Comics Reviews: Black Lightning 11, Jonah Hex 16

Black Lightning 11 coverBlack Lightning #11 – “All They Will Call You Will Be … Deportee” – Denny O’Neil/Trevor von Eeden/Vince Colletta

This one starts at a junkyard where some scumbags are hassling an old man and his nephew. Black Lightning shows up and pounds all the bad guys, showing off some of his superhuman traits in the process. The old man (whose name is Garcia Chavez) partially narrates the story, but it’s not really all that illuminating most of the time. Chavez and his nephew Paco don’t trust Black Lightning, so he takes off just before the cops show up. He changes to Jefferson Pierce (who just happens to be Paco’s teacher) and makes an appearance. With Pierce showing up right after Lightning left, I’m surprised Paco didn’t figure out they were one and the same. Paco has been absent for three weeks but Pierce can’t get anything out of him, and neither can the cops. Chavez actually sees Pierce changing backsave into Lightning, but passes it off as a booze-induced vision. As Paco and his uncle head home, a car tries to run them down and Black Lightning shows up to save their asses again. He takes out the car (and the thugs inside it) while Chavez and Paco run off. Paco leads his uncle to a restaurant to see a guy named Corpo. Seems Corpo is a human trafficker who brings people in from Puerto Oro to work (illegally) for shitty wages and if they object to the working conditions, he reports them to Immigration. Corpo has been using Chavez as a go-between, forcing him to lie to the illegals and tell them they’ll be well treated and well paid. Chavez wanted to quit being Corpo’s shill, hence the rough stuff earlier. Corpo says he has a new boatload of “workers” coming in and says if Chavez convinces them to trust him, he’ll lay off. Chavez decides to do it, for his nephew Paco’s Inez diessake (and Paco’s sweetheart, Inez, who works in Corpo’s restaurant). Black Lightning spies on the meeting and follows them to the waterfront. He jumps Corpo’s men, but Corpo tells the new arrivals from Puerto Oro that Lightning is his enemy and if they don’t fight him, he’ll get them all in shit with the cops. Paco helps Lightning fight the deluded workers and Corpo tries to shoot them in the back. Chavez finally regains his conscience and deflects the gun. Unfortunately, the shots hit Inez, killing her. Chavez gives a speech about what a prick Corpo is, and how he wishes he hadn’t been such a coward. The immigrants turn on Corpo and he threatens to kill everyone, but Lightning knocks him out. Chavez vows to quit drinking and become an advocate for his people.

Noticeable Things:

  • This is another of Denny O’Neil’s “socially conscious” stories, but it’s so short that I never really identified with the characters. It’s hard for me to get invested in a character after such a short time.
  • I assume Puerto Oro is a stand-in for Puerto Rico. I don’t know why they didn’t just use the real name, since it’s so obvious anyway.
  • This is the last issue of Black Lightning, another victim of the DC Implosion. Lightning will pop up as a guest star in various comics (JLA, DC Presents) and I think he gets his own feature in World’s Finest, but I won’t be reviewing those.
  • So, that’s it for Black Lightning. Overall, it was pretty good, though not great. I always liked the character of Black Lightning, but these stories aren’t spectacular. I’m looking forward to reviewing Outsiders, a comic I initially bought because of Black Lightning’s involvement (well, and Batman’s of course, but that goes without saying).

Jonah Hex 16 coverJonah Hex #16 – “The Wyandott Verdict” – Michael Fleisher/Vicente Alcazar

