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