I was excited to get my hands on this issue of BLACK LIGHTNING after the cliffhanger of the previous one, where the new crime-fighter found himself confronted by an angry Superman. And the issue was pretty good! The one place it really fell down is in the incomplete inking of Vince Colletta. I know that it’s become fashionable to bash Vinnie’s inking, but here I can’t help it. I’ve never been a fan of his finish, and on this issue in particular he made the final product look like a coloring book. This cover is a good example. It’s nice enough, but so open and blobby-lined that I can’t help but wonder what the pencils looked like.
I really dug these early issues of BLACK LIGHTNING. I liked that he was a new hero in the DC line, one whose adventures I could get in on the ground floor with (almost–I never saw the first three issues when they came out.) I liked his connections to other DC characters, and the fact that he operated out of Suicide Slum in Metropolis. And I liked his stripped-down power set. Heck, I also liked his ridiculous afro-mask, and was legitimately sad when it was wisely subsequently ditched.
So, last issue Black Lightning thought that Jimmy Olsen had set him up for the mob (he hadn’t) and the two were targeted by the Cyclotronic Man. They survived, but Olsen was injured in saving Lightning’s life–and Superman showed up to find Lightning standing over Olsen’s injured body. As this issue opens, a pretty typical hero vs hero brawl breaks out between the two men, with Lightning holding his own against Superman despite his enormous power disadvantage.
But really, there’s no way for Black Lightning to come on top in this bout, and hes on his last legs when Superman’s attack is stopped by a call from Jimmy’s signal watch. Despite his injuries, Jimmy tells Superman that Black Lightning wasn’t responsible–it was the Cyclotronic Man. Hearing his name, the C-Man takes this opportunity to try to fulfill the 100′s contract on Superman’s life. But Black Lightning intercedes, and in a desperate attempt to polish all three men off, the Cyclotronic Man causes the building to collapse around all of them. But Superman is able to save them all, of course.
The Cyclotronic Man takes off, and Black Lightning turns to go after him, but he’s stopped by Superman. The Man of Steel can’t overlook the fact that Black Lightning is wanted for murder. What follows is a great, impassioned speech by Black Lightning about the kind of crime he fights, the sorts of crime that Superman is ineffective against. Superman is also able to use his telescopic vision to locate evidence that clears Lightning of the murder charge against him. Now convinced that Lightning is a hero, he helps the new hero by literally hurling him after the Cyclotronic Man.
Meanwhile, the Cyclotronic Man has rendezvoused with the agent of the 100 who actually fingered Black Lightning, a mysterious player in a ski mask. The two have a falling out thanks to the Cyclotronic man having botched his assignment, but before they can kill one another, Black Lightning comes crashing through the roof. The C-Man fingers his associate as the guy responsible for Black Lightning’s troubles, but when Lightning turns towards him, the C-Man blasts Lightning in the back, and the battle is joined between the two.
The pair goes flying out of the warehouse they’re in into the bay, and Black Lightning surfaces triumphant by the time Superman shows up. But the ski masked man has gotten away in the scuffle–and we follow him back to his home, where we learn his identity: he’s Andy Henderson, the son of Metropolis Police Inspector Henderson, a fixture in the 1950s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV show and a recurring character in this series. And that’s where things are To Be Continued.