After three fill-in issues written by Dave Michelinie, Fleisher is back and he finally finishes the “Hex is wanted for murders he didn’t commit” storyline that started over a year and a half ago. This one starts with Hex being chased by a bunch of vigilantes looking to lynch him for the murders he supposedly committed in Wyandott. I’m assuming these guys aren’t officially deputized, since they’re all wearing masks. They chase Hex into a cave and throw burning brush in to smoke him out. They rope him and string him up in a tree, leaving him to choke to death as they ride off. We see someone watching Hex from a nearby tree, lamenting that he wanted to be the one to finish Hex off and how he feels cheated of his vengeance. A couple of guys wander by and cut Hex down. One, a guy named Nostrum, says everyone is entitled to a fair trial,Nostrum not lynch law. His companion (or maybe servant) a black guy named Joseph, says Hex probably had it coming and they shouldn’t get mixed up in somebody else’s mess. Nostrum prevails and they take Hex to their cabin nearby. The hidden observer is thrilled that he’ll get a chance to kill Hex himself. Nostrum takes care of Hex and says he’s going to turn him over to the Wyandott sheriff so he can get a fair trial. I’m not sure how fair it would really be, seeing as he’s accused of killing three Wyandott lawmen. Nostrum says he hates vigilantism (good thing he doesn’t know Hex is a bounty hunter) and he thinks everyone should get a fair trial. He’s also a scientist and Hex starts telling him that he’s innocent as Joseph goes out to chop some wood. Joseph doesn’t trust Hex, but he should be watching his back because he gets jumped and killed. Not long sheriffafterward, Joseph comes back into the cabin with the wood—or someone who looks exactly like him. (You probably know who the mystery man is now, don’t you?) Nostrum is well ahead of his time: he takes Hex’s fingerprints (or dactyloscopy, as he calls it) and examines the “striae” on his bullets. It’s CSI Old West! Being a consummate scientist, Nostrum is prepared to do whatever’s needed to find the truth, so he takes Joseph and Hex for a spot of grave robbing. Yup, they dig up the corpses of the guys Hex supposedly killed and remove the bullets so Nostrum can compare the striae to Hex’s bullets. “Joseph” goes outside to stand watch, but takes off into town. He adopts another disguise, this time of a sexy redhead, and tells the sheriff where Hex is. The sheriff sneaks up and catches Hex, hauling him back to the jail. The next day, some deputies are testing the gallows, gloating about Hex being on it as soon as the judge shows up to try him. Nostrum goes to see him and says the three murdered men wereTurnbull killed with a .38, which Hex has never been known to carry. Nostrum also went to the barn where Hex met Ned Landon and dug up Landon’s corpse. In Landon’s pocket was a .38, whose striae matched the bullets in the dead men. Nostrum says he’ll put all the evidence in the hotel safe until the trial, when he thinks he can prove Hex’s innocence. In the meantime, he goes looking for Joseph. Elsewhere, we see someone reading about the trial in the newspaper and getting pissed off about Nostrum’s claims that he can prove Hex innocent. We’re not told who this is, nor shown his face, but the dialogue and the gold-topped cane make it pretty obvious that it’s Turnbull, the guy who orchestrated the frame-up of Hex in the first place because he blames Hex for his son’s death. Turnbull sends some thugs to take care of Nostrum. On trial day, Nostrum finds some one ransacking his room—someone who looks exactly like him. The court battleintruder throws a knife into Nostrum’s gut and hides him in the closet. He can’t find the evidence Nostrum gathered, but he decides to just take Nostrum’s place at the trial. Turnbull’s thugs show up looking for Nostrum, but he’s already left for the trial. The head thug says he’ll kill Nostrum right there in the courtroom for what Turnbull is paying. They disrupt the proceedings just as Nostrum is sworn in, but Hex (still manacled) manages to disarm one of the thugs and blow the others away. Once the bodies are dragged out, “Nostrum” shocks everyone—especially Hex—by testifying that his evidence proves guilty. But the real Nostrum stumbles into court with the actual evidence and proclaims Hex innocent, just before dying dramatically. The fake Nostrum whips out a gun and reveals himself as … Chameleon. Yeah, he’s the “world’s greatest actor” who was hired to catch Hex back in issue #4 and ended up in a fire. Chameleon reveals his burned up face and says he’s been tracking Hex ever since to get revenge for the pain and misery from the fire. While he’s yapping, Hex throws a knife into his chest.Chameleon revealed Hex is exonerated and rides off, leaving the deputies to lament not getting the use the nice new gallows. Don’t worry boys, I’m sure someone will commit a felony soon. So, that’s the end of the “falsely accused” storyline, which was starting to drag a bit. We’ll see what fresh trouble Hex gets into next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • This issue is said to take place in South Texas and one of the lynch mob says he was friends with one of the men Hex supposedly killed. But there’s a $10,000 reward for Hex … vengeance for a friend or not, you’d think they’d want that kind of money.
  • From what I understand, impromptu hangings were usually conducted so as to break the victim’s neck, but these guys either aren’t very good or they wanted Hex to suffer … most likely the latter.
  • When Chameleon takes over Joseph’s identity, the caption says it only takes him “moments” to make the switch. I find that hard to believe.
  • It’s pretty convenient that Hex just happened to be found by a scientist who knows about fingerprints and ballistics and cares about truth and justice above all.
  • It’s cool that Nostrum knows about bullet striae and all that, but it seems to me Hex has lost and replaced the guns he had back in Wyandott a couple times now, so comparing the bullets in the bodies with Hex’s current pistols proves nothing.
  • I’m not sure how Hex knew Landon was buried in the barn; maybe it was just a guess.
  • In court, we see Hex slipping the knife from his collar, which is its usual hiding place, right before he throws it at Chameleon. Does that mean it was there the whole time? The sheriff and his deputies must not do very thorough searches.

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