Black Lightning is the latest character from Greg Berlanti’s DC Comics “Arrowverse” taking your TV by storm.  Cress Williams plays the new CW series lead character, school principal Jefferson Pierce by day, masked superhero with actual energy-harnessing powers when called upon.  Raising two daughters, divorced from their mother, and trying to lead the kids in his community in a world full of hate and prejudice, this superhero is very different from what we’ve seen from DC on TV.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  But this isn’t all fun and games superhero antics like the other CW shows.

The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning, Issue #1, forty years ago.  Writers Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by legendary artist Trevor Von Eeden.  Black Lightning is the first DCU major African-American superhero, and rounds out the key classic African-American male superheroes of decades past to make modern on-screen appearances, along with Anthony Mackey’s Falcon, Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, all from the Marvel universe. 

Episode one of Black Lightning makes for a solid pilot, and is re-airing on the CW network tonight.  The stakes in the series are real, it’s more grounded in reality than the other DC Comics shows, more like the Netflix Marvel Universe television series.  The pace, choice of music, and tone are similar to Marvel’s Luke Cage, the other superhero based on a 1970s black lead comic book title in a current TV series.  Principal Pierce stopped being a superhero for nine years–he had originally become Black Lightning to fight a villain named Tobias Whale and a string of mobsters, to give people hope, but he made a commitment to his wife to stop the violent lifestyle.  But crime is worse now and when his youngest daughter is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he has no choice but to make his return.  He says he saved more lives as a principal than he could have as a superhero and he doesn’t want to go back.

Look for great dialogue and banter between characters–the sisters are a great component, with the older, wiser sister trying to coach the younger, dumber sister to do right for herself.  Like the Kingsman, Black Lightning’s “phone booth” is a tailor shop, and James Remar looks like he could make a great Alfred for Cress Williams’ hero.  Despite the very comic book-y looking outfit, the filming of Williams using the powers is done perfectly, and the only thing to work out is having him sound cool when he talks with the suit on (a quirk CW has with several characters).  As the new reporter nails it in a telecast within the show, why is Black Lightning called a vigilante, while the other people with powers in other towns are called superheroes?  The series clearly has plenty of real-world conflict to explore.  And the writers saved the best scene of the series for last, introducing another character with powers into the mix.

Black Lightning also stars China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, William Catlett, Skye P. Marshall, Damon Gupton, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, and Christine Adams.

Watch the first episode of Black Lightning tonight at 8 p.m. Central on the CW, with weekly episodes airing in that time slot Tuesday nights.  You can also watch it online now here at the CW website.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

 

 

 

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