2018 is will go down as the year of comic black excellence! With the premier of the highly anticipated release of Marvel’s Black Panther, The CW took a chance on another well-known but at the same time unknown hero- DC Comics’s Black Lightning. Black Lightning is the newest addition into DC lineup as the series premiered January 16th and so far it has been exciting and refreshing from start to finish.
The show follows the life of Jefferson Pierce (played by Cress Williams) – the principal of Garfield High School and Black Lightning himself. He’s already left the hero life behind him (it’s been 9 years in fact) and he just wants to live a normal life with his two daughters Anissa and Jennifer (Nafessa Williams and China McClain) while trying to reconcile with his wife Lynn (Christine Adams) who also knows his secret. The show takes place in a city called Freeland, a place riddled with crime and gangs but still has people striving to make a difference…Jefferson is one of those people who believes that a great education is freedom and provides the tools of success so that kids grow up to become great people doing great things. The 100 (led by Tobias Whale played by Marvin Jones) is the name of the gang that has a deep foothold on the city – drugs, murders, prostitution, guns Oh My! Add that to police brutality, racial profiling and social unrest and you have the recipe for what almost every black person watching this show can relate to in some form. Ironically – that’s part of the appeal because in the middle of all that is Jefferson and his family that love each other deeply. Viewers see the struggles they deal with trying to stay safe, trying to fight against the statistics, and trying to stay positive at a time where injustice and pain seems to be around every corner.
Is this show worth watching? Yes… There is SO MUCH BLACK EXCELLENCE IN THIS SHOW!
Jefferson – the head principal at the high school
Anissa – activist, attends medical school, teaches at the same high school
Christine – neuroscientist
Damon – lead detective for the police department
In the first episode, the mayor and other high-ranking public employees are black….It’s just melanin…EVERYWHERE and they are gorgeous and it is marvelous!
Also this is a hero that many comic fans have been wanting to see for some time… Static Shock was on everyone’s radar but Black Lightning comes before Static and at a time when comic movies are becoming more diverse than ever in their casting, now is a great time for Black Lightning to get his time in the spotlight. He first appeared in comics back in 1977 and is one of few black heroes in the DC-verse but he is almost never seen or discussed so giving him his own show and exposing him to a plethora of young viewers hungry for something other than the mainstream is a very good thing to see. The other interesting thing is that this is an origin story without the origin story. As mentioned before, Jefferson has hung up his super suit but is forced to put it on again when his girls are kidnapped. Viewers get brief flashbacks of his life 9 years ago and witness what he and his family went through– the bruises and blood, the emotional pain of a wife not wanting to lose him to the violence of the city…Basically the other side of being a hero. But then we are thrown back into the present and just like that there is an understanding, a respect for what he did before and why he just wants to live in peace. But it’s stellar that the city needs him. The characters quote the likes of Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer when speaking to each other…The music mixes up contemporary hip-hop with classic R&B with artists such as Billy Paul “Am I Black Enough” and Latimore “Let’s Straighten It Out” to Kendrick Lamar “Power Struggle and more…The incorporation of all these things make you think with every scene. In other DC shows (like Smallville, The Flash, Arrow, Legends, and Supergirl) they’re dealing with aliens, threats from other dimensions, etc, but watching this show reminds us that sometimes our reality can be worse than any enemy.
So what are the shortcomings? So far it seems as if the lead inspector is going to be one of those typical officers who complain about the hero taking “justice away from the police” but not really doing his job in the first place. Anissa’s powers are already developing and it’s just the 2nd episode. There was a hope that her powers wouldn’t come into play until at least the second season but apparently that is not the case… Now his eldest will become Thunder before the climax of the first season. It seems rushed so hopefully the show will build on it as it progresses. The dynamic between him and his wife is interesting. She loves him but she’s fearful for him…He’s deeply in love with her and wants her back but is starting to believe that reconciliation may not be possible as things come to a head in Episode 2 when she accuses Jefferson of having “an addiction” for him wanting to put the suit back on and wanting to save people after one of his former students gets killed. This is interesting as we rarely hear a hero being accused of having an addiction to saving people but it’s damaging as well as his powers are a part of him. She sounds like some of those scientists in X-men who invented “the Cure”. It’ll be interesting to see what their relationship turns into as the show goes on.
That was a lot and it’s only the second episode! In all honesty this show has covered a lot in such a short time…Will it help or hurt the show? Only time will tell but so far this series is doing pretty well. There was an article writing about this show in The Columbus Dispatch and there’s a quote from Salim Akil (Executive Producer of Black Lightning) from an interview he did about the show. He says that ‘one of his key goals with this series is to show that black heroes matter.’ “In my community…I’ve never seen Superman go to Chicago. I’ve never seen Batman go to Watts. There are no superheroes going into the neighborhoods I grew up in and fighting any kind of crime. There are no more heroic people than those who live with the threat of violence and drugs….”…It’s clear that this show depicts an African-American family trying to exist and survive in this world and we are going to watch every episode.