This one starts with some cops (or maybe Feds) transporting Trickster to a trial in California. But Trickster has other plans, and escapes the plane in mid-air by using some illusion-casting devices he stole from Mirror Master. He bails out and lands near a costume he’d previously stashed. Trickster figures it’s time to lay low and hone his skills, so he decides to get a job as a high-wire act for a circus (the same one his parents worked at years ago). Speaking of which, Jefferson (Black Lightning) Pierce and his ex-wife Lynn Stewart are discussing taking some of the kids from their high school to the same circus Trickster is joining. But they see an ad in the paper promising an appearance by Black Lightning, which intrigues Pierce since he’s Black Lightning and he doesn’t know anything about it. Lynn (who found out his secret identity last issue) tells Pierce to investigate the circus as Black Lightning and she’ll take the kids herself. We now see the circus in question, where the ringmaster, Silvio, shows a huge diamond to a woman named Barbara Hanna. The diamond was a gift from a sultan with the stipulation that it be displayed before every performance. Of course, having—and displaying—something that expensive is driving Silvio nuts, so he hired Barbara Hanna and her detective agency to guard the circus. She assures him that the diamond is safe and reminds him that a bona fide superhero, Black Lightning, is there to guard it. We get a look at “Black Lightning” and it’s laughable; he’s not even close, especially the costume. I guess Silvio hasn’t seen photos of the real Black Lightning. After Silvio leaves, we find that “Lightning” is just some ex-football player named Jocko (who’s so stupid he sacked his own quarterback) who Barbara Hanna hired to make her agency look good. Hanna told Jocko that the real Black Lightning recommended him to play the role, but we learn that she’s no detective … she’s a thief. She set up the whole “detective” ruse, and the fake Black Lightning, to get close enough to steal the diamond. That night, the real Black Lightning checks out the competition and realizes he’s just some dimwit. It’s lucky he’s on hand though, because Trickster can’t resist that shiny diamond and tries to grab it. He and Lightning fight and Jocko attacks Lightning, thinking he and Trickster are working together. Lightning decks Jocko and goes after Trickster, but gets caught in some hardening powder. Trickster stampedes an elephant toward Lightning, but Jocko rams into the pachyderm, pushing it just wide and saving Lightning’s life. Lightning beans Trickster with a disc and the diamond falls right into Barbara Hanna’s arms … and she’s immediately grabbed by Inspector Henderson. Black Lightning refuses to turn Jocko in and gives him a pep talk about not underestimating himself. Then they go out for steaks.
- There’s a little background behind this particular story. When Tony Isabella first created Black Lightning, he and DC apparently had an agreement that Isabella would get a share of any profits if Lightning appeared in other media. A version of Black Lightning did appear on the Super Friends cartoon by Hanna-Barbera, but the name was changed to Black Vulcan and the character was tweaked enough that Isabella got nothing from the deal. So he wrote this story, about someone named “Barbara Hanna” using a fake version of Black Lightning to rip people off. This also ended up being Isabella’s last story of the original run—the next one is by Denny O’Neil—but the comic is cancelled with #11 anyway, because of the Implosion.
- I find it hard to believe Trickster could escape from the plane so easily and land within a few yards of his stashed equipment. If he’s so damn smart, why does he keep getting caught?
- The name of the circus, Bewsima Brothers, seems like a phonetic pronunciation of “Buscema Brothers”.
- Jefferson says Lynn has accepted his double life rather easily, but they’re never shown discussing it; would’ve been nice to see them actually addressing it.
- I know Jocko’s dialogue is supposed to come off as “dumb jock”, but sometimes it has a bit of a “stepinfetchit” quality as well.
- There’s a running series of interludes in this issue about some cult. Some master shows up and they seem to be preparing for a ritual, then at the end we see the empty church and there’s a photo of Lynn Stewart on the altar. Supposedly it’ll all be explained in upcoming issues, but the book is cancelled after next issue, so I’m not sure anything ever came of this.
This one starts with a bunch of scumbags coming into a saloon. Hex is at the bar and he roughnecks are after the reward that’s still on his head for the killings back in Wyandott. Of course, we know Hex is innocent, but nobody else does, which means he has a target on his back wherever he goes. Hex wastes all the bounty hunters and takes off. One of them is still alive, but not for long; he’s gunned down by someone claiming to be doing the Lord’s work—eradicating sinners. Three days later, Hex is at a blacksmith’s in Oklahoma, getting a sawed-off shotgun made. The smith invites him to a church picnic and Hex is about to refuse, but changes his mind when he hears about all the food that’s laid on for the event. As the preacher goes on about hellfire and damnation, Hex chows down. He recognizes the preacher as an old gunfighter he used to know, Jedediah Kane. Kane takes Hex to his wagon and Hex asks how he became a bible-thumper. Kane says he was constantly inundated by people wanting to kill him when he was a gunfighter, and he almost died after getting shot. That helped him find God and he got married and had a kid. But when he took some parishioners to a creek for baptizing, they ran across some cattle rustlers and a bunch of bounty hunters who were after them. The bounty hunters wasted everybody, including Kane’s wife and kid. Now Kane has a new mission—to kill bounty hunters. He whacks Hex on the head and takes him up a mountain where he ties him to a tree and leaves him to freeze … or starve. Hex puts all his weight on the frozen branch and it breaks. He wets the rawhide ropes binding him so they’ll expand enough to untie them with his teeth, then he stumbles down the mountain, half-frozen. Kane took his guns, but left his Bowie knife, so he manages to kill a rabbit, which he eats raw. He stumbles across a trapper’s cabin, where he’s nursed back to health. He goes on Kane’s trail and finds him in a mine up in Kansas, about to be blown away by the brother of the bounty hunter Kane shot outside the saloon. Hex kills the gunman (who’s using Hex’s sawed-off, which he took from Kane), but a shotgun blast weakens the mine supports. Kane pulls out a Derringer and squares off with Hex, who warns him another shot could bring the whole mine down on top of them. Hex points out that Kane is a hypocrite, using God’s vengeance as an excuse to kill bounty hunters, since he hates them for what happened to his family. Kane is too far gone to reason with, and takes a couple of shots at Hex. That brings the mine down on Kane’s head. Hex reclaims his shotgun and muses that God apparently does punish sinners … sometimes.