BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #4
Written by Tony Isabella
Art by Clayton Henry, Yvel Guichet, Pete Pantazis, & Josh Reed
Edited by Jim Chadwick and Harvey Richards
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: February 7, 2018
It’s probably best you break out by yourself.
In the throes of battle, Jefferson has to decide how to best help those around him. While he is weighing his options, others are figuring out how they fit into this larger picture. Though he seems to be caught in an unfortunate circumstance, he eventually finds that he may have an unexpected ally in his corner.
Much of this issue is focused on action and the emotions therein, an excellent creative choice to break the pace and drama that has been built thus far. Even though the course of the story takes place over a comparatively short amount of time, it still holds true to the ethos of the series and finds a way to build in the important politics that serve as a major structure to this comic. Jefferson contends with the ideals of his foes, the police, and the invisible feelings of those who aren’t present at his fight, all leading to incredible moments which highlight the virtue of not only him as a protagonist, but this series as a whole.
Tony Isabella gets a lot done in this story through the use of narration as a structure. Readers are exposed to a variety of characters and their motivations, and everything that happens in between is a treat. When it comes to the relationship between the police, being a vigilante, and Jefferson as a black man, Isabella lays everything out in a manner which appropriately addresses complex politics. Near the end, there is a moment that almost had me disappointed, but that truly delivers on the reality that legality and morality are fraternal rather than identical twins.
There are two primary notes in Clayton Henry and Yvel Guichet’s art: the pristine images with Jefferson and the more murky and rough visuals that mark the tangential moments. These notes help to convey the importance of our protagonist’s fight, but also the mystery that underlies the events that he is not privy to. In particular, Henry and Guichet portray Tobias as a gruff element of the story, highlighting the fact that he poses a threat to Jefferson but also that he works as an element of chaos within the narrative.
One word describes Pete Pantazis’ colors: clean. I love how Pantazis conveys color through technology, power, and everyday circumstances. In this issue, the colorwork helps to makes the story more distinct and tangible. Pantazis’ style works well within a cape framework and certainly helps to make this Black Lightning story shine.
Though I love this issue, there is a quite ironic point of contention for me. Anissa and Jennifer make their first appearance in a while, but they are not Jefferson’s daughters. They are related, and they have similar powers, but their prior connection to Jefferson as his progeny was important. There are a lot of ideas to parse out regarding Black fatherhood within this paradigm, but there is no doubt that the preceding continuity brought a lot of those ideas to the fore. What I hope is that we get to see more of Anissa and Jennifer in the future and that their appearance is a testament to that, but part of me also longs for the complicated but vital story that was told with their being Jefferson’s children.
Cold Dead Hands continues to be a series that more than adequately addresses the meeting of race, super-heroics, and law enforcement. The narrative structure of this issue is superb, and the tiny nods toward past continuity are certainly a boon to the storytelling. There’s one aspect of the story that makes me feel disappointingly nostalgic, but I like that we have an indication of the existence of two important characters in a post-Rebirth status quo. This miniseries has been excellent from the start, and this issue is truly no exception.
The Verdict: 10/10