Deadly Kung-Fu in Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1
The team-up everybody has been waiting for is upon us! Black Lightning and Hong Kong Phooey explode onto the scene with lighting blast and high-flying martial arts action! When Professor Presto learns the ancient secret of the Godfist, it is up to our heroes to save the world. Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1 is a one-shot epic that brings the silver screen martial arts epics into comic book form. Plus a backup story featuring the Funky Phantom and the Specter, because why not, I guess?
So, Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1 is another one-shot story mashup of DC comics and Hanna-Barbera characters. Hong Kong Phooey, if you did not know, is the #1 super guy. And/or an anthropomorphic dog that does very stereotypical things, whatever. Look, I watched Hong Kong Phooey when I was young and nothing about that character made me want to see him again. So throwing him in a gritty Kung Fu epic with Black Lightning did not seem that interesting. But you throw in a 1976 setting and throw names like Bruce Lee around and you got my attention. So Bryan Hill has brought us the Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1 one-shot. A gritty tale of Black Lightning and Phooey saving the world from the ancient power of the Godfist!
I like the homage that Hill pays to those old martial arts films. It makes the story fun and entertaining. It does move very fast though; even for 32 pages, the story gives you no time to settle down. There is no stopping for nuance or character explanations. On one hand, that is good, as the story has this fast and furious pace. It makes for an intense read. But on the other hand, it builds no connection with the story or characters. The relationship between Phooey and Black Lightning is never really explained. The whole issue has this very serious tone and feel to it, which wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t all so very silly at the same time. Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1 could have used a few winks or nudges. Like it knows how goofy this is while taking itself seriously.
I think the main story could have used the 8 pages from the backup story to help build it up a little more. I could have also done without the Funky Phantom teaching me about gun control. Look, I get it is very political and a hot-button topic, but it just came off as very dull and just odd. It was only eight pages and it felt like it went on way too long and served no purpose except to fill eight pages.
Denys Cowan handles the penciling on the main story of Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1. There is good detail throughout the book and he draws a very serious-looking Hong Kong Phooey. Cowan structures the action scenes well; the fighting scenes are very well done. I like the whole structure of the book; the layouts are great and very cinematic. Having Bill Sienkiewicz on inks was a big selling point for me for this series. He has a very unique inking style that fits well with this “gritty” story. He brings that dark edginess to the series and it works great. Colors by Jeromy Cox are done well; he fills the issue with dark colorations, with some explosive brightness when needed.
My major hangup with the art is, in some scenes the characters’ faces look and feel off. It is mostly in scenes that have farther-away shots; the faces look almost smooshed and look off from the bodies. The darker colors do deliver some trouble as well: in some scenes, it is hard to tell what is going on. Another major problem comes when characters are using energy-based powers. Those scenes do not look very good. It is probably a combination of all three artists but those scenes just don’t seem to fit with the story or look very good compared to the rest of the issue.
Now it is not all bad; there are some great epic scenes throughout the issue and a wonderful two-page spread where the art team works tremendously well together. It is just a mix in the issue where some things look fantastic and others not so good. The backup story art is there, there are some good and bad qualities. Honestly, none of it is notable.
If I am being honest Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey #1 was not as cool as I wanted it to be. With the creators throwing around names like Bruce Lee and epic Kung Fu movies I actually got a little excited about this one-shot. For the most part, it was okay, it had a lot of flaws and did not totally live up to what it could have been but it was not a total waste either. The backup story was probably a waste of eight pages though.
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