This issue addresses the lingering plot thread of what happened to Peter Gambi, Black Lightning’s friend and mentor. Lightning has finally noticed Gambi’s disappearance and has been scouring the streets for information. He runs across a couple of goofy-looking villains (a bruiser called Steel Fist Feeny and another dude who’s dressed like a miscoloured Shang Chi) busting into Gambi’s shop, which is also where Black Lightning lives in his civilian identity of Jefferson Pierce. He pounds them, thinking they might have something to do with Gambi’s disappearance, but he learns nothing except they’re working for someone. We see a weirdo watching from a nearby window and he shoots Lightning with a dart that knocks him out. The thugs leave, having been ordered to lure Black Lightning out and nothing more. Lightning wakes up and grabs someone lurking nearby, but it tuns out to be his snitch friend, Two Bits Tanner. Tanner has been trying to get a line on what happened to Gambi too, since he’s friends with the old man. He lets Lightning know the 100 has put a price on his head ($1,000,000) and says maybe Lightning should get out of town. But Lightning won’t leave until he finds out what happened to Peter Gambi. We get some more of Lightning’s background: his father owned a store and was shot in an altercation between a cop and some out-of-town triggerman; Gambi opened his store under their apartment, helped Jefferson’s mother raise him, and brought her in as a partner in the store. Jefferson became an Olympic athlete and a college graduate thanks to Gambi’s help, so he won’t abandon him now if he needs help. As Lightning and Tanner leave, we see a hand picking up the dart that hit Lightning earlier. Elsewhere we see Inspector Henderson and his son Andy talking about a raid on some warehouse. Henderson says he’ll let the younger cops handle the hard part, as he’s still recovering from his heart attack. After he leaves, Andy calls Tobias Whale to tip him to the raid. At school, Jefferson is teaching some kids Romeo and Juliet and the principal calls him in for a meeting. He says he wants Jefferson to stop being a dick to another teacher, Lynn Stewart, and we find out what most of us probably already guessed … she’s Jefferson’s ex-wife. We see Peter Gambi tied up, being held by the weirdo who shot the dart at Black Lightning earlier; he calls himself Syonide. He tells Gambi he kidnapped him to get Lightning’s attention, since he wants the million dollar bounty. He also hints that he knows some big secret that Gambi’s been keeping. Later, we see Steel Fist and the Shang Chi wannabe walking around Suicide Slum. Black Lightning pounds them but Syonide jumps in too. Lightning finds out Syonide is the one who took Gambi and gets pissed off enough to wail on all three villains. But Syonide has an ace up his sleeve; the dart he shot Lightning with was full of a mind-numbing serum which puts the victim in the control of anyone who takes the corresponding mind-control serum … in this case, Syonide. So Syonide can give Lightning orders and he has no choice but to obey. He says he’s taking Lightning to Tobias Whale to claim the bounty and Lightning asks about Gambi. Syonide says he’s safe enough, but wonders why Lightning is so concerned about the man who killed his father. We’ll have to wait till next issue to follow up on that bombshell.
- Steel Fist Feeny’s real name is Francis … no wonder he changed it. Lightning uses it repeatedly just to piss him off.
- Would a big city newspaper really run a front page story about the mob putting a million dollar hit on someone?
- After Lightning spilled his family history to Tanner, I’d say it’s a pretty good bet that the snitch knows his secret identity. Lightning better hope no one offers him too much money for it.
- There’s a bit of a “Welcome Back Kotter” vibe in some of the school scenes. The kids are kind of Sweathog-like, and the principal even looks a bit like Principal Woodman.
This continues the story from last issue—actually, two stories; the framing story of Hex tracking a girl named Laura Vanden, who was kidnapped by Apaches (while being tracked himself by a French mercenary named D’Aubergon) and the flashbacks to his younger days. We get a recap of last issue’s flashbacks where Hex as sold to Apaches by his father, adopted after saving the chief’s life, and betrayed by Noh-Tante, a jealous prick. Hex was captured by the Kiowas and set to be tortured, but was inadvertently rescued by some scumbags who massacred the Kiowas to collect bounties on their scalps. When Hex objected to them murdering a couple of kids, they shot him and left him for dead. But he was rescued by some grizzled old trapper (Walter Brennan? Gabby Hayes? Actually, he looks a bit like Uncle Jesse on Dukes of Hazzard). He nursed Hex back to health, which takes almost a year. Hex goes to find the Apaches—and get revenge on Noh-Tante—but they’ve moved on. He can’t find them, so he wanders the West, working as a hunter for the Army, then as a tracker. When the Civil War started, Hex joined the Confederates and fought all over the place—Antietam, Chancellorsville, Shiloh, Vicksburg. After the war he resumed wandering and one day came across a massacred wagon train. He realized his old Apache tribe was responsible and tracked them down. He found that his honey, White Fawn, had married Noh-Tante, which pissed him off even more than he already was. He accused Noh-Tante of betraying him to the Kiowas twelve years before, but Noh-Tante denied it. So they had to settle it by combat, but Noh-Tante sabotaged Hex’s tomahawk and when it broke, Hex used his knife to stab Noh-Tante to save his own ass. That broke the rules of the combat, so Hex was scarred with the Mark of the Demon to show that he was half-good and half-evil. He was banished from the tribe on pain of death. Now, six years later, he’s tracked Laura to his own tribe. He knows he can’t just walk in and ask for her back, but before he can figure out what to do, he’s conked out. He wakes up in the Apache camp, where the chief (Jonah’s erstwhile adoptive father) tells him they are sick of being slaughtered by white men and are fighting back. That’s why they took the Laura. The chief says Hex will be tortured to death the next day, but White Fawn rescues him that night. She’s ready to flee with him and Laura, but the chief shoots her with an arrow. Hex blows the chief away before he can waste Hex and takes off with Laura. They’re captured by D’Aubergon and his valet, but Hex says the whole Apache tribe is on his ass. D’Aubergon doesn’t believe him, but when his valet gets an arrow in the back, he smartens up. He unties Hex and the two of them hold off the first waves of Apaches. D’Aubergon is surprised when Hex saves his life, knowing the French mercenary is going to take him in later. They get a breather and Hex suggests one of them could hold the Apaches n a narrow defile while the other takes Laura to safety. D’Aubergon pretends to have lots of rifle ammo (even though he’s almost out) and volunteers to hold the Apaches. Hex says he’ll do it, so D’Aubergon tosses a coin and “wins”; Hex says he’ll come back as soon as he can and takes Laura through the defile toward safety. D’Aubergon bids them Adieu. He uses his last two bullets and draws his sabre to fight the Apaches. Laura asks Hex if he’s ever studied French, then explains the difference between “Adieu” and “Au Revoir” as we see D’Aubergon looking like a pincushion. Yeah, he had a two-headed coin.
- It says Hex was unconscious for “weeks” after being shot. I’m not sure how that would work.
- Some of Hex’s history seems to parallel Buffalo Bill Cody, who also provided meat for the Army before becoming a scout and tracker.
- Hex’s war exploits are glossed over (there’s no mention of the Fort Charlotte massacre) as are his reasons for supporting the South. Later on it’s established that Hex didn’t support slavery, but there’s no mention of it here.