villains are so meh that one doesn't even get a code name.  They almost sound like a knock-off of Power Man and Iron Fist - Randy, do you think Isabella might have been going for that?

Hmm. As I recall, when Isabella was writing Luke Cage: Hero For Hire, I think I may have complained about too many subplots and too much going on there as well. It seems as if the idea was action for action's sake, and let's just hope something sticks.  Maybe it's just the way he was writing at the time. As I recall, Power Man & Iron Fist was scripted reasonably coherently from the beginning, but I don't recall Isabella writing any of those issues.

Thanks for adding the cover. I swear I did so myself, but I must have missed it.

At this point, Pierce is pretty much a cipher. We know he was an Olympic athlete and he seems to be a dedicated teacher, but beyond that he's pretty one-dimensional at this point.

Richard Mantle said:

I'm liking Lightning but not getting any sense of Jefferson Pierce blazing trails for equality and justice -as a teacher - despite billing the book like that.

Black Lightning #7 - "The Conscience of the Killer!"
Cover Date: March 1978
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

There's a quick recap of last issue.

Syonide has taken Black Lightning prisoner in the basement of the South Side Sports Colosseum. Gambi and Whale are there as well. Syonide has taken Black Lightning's belt, but when Whale asks him who Gambi is, Syonide lies to him, telling him that he's just someone who witnessed everything and that Syonide decided to imprison as a precaution. Whale tells Syonide to kill Gambi at the same time as Black Lightning. When Syonide balks at killing Black Lightning as he feels it's beneath him, Whale shows hmi who's the boss. He tells Syonide that he's sending some of his men within the hour, and that Syonide either needs to prepare to kill Black Lightning or to join him in death.

After Whale leaves, Gambi tries to get Syonide to release Black Lightning, but citing the reality that crossing the 100 will mean running from them the rest of his life, he declines. He apologizes to Black Lightning, telling him he was a worthy foe, then leaves the two of them alone.

After Syonide leaves, Peter tries to tell Pierce that now is their opportunity, but Black Lightning doesn't want to talk to him, since he was told last issue that Gambi is responsible for the death of his father. He confronts Peter with the information, and Gambi cannot deny it.

Black Lightning sets to escaping his chains, telling Gambi that Syonide's serum isn't as strong as he thinks. He tells him also that he plans to turn Gambi over to the police after they escape.

Moving on to the police, Inspector Henderson and his men have hit a dead end in their raid. He theorizes that the 100 were warned of the impending raid and removed any incriminating evidence. He tells his men to go to plan B, which is to have the tail he's set on a suspect stay as close as possible without blowing his cover. He goes to light his pipe, then changes his mind and throws the pipe in the garbage, saying he should be more concerned about his health.

Back at the Colosseum, Whale has decided to turn the execution of Black Lightning into a public event for his men, despite being warned that it's risky. A couple of his men speculate as to whether Syonide will do the killing. Inspector Henderson's son asks Whale if Black Lightning will be unmasked, and Whale says no, that would make him a martyr.

Down below, Two Bits Tanner is sneaking around, trying to help his friends Black Lightning and Peter Gambi. However, he's discovered by Feeny and the other nameless guy. Feeny wants to kill Tanner, but the nameless guy stops him and reminds him that their first priority is to bring Black Lightning upstairs. Feeny agrees, and they enter the room where he was a prisoner, only to find that he's escaped.

Actually, he hasn't quite escaped, although he has gotten out of his chains. He's waiting inside, and he quickly takes out Feeny and nameless. He goes to greet Tanner and ask him how to get out of the arena when Gambi notices that Feeny's gotten away. Peter tells him that he'll have a small army of hoods down their shortly if Black Lightning can't stop him. Lightning tells tanner to take Gambi out of there while he chases down Feeny.

Black Lightning catches Feeny, but it's too late as Feeny has made it to the main part of the arena, where Whale and his men are waiting. Whale tells Syonide to kill Lightning with the gun he's holding. Syonide takes the shot, but stiffens up as he does so. Out of nowhere, Peter Gambi throws himself in front of the shot meant for Black Lightning. He lowers Gambi to the floor as Whale orders his men to kill Black Lightning.

Whale's men open fire on Black Lightning, but the bullets just bounce off of his force field. Whale is beside himself with anger, as he knows that Syonide destroyed Black Lightning's force field when he destroyed his belt. However, somehow, he's activated his powers. He goes through Whale's men with ease, and manages to take out Whale as well.  meanwhile, outside the arena the police are arriving.

Inside, Black Lightning has picked up Peter's body. Tanner apologizes to him, saying there was nothing he could do to stop Gambi. Lightning tells him that he knows. Tanner tells him that no matter what came between them, Gambi loved him. Lightning tells him that he knew that too. Tanner asks about Syonide, and Lightning tells him that he's dead, as his gun was meant to kill both it's target and it's wielder, speculating that for whatever reason, Syonide saw it as the only way out. He and Tanner leave.

Afterwards, the police are cleaning up the place. Inspector Henderson searches the arena, but can only find his son's mask.

My rating:6/10

This is much better than recent issues, likely because it's much more focused. At the same time, it was also pretty unsatisfying as well.

I appreciated Syonide taking a stance on killing Black Lightning, as it was a nice change of pace from today's comics where pretty much every villain is completely bloodthirsty. Also, it was nice to get some resolution between Peter and Jefferson.

That being said, it seemed more questions were left unanswered than were answered. What were the circumstances of Peter killing Jefferson's father? What's the name of the nameless guy? What happened to Inspector Henderson's son? How do the police have the evidence to make charges against Whale, et al stick?  It's all very, very unclear and fairly annoying as well. Also, one was hoping for a really great showdown between Black Lightning and Tobias Whale, and Lightning takes him out in one panel. Just very unsatisfying.

I'm not even going to complain about the dull cover by Rich Buckler, as it's not worth the effort. Between the covers, Von Eeden's pencils are solid.

I agree with you Randy, things have certainly improved but the result is still far from satisfying.

The death of Jefferson's father feels like much less of an interesting plot point than it is being built up to and none of the characters really convince 

The art does save it and there is a honest belief that this series WILL catch fire soon...

Will it though? It's a new series with a new character. Lackluster villains and stories don't help either.

As a Black kid in 1978 I bought some issues from this series, but never thought it was worth working to get my hands on, same as Black Panther for Marvel. I wanted comics featuring Black characters, but I also wanted good comics featurng Black Characters.  I have to say that this really isn't one of them.

Conversely, I did chase down Luke Cage: Hero For Hire because I liked the character. Same with Captain America and the Falcon. It just seemed those books had better creative teams, at least early on.

Richard Mantle said:

The art does save it and there is a honest belief that this series WILL catch fire soon...

I have the feeling they were trying to ground the stories in the 'street-level gritty real world' (!) but throwing in the Shark guy as a Disney-ized Kingpin didn't help.

Randy Jackson said:

Will it though? It's a new series with a new character. Lackluster villains and stories don't help either.

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