Review: Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Writer: Bryan Hill, Jeff Parker

Artists: Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott Kolins

 

Summary

Back from Viet Nam, Kung Fu master Hong Kong Phooey has set up his own detective agency in the inner city. Meanwhile, Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning) has uncovered a plot by three assassins to collect the components of a sacred text revealing the darkest secrets of Martial Arts magic, and they’ll kill anyone who owns them—including the dog who holds the last chapter of the book, Hong Kong Phooey. Plus, a tale of the Funky Phantom.

 

Positives

This special takes me back to my childhood in the 70s. Black Lightning appears as he did in his original series. “Hong Kong Phooey” and “Funky Phantom” were Saturday morning cartoons of the same era. In fact, Hong Kong Phooey was one of my favourite cartoons – after Super Friends of course.

Fittingly, the main story follows a plot that is typical of 70s martial arts movies. A group of villains (Bronze Tiger, Cheshire, and Professor Presto) are trying to steal a scroll that contains knowledge of how to wield the ancient power of the “God Fist.” This scroll has been entrusted to Penrod “Penry” Pooch – also known as Hong Kong Phooey.

The second story will probably be quite divisive, especially amongst American readers, as it humorously explores the issue of gun ownership. Supporters of gun control will probably find the story delightful, but if you are against it, then this tale may anger you.

In the story, Jason Blood is called upon to raise the ghost of Jonathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore. The ghost is then questioned about how the founding fathers feel about the Second Amendment.

Of course, Mudsy’s reaction is “the Second Amendment of what?” When told that it’s an amendment of the Constitution, he then asks, “the Constitution of what?”  As it was written after his death, he has no knowledge of the historic document.

So, after reading the Constitution, he is puzzled why there is any concern about the Second Amendment. He seems confused why a person in the military would need a gun when the country already has a regulated militia.

He is also horrified by the destructive power of modern automatic weapons, especially after witnessing an accidental discharge of one of these guns. However, he does give his judgement about gun ownership, and his recommendations are surprisingly enacted into law.

 

Negatives

As I said, it you’re against strict gun control laws, you probably won’t enjoy the Funky Phantom story. Personally, I found it quite amusing.

As for the Hong Kong Phooey story, I was a bit disappointed that very little of the original version of the character was kept beyond the character’s appearance and name. The original was actually a rather incompetent hero that captured criminals by accident rather than by skill. Much like Inspector Gadget.

The original also had a secret identity as a janitor in the police station, but the updated version works as a private detective and his identity seems to be publicly known.

Now, I like that the made Penry a more capable and less cartoony character, but I do wish they had included a few more nods to his original incarnation.

 

Verdict

Like the other DC/Hanna Barbera crossovers, this book is a fun read, with a large dose of nostalgia, especially for children of the 70s. It also provides a humorous and thought-provoking look at a serious issue that has dominated the news in recent months. This special is definitely well worth reading.

 

 

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Derek McNeil

I have been an avid reader of DC Comics since the early 70s. My earliest exposure was to Batman and Superman comics, Batman (Adam West) reruns, and watching the Super-Friends every Saturday morning.