Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Tom Raney (p), Scott Hanna (i)
As Captain Marvel Jr. squares off against the demon empowered Sabbac, we see the Outsiders busy themselves with the portal to the underworld that has been opened, and the demons that have begun to pour out of it. As Captain Marvel Jr's efforts look like they might not be enough to take down Sabbac, we see the young hero receives a helping hand from Grace, who has come looking for payback, and we see her attack on Sabbac does act to send Sabbac running. It also conveniently acts to close the portal to the demon infested dimension that had been opened.
While this issue is by and large an big extended fighting sequence, and this has never been Judd Winick's strongest area as a writer, he does manage to insert some enjoyable character moments, as the exchange where the Black Lightning spells out why he doesn't want his daughter following in his footsteps made for a powerful condemnation of the super-hero lifestyle, and it's made even more powerful when it becomes clear that his daughter didn't hear a single word of it, as she's still too caught up in the impressive display he father put on, that she completely ignored his passionate plea. The scene in the final pages where we see him dealing with the idea that he's being asked to leave his post in the presidential office, and the reasons why he's being pushed out made for a very engaging display of a man whose life is coming apart. I also have to say I was completely pulled into the scene where Grace gets her revenge on Sabbac, as it's not often we get to see a hero enter a battle with a score to settle, and such an eagerness to settle it. Her method of revenge was also pretty cool, though I must confess the line she utters while delivering this attack was a bit much. In any event this issue does have moments where Judd Winick's ability to get inside these character's heads is on full display, as are his dialogue skills, as while Sabbac doesn't really make for an exciting opponent, he does make for an amusing one with his steady stream of observations, and the matter of fact way that he delivers his ominous sounding threats.
Tom Raney has always made me a bit nervous when he's announced as a book's regular artist as he's always struck me as an artist who sticks with a book until something better catches his eye, but as we close in on the end of the first year he seems to be keeping pace with the book's monthly deadlines, and it would appear that he's sticking around. I certainly welcome his presence on the art as he deliver a highly detailed style that manages to deliver some visually striking action, which helps somewhat to overcome the rather flat nature of the battles that Judd Winick puts in his scripts. I mean one has to love the panel where Captain Marvel Jr. is digging a trench through the baseball diamond with his face, and the Black Lightning's solo display looked fantastic, as I joined his daughter in her admiration of his ability to kick demon butt. The scene where Grace gets her revenge on Sabbac was also a well done moment. I also have to make mention of this issue's cover as it's a powerful visual, though I must say my first impression of the image was that it was of Black Adam, until I opened the issue and remembered Captain Marvel Jr. had arrived at the end of the last issue.
I found it quite difficult to get overly worked up by this issue and a large part of my indifference stems from the fact that Judd Winick doesn't really know how to deliver an exciting battle. Now yes the Black Lightning's solo effort was impressive, and I rather enjoyed the rematch between Grace and Sabbac, but these are only quick little exchanges in the midst of a issue long battle sequence that never quite manages to break out of it's rather conventional trappings. Now part of the blame could be the simple fact that he handed the lion's share of the fighting to the issue's guest-star, as he squares off against Sabbac while the Outsiders are stuck fighting generic demon underlings. It also doesn't help matters all that much that the demons that the Outsiders are stuck fighting pose little to no threat whatsoever, as instead we get yet another battle where the Outsiders do little more than offer up amusing quips while using their powers. Now the big battle between Captain Marvel Jr. and Sabbac has the right idea in that there are moments in the battle where it does look like out hero is on the ropes, but frankly the battle had a rather flat quality to it as neither character doesn't anything all that clever. In the end all this issue really managed to accomplish on the action front was reaffirm my belief that Judd Winick simply isn't all that good at delivering this aspect of a story, which is a bit disappointing considering it's a fairly key part of the comic book reading experience. Than again demons have never been all that exciting of villains, so this arc's dependence on them as the big, bad threat didn't exactly help.
Better The Devil You Know:
It's never a good sign when the guest-heroes in a book are the only ones who get any real time in the spotlight, as if not for Grace's little display of revenge on Sabbac, and the exchange that Black Lightning has with his daughter one could've removed the Outsiders from this issue completely, and it wouldn't have made any impact on this story. I mean yes they fought the demon underlings but since the portal just suddenly closed taking all the demons along with it, I have to openly question why Judd Winick cast the team in such a secondary role. I mean yes bringing in Captain Marvel Jr. is sure to make his fans happy, but I'm not buying this book to follow the adventures of Captain Marvel Jr. Now the focus on Black Lightning holds up better, thanks to his ties to the original Outsiders, and the idea that his daughter is a member of the current team, but again the extra attention this he receives acts to push the current lineup of the team into the background even further. Still his exchange with his daughter was a great little moment, and the final pages manages to do a nice job of addressing an element from the pages of "Green Arrow" that probably left a bad taste in the mouths of Black lightning fans, as well as the character's creator.
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