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"Public Enemies" Black Lightning

DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

Two years ago, when reviewing DCU5, Poe said Black Lightning was the most-adapted character to never appear on any form of adaptation, pointing out how the basic idea of the character has been used repeatedly, but never the actual guy. Well, that's not true any more, thanks to both Batman: The Brave and the Bold and DC's newest direct-to-video movie, Superman/Batman Public Enemies.

Black Lightning wasn't a huge part of Public Enemies - just part of Lex Luthor's team of government-sponsored superheroes. In his civilian identity, Jefferson Pierce, he was President Luthor's Secretary of Education, but his role as Black Lightning was one of the worst-kept secrets in DC. (The city, not the comic company.) Is that why he was on Luthor's "hero-hunters," or was it just coincidence? It wasn't really addressed in the comic, but since this was a Jeph Loeb story, that's not really surprising; admit it, you'd rather see three pages of Superman and Batman kicking the ass of cool-looking villains than one panel of Black Lightning talking about whether or not he's on the team because Luthor knows who he really is.

The costume Black Lightning wore in Public Enemies is not one he's worn anywhere else [correction: he wore it also on the cover of Justice League Unlimited #27 --ed.]. His current costume looks like this, and while this is similar - mostly black, with yellow lightning elements separating blue areas - it seems to take its cues from the Superfriends' Black Vulcan, as well. He has white gloves and boots. White boots? That's dangerous. He's just one step away from a nigga moment.

Black Lightning uses the new oversized body Mattel inexplicably commissioned for this series. The rumor is that it was made with an eye toward a future Martian Manhunter, but that doesn't make any sense: J'onn isn't any taller than anyone else, so why would he need a unique body? Why would he get one instead of, say, anyone else? Especially since they'll probably (read: damn well better) be sculpting a new torso to accommodate his chest-straps. As a theory, it doesn't hold up. As an actual sculpt, it's nice to see a new body, even if it is too big.

These days, in the comics, Black Lightning is bald. But when he first appeared in the '70s, he had a pretty stylish 'fro - but in a clever move, it was just part of his disguise. The afro was actually part of his mask, and he had a more normal haircut underneath. As far as disguises go, that beats a pair of glasses any day. This figure indeed has hair, but since it doesn't connect with the mask at the sides, we can assume it's natural.

Black Lightning has no accessories, which is yet again really annoying. Like Poe said, Electric Superman's energy effects make perfect sense for Jefferson. All he gets is the same disc base as everyone else in this series, and Brimstone's semi-translucent arm.

It's surprising that a second-stringer like Black Lightning has already had two DC Universe figures, while some of the major players (Flash, Kyle Rayner, the aforementioned Martian Manhunter) are still waiting. Of course, they've both been tucked away in exclusive series, but it's still weird. This particular version isn't very impressive, but if you want to build Brimstone, you're going to have to get him.

-- 04/22/10

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