Almost Hidden – Isabella and Newell’s Black Lightning
Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.
I want you folks to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.
Reader Roger N. wanted me to feature Tony Isabella and Eddy Newell’s Black Lightning run. So, well, here ya go!
The second Black Lightning series debuted at the end of 1994, and very quickly, writer Tony Isabella (who created Black Lightning about twenty years earlier) quickly established that this Black Lightning comic book would be a lot different than most other superhero comics on the shelf.
In the issue, Jefferson Pierce has moved to a new city, Brick City, and he is debating how best he can help people – as a teacher? as a superhero? as a fellow with some (Bruce Wayne supplied) money?
Ultimately, he decides that he is going to try to make some fundamental changes to the drug trafficking system in Brick City, beginning with a dramatic “hello” to the neighborhood in #1…
Isabella also slowly populated the supporting cast with various students and teachers at Jefferson’s new school.
Early on, though, Isabella threw a total curveball when, at the end of #4, a member of a gang bursts into a room where Jefferson and another teacher (Walter Kasko, a guy who seemed to be cut in the “Steve Lombard” mold) were with a teen who had spurned a gang (through their help). She opened fire, and Walter shielded the boy with his body, thereby getting riddled with bullets (Jefferson also suffered terrible gunshot injuries).
That led to the absolutely brilliant #5, which was one of the most critically acclaimed issues of 1995, but sadly, since it has not been reprinted, a lot of people have forgotten how excellent of an issue it was (although I featured it during the Year of Cool Comic Book Moments, so you might be familiar with it by now!).
The issue shows Jefferson recuperating, and mostly feeling sorry for himself and mourning Walter’s death.
There’s a great touch when Jefferson’s ex-wife visits, and he talks about where he was when Superman died…
Then we get a stunning sequence when a man (who had stared at Jefferson when he first came into the hospital) comes by again…
That doesn’t even fully give you the appreciation of how good #5 is – do yourself a favor and find yourself a copy!
There’s a good story arc in #7 and 8 involving Gangbuster, but sadly, that’s as far as Isabella ever went. Even before #1 had come out, Isabella had already been fired, with #8 being his last issue.
And after he left, the book quickly fell apart and only last four more issues (which really paled in comparison to Isabella’s run).
But that eight-issue run by Isabella and Newell remains a wonderful read. Be sure to check it out and maybe someday DC will put together a trade collection of the run!