Starring: Cress Williams, William Catlett, Gregg Henry, Christine Adams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, and Marvin “Krondon” Jones III
African-American Superheroes, at one time, were harder to find than Waldo in a Where’s Waldo picture. Sure, we have heard of them and know they exist, but they are rarely seen. I guess, the first to hit the big screen was Abar, The First Black Superman. Who? Exactly.
But in recent years, there has been a slew of sightings. From Will Smith’s Hancock, The Falcon and Luke Cage to Storm, Spawn and The Black Panther, they have exploded on both the big and small screen. It was 1998’s Blade where we first got a glimpse of a dynamic superhero that was different than anything that we have seen before.
We did have action heroes like Jim Kelly (Black Belt Jones, Enter the Dragon and Hot Potato), but even he did not have super powers, just fast feet and hands. When I heard that the CW network is starting a series about a black superhero, I eagerly awaited the premiere of D.C. Comic’s metahuman, Black Lightning.
After years of fighting what he thought was a never-ending battle for justice, Principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) made the choice and promise to his ex-wife, Lynn (Christine Adams) to retire Black Lightning for good. But often in life, choices are not that easy. But his “champion for justice” daughter, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and her sister, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) has not made his transition to civilian life easy. Jennifer gets involved in a local gang, The 100, forcing her dad to don the Black Lightning suit once again.
Black Lightning surrounds itself with good subject matter backed by a soulful soundtrack along with excellent acting and a cast that creates a genuine interest that gives the superhero genre of the network a raw and refreshing feel. It is submerged in the frustration of criminal activity and the neglect and chaos that is bred from it. The television show is much more than hero versus villain, it is about the complexities of an inner-city community and how individuals perceive reality based on their backgrounds and circumstances in their lives.
Standout performances by both Cress Williams (Living Single) and China Anne McClain (House of Payne) make up the backbone of the show. Williams portrayal of a divorced father who is torn between his dangerous obligation as the city’s savior and the responsibility of keeping his two daughters safe and family together is heartfelt. While McClain’s portrayal of a daughter struggling to be the good straight A student but is affected by both the poor choices and friends she surrounds herself is a far better performance of her previous role as Jazmine on House of Payne. Marvin “Krondon” Jones III as Tobias Whale is “must-see TV”. His bad guy persona rivals the likes of Kilgrave (Jessica Jones), Wilson Fisk (Daredevil), or even Scandal’s Rowan Pope as one of the best villains on television.
Yes, you do have to get past the bad costume and that he is unrecognizable the Black Lightning because he puts on a pair dark shades (The Clark Kent disguise). In addition, I remember when this network was formally UPN (United Paramount Network) and brought us such stellar gems as Home Boys in Outer Space, so I was a bit hesitant when the network premiered the Black Lightning commercial.
The commercial is misleading, it makes the viewer believe that the show is going to be campy full of caricatures, but it is not. Watch the first episode and I am sure that this will make it to your list on Tuesday’s nights.