This week, we saw the UK release of the hotly anticipated ‘Black Lightning‘ TV show, arriving on our shores via ‘Netflix’. The release of the series as weekly episodes via the streaming service is a bit of an irritant, simply because I’m so used to being able to binge watch a show as and when I please, but given that the show has got off to a solid, if unspectacular start, I’m willing to put that to one side!
‘Black Lightning’ is not a comic book character that I knew an awful lot about going into the series. I remember him appearing in a few Justice League of America comics that I read back in the early naughties and that he was originally created by the same writer who worked on Luke Cage for Marvel comics, Tony Isabella. It turns out that going in ‘blind’ to this series is what will help you enjoy it the most, as there are a few changes from the source material, although nothing too drastic.
The episode gets of to a strong start, providing us with a relevant socio-political context that helps to ground the story and the character in a reality that is more recognisable to the average viewer. We are then swiftly transported into the world of Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), a high school principal who is striving to ensure his students stay on the straight and narrow whilst dealing with raising two head strong daughters (China Anne McClain & Nafessa Williams) and battling against institutionalised racism. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also the clear and present danger of a criminal gang called ‘The 100’, that seem to have torn the community of Southside apart. Though Pierce initially seemed to have an agreement with the organisation, this is thrown out of the window when his daughters are kidnapped by members of the gang, with a view to being forced into prostitution. With his family at stake, Pierce is left with no choice, but to once again don the persona of ‘Black Lightning’ and deliver swift justice to the criminals once again.
Overall, I have quite enjoyed this first episode. As I mentioned before, you really don’t need to know anything about the history of the character to get into the series and there is a lot of fun to be had if you are willing to keep an open mind. Cress Williams is an engaging lead, managing to strike the right balance between righteousness and humility that makes superheros so appealing. China Anne McClain & Nafessa Williams are also both great adding much need brevity and intelligence to the roles they play and I am really keen to see how things develop when their characters down the road. There is the introduction of a potentially memorable and creepy villain in Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones the 3rd). And the visual effects are also pretty darn good. I heard a few grumbles about the costume design, but to be honest, ‘Black Lightning’s costume has never been one of the best and I think this TV version is accurate enough whilst also being practical, which is the most any of us could have hoped for.
The plot so far is nothing new, but it would be wrong to expect ‘Black Lightning’ to reinvent the wheel at this point. Apart from some ropy acting in part by some of the supporting cast, my only major complaint so far is that this show will not be a part of the Arrowverse. The comic book geek in me loves to see characters from other universes cross paths, but given the type of story they are trying to tell with ‘Black Lightning’, it’s understandable that they have gone down a different path.
I’ll be waiting patiently for the 2nd episode to arrive & if you are looking for a new superhero fix, I suggest you do the same!
You can check out the trailer below;
Black Lighting is now available, week by week, on Netflix.