Comic Review: Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1 (DC Comics)

It’s ‘DC Comics meets Hanna Barbera’ again, in Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1. For those of us too young (or too old) to have experienced the Hong Kong Phooey TV […]

It’s ‘DC Comics meets Hanna Barbera’ again, in Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1.

For those of us too young (or too old) to have experienced the Hong Kong Phooey TV cartoon, here is a quick sketch: The animated cartoon TV show ran for 3 months in 1974 in the US. It was a parody of the kung fu movie and tv craze that swept through popular media at the time. Kung fu was EVERYWHERE! The cartoon was silly (according to Wikipedia), and full of crime solving and catastrophes: slapstick fun for kids and teens.

Black Lightning, for those of us too young (or old) to be aware, is a DC superhero, created by Tony Isabella back in 1977. It is currently a CW network TV series, renewed for its 2nd season.

So, the comic? Written by Bryan Hill, with art by Denys Cowan, inks by Bill Sienkiewicz, it’s a dramatic, action-filled homage to the characters. Lots of kung fu clobbering, magic, and retro (1970’s) ‘jive talking’. Seriously. Old cars, old slang, very fun.

For people like me, unfamiliar with everyone and everything in the story (‘who is this, who is that’, etc), it is a bit of a struggle. The writer assumes we know the back story of all the characters. So we the reader have some ‘paying attention’ to do.

The art is beautifully rendered, the coloring (Jeromy Cox) strong and clear.

I had a few problems following the action. Some panels puzzled me, some transitions between panels seemed awkward. In one two page spread, the descriptive text even had arrows to show the reader which way to navigate, something I have not seen used in comics since the 60’s. Talk about retro!

In addition to the main story (31 pages), there is a backup story featuring The Funky Phantom. Once again, this is a 1970’s Hanna Barbera animated TV series. The main idea of this show is that the ghosts of two US Revolutionary War soldiers return to help solve mysteries in present day.

This tale centres around US gun rights in 2018. As pro gun advocates make their arguments for owning semi automatic assault rifles, the ghosts of the Revolutionary War debate with them the the original intent of the Constitutional Amendments. Writer Jeff Parker, artist Scott Kolins and colorist Tony Avina team up on this ‘today issue’ tale. It’s a bit predictable and perhaps ‘preachy’, but in a sense, an appropriately toned story that reflects the passionate protest-filled 1970’s, as I tend to remember them.

DC Comics, Black Lightning/ Hong Kong Phooey #1, $4.99 for 40 pages of content, rated Teen.

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!