Can Black Lightning Make Me Care About CWs DC TV Universe

first_img I have a very complicated relationship with DC these days. I love the characters and universe the comic book giant has cultivated over the past century. On most given days, I probably prefer them to their Marvel counterparts. DC cartoons like Teen Titans and Justice League and Batman: The Animated Series have made me understand the awesome innate appeal of superheroes more than anything else outside of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. Plus Injustice is a dope fighting game.But man, the DC movies have just been such nightmares after Christopher Nolan’s excellent Batman trilogy. Man of Steel is like pretty okay, and Wonder Woman is legitimately awesome. But disasters like Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League anger me not just because of their awfulness but because they make the mediocre machine work of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (outside of Black Panther) look like art by comparison.There is one live-action arena where DC characters are getting respect, or so I keep hearing. For years folks have insisted that the suite of live-action DC shows on the CW (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow), also known as the “Arrowverse,” are actually pretty good. Besides, they can’t be worse than some of Marvel’s own shows like Iron Fist and Inhumans.However, just the very thought of watching 22 hours a year of sub-network budgeted live-action superhero antics (multiplied by four shows) already exhausts me, despite how jazzed I am by the idea of seeing King Shark on my TV. That’s just so much questionable content, even if Grant Gustin is the only true Flash.That’s why I was so intrigued by Black Lightning, the latest edition to Greg Berlanti’s CW DC TV empire. He’s no Static or Black Manta, but Jefferson “Black Lightning” Pierce is a fascinating Black character to build a show around, what with his unusually traditional family dynamic for a superhero setup. Plus, it’s not connected to the rest of the Arrowverse, so even if I did somehow get hooked I wouldn’t suddenly by obligated to keep up with the other adventures of Leonard Snart and the gang.For more in-depth Black Lightning thoughts, you can catch up with Nick Mangione’s ongoing episode reviews. But I just wanted to share some stray thoughts, especially while a different Black superhero is about to have his time in the sun. I appreciate how lived in and real Black Lightning’s vision of Black community in Freeland is. Like Luke Cage, you could tell this was made by actual Black people.However, also like Luke Cage, Black Lightning at times features a distressingly large amount of respectability politics, blaming Black people for our own self-inflicted gang violence while (initially at least) downplaying larger socio-economic factors. I’m starting to fear this Booker T. Washington-esque model is just the easiest way to make noble Black (male) superheroes safe and palatable to the mainstream.Fortunately, Black Lightning is progressive in its own ways. The very first scene features some good old-fashioned racist cops getting called out. Meanwhile, Black Lightning’s soon-to-be superpowered daughters (including one who is queer) call him out on his more antiquated patriarchal habits. And perhaps Jefferson Pierce’s arc from retired superhero to respected principal back to superhero is about him learning that respectability alone won’t save us. A Black version of older folks becoming radical or “woke” if you will.Plus there’s enough off-the-wall comic book insanity interspersed throughout the more grounded vibe. Actor Cress Williams does an admirably cheesy job growling in his glowing costume while levitating punks with dodgy CGI electric powers. Albino villain and 100 Gang Leader Tobias Whale shoots lackeys with a harpoon gun. Jill Scott shows up in an episode straight-up called “Black Jesus.” James Remar plays Black Lightning’s super tailor. It’s all good stuff. The serialized storytelling and blend of cop show bad guy busting with well-worn divorced Black family drama keep Black Lightning comfortably within the realm of “TV show,” but its fantastical superhero pedigree isn’t wasted.So did it work? Did Black Lightning strike me hard enough to fully get invested in the CW DC TV universe? Not yet. I haven’t stayed current with this first season, and I’ll probably only be curious enough once the whole thing is available to stream. But however I feel about the Arrowverse I’m glad it’s been successful enough that a Black show has been able to now ride its wave. Hopefully this is just the next step in DC getting its live-action shit together. My Black Manta anti hero drama isn’t going to produce itself.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. ‘Cannon Busters’ Is The Black Anime We’ve Been Waiting…‘Dolemite Is My Name’ Trailer Shows Bawdy Blaxploitation Biopic Stay on targetlast_img read more