by Zayin Allen
(Episode 1, “Resurrection” trailer.)
The CW has sparked the attention of many DC comic book fans and their new show (debuted January 16th) “Black Lightning” has electrified the entire network.
The first African-American superhero in DC Comics, Black Lightning debuted originally in 1977 and defined an era of social injustice in the United States. Creators Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden showed the world that an African American man can have power.
The decision to have the television show premiere the day after the Martin Luther King holiday was a strong move on the CW’s part, because it filled viewers’ screens with an extra jolt of soul power.
Black Lightning tells the story of Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), father of two, teacher of few, and activist of many in the city of Freeland. Pierce struggles with finding balance in his life after retiring his superhero alter-ego. Following the divorce from his wife Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams), Jefferson is called back to fight for justice after his daughters, Anissa and Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams) are threatened by the rise of the 100 gang, led by their leader, former politician Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III).
The casting of the show is amazing. China Anne McClain said, in an interview before the show’s debut, that, upon arrival she “knew very quickly that they would be able to play a family easily.” The passion of Jefferson makes viewers understand that he wants better for his family and nothing will get in his way. Black Lightning is not just about a man who can glow like a light bulb and walk around shocking people. The show tells a deeper story about conflict and living in trying times. Cress does not tell this story alone.
Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain set the standard for strong independent African American women, and that is what the show needs. Anissa is an open member of the LGBT community, and is als an educated teachers who takes after her father in more ways than one. Jennifer is an intelligent high school student who is stressed by the pressures of school, but has a strong family dynamic to support her. Between the love of her overprotective father and her sister she stands her ground, but she’s still a teen growing into adulthood.
Everyone in the cast meshes well together, including Tobias Whale. It is declared early on within the show that Whale is not a force to be taken lightly. Even with 1000 plus volts and the ability to step walk on air, Jefferson still has things he has to battle with, things that he cannot combat with his incredible strength alone.
The discussion of race is what sets this show apart from others. It deals with issues like the struggle of trust between a community and law enforcement, the destruction of a community from within, and gang violence. This show is different because it talks about real world issues. These issues need to be seen by viewers in the comfort of their own homes to fully understand what is happening in the world around them. I, personally, applaud the CW for recognizing diversity, and I want to applaud the director, Salim Akil, for having enough understanding to make a show about the struggles and triumphs in the African American community, depicted by a predominantly African American cast of actors.
All in all, the show is amazing. It offers action, drama and humor all rolled into one. The casting is spot on and the issues are relevant. Like all superhero shows on the CW, the fight scenes are long and drawn out, no matter how fast or spectacular they look. However, this was only the first episode and the actors take you to a place beyond the comic book.
There is more to be seen, and judging from this week’s premiere, the voltage is definitely high.