This one starts with my favourite storytelling device (can you tell I’m being sarcastic?), that old trope where we come in right in the middle of the action then catch up through flashbacks. This time, we see Black Lightning getting blasted through the window of a building and falling three stories to the street. The guy who blasted him is called the Annihilist, some kind of terrorist asshole who’s taken over Garfield High School (where Black Lightning teaches in his civilian identity of Jefferson Pierce). Inspector Henderson helps Lightning up and Annihilist appears on the roof with a hostage, saying he’ll kill her if his demands aren’t met within the hour. Like most 70s terrorists, Annihilist is asking for money, safe passage out of the country, and the release of other terrorists. (No mention if any Baader-Meinhof Gang members are on the list.) Henderson says Annihilist’s men are covering every possible way into the building and asks Lightning if he has any ideas. That’s when our flashback starts and we see Jefferson Pierce and his friend Two-Bits Tanner hanging out in the Tailor Shop. A whole squad of cop cars shows up at the school across the street and Pierce changes to Lightning to check it out. When he offers help to the cops, Detective Jim Corrigan (who’s definitely not the same Corrigan who was Spectre’s human host) tries to arrest him. Henderson tells Corrigan to calm the fuck down and lets Lightning know what’s up. Annihilist (a guy who grew up right there in Suicide Slum but has made a name as an international terrorist) showed up out of nowhere with a bunch of mysterious henchmen and took over the school. He let everyone go, except one teacher and her class. Lightning says if the cops can divert the terrorists’ attention, he can try to climb up the building and sneak in. The cops stage a car crash and Lightning scales the building, but is surprised at the window by Annihilist, who blasts him … which is where we came in. Corrigan shows up with the principal and says there’s a loading bay that leads to a sub-basement running right under the school. He volunteers to go in, but when Lightning hears the teacher being held hostage is his ex-wife, Lynn Stewart, he tells Corrigan he’ll go instead. Henderson tells them to go together and they do … albeit grudgingly. They run into Annihilist’s men, who are all exact duplicates of their leader, and soon discover they’re robots. Corrigan gets pounded but Lightning smashes the robots to shit. He’s ready to take Corrigan to a hospital, but Annihilist says (over a loudspeaker) that the deadline to kill a hostage is almost up and Lightning doesn’t have time to save Corrigan. Corrigan agrees and tells Lightning to save the kids, so he heads upstairs. But a bunch more of Annihilist’s robots are waiting for him. In the classroom, Lynn tries to calm her students as Annihilist prepares to kill one of them. There’s a knock at the door and Lightning busts in and goes after Annihilist. The students throw chalk-filled erasers at Annihilist to distract him and Lightning pounds him. Later, Jefferson Pierce is hanging out at the Tailor Shop with Tanner when Lynn comes in and accuses him of being Black Lightning. How’s he gonna explain this one? We’ll have to wait until next issue to find out.
- I hadn’t realized Gambi’s Tailor Shop was right across the street from Garfield High, but apparently it is.
- Tanner jokes about Lightning going highbrow and joining the JLA; I think the JLA actually does offer him membership later, and he turns them down.
- Henderson says Corrigan used to be a great cop, but when Lightning asks why he such a dick now, Henderson just says it’s a “story for another time”.
- Lightning accidentally lets it slip to Henderson that he used to attend Garfield High. We later earn that Corrigan went there too; maybe Corrigan recognizes Lightning as Jefferson Pierce and that’s why he being such a dick to him?
- I’m glad Tony Isabella had Lynn recognize Jefferson, even in his Lightning disguise. She was married to him after all, and she’s supposed to be smart, so it makes sense she’d figure it out.
This one starts with Hex heading into the Louisiana bayous to find a friend of his named Gator Hawes. Gator went into the bayous to trap muskrat, but hasn’t been heard from in two months. Hex’s canoe is overturned by an alligator, but he stabs it to death. He washes up near a cabin and we get ready for Deliverance Part 2. An old man, his huge-but-stupid son (Josh), and his daughter (Isabella) rescue Hex and bring him to the cabin. They seem friendly at first, but when Josh starts making fun of Isabella and how ugly she is (she’s actually quite a babe, but I guess a lifetime of abuse has made her believe whatever she’s told), Hex defends her and gets his as kicked. He’s thrown into a cage where he finds his old pal, Gator Hawes. Gator says he got caught weeks ago and they make him fight for food, but he keeps losing and getting weaker. He’s been subsisting on whatever he can catch near the cage—rats, snakes, frogs. Josh and the old man haul Hex out of the cage and take him to a log where they have a stick fight (or “pole wrasslin” as the hicks call it), like a toothless version of Robin Hood and Little John. Hex wins, but the old man shoots him with some buckshot. He’s dragged back to the cabin and Isabella tends to his wounds, before her brother slaps her around and tosses Hex back in the cage. Hex tells Isabella she’s not ugly, she’s actually beautiful, but she’s hesitant to believe him. The next day, they’re dragged out for more pole wrasslin, but this time it’s Hex against Gator and whoever losses becomes alligator chow. Hex tells Gator to knock him off the log and he swims under Josh and his father’s canoe and upends it. Gator jumps in, but knocks himself out so Hex just starts paddling downstream. He comes to a fork and goes the wrong way, right into some rapids toward a waterfall. He wakes Gator up and grabs a tree right before they go over the falls. But Gator is too weak to hang on, so he goes over too. Josh and his dad are waiting when Hex gets out of the tree and beat the shit out of him, then take him back to the cage. After days of being starved, Hex is reduced to eating rats. Isabella asks if he meant it when he said she was beautiful and Hex swears he did. She says she’ll bust him out if he’ll marry her and he says he will. She starts to open the cage, but her dads shows up and shoots her. Hex smashes him with the cage door and heads for the cabin to take care of Josh. They fight and the old man shows up and tries to blast Hex again. But Hex knocks him down, making him shoot a cage full of cottonmouths, which kill Josh. Hex climbs out the window and the cabin is surrounded by water. Apparently, a storm has been raging this whole time and the water’s been rising. The cabin starts to break apart and Hex climbs to the roof. The old man climbs up too, but before he can blast Hex, the cabin shifts and the old man is impaled on the weather vane. Hex clings to the roof all night until the rain stops and the water subsides. Then he heads out of the bayou.
- There are some convenient coincidences in this story, like Gator getting knocked out (so he can’t tell Hex which stream to take), or the old man not having any shotgun shells on him (thus leaving Hex unarmed when he confronts Josh), but getting extra shells from a secret stash before challenging Hex again at the cabin.
- I’m not sure how Josh and his dad knew which stream Hex took. Why would they be waiting for him down the stream that led to the waterfall?
- I wonder if Hex really would’ve married Isabella if they’d gotten away? He’s usually a man of his word (and she was pretty hot), so he probably would’ve done it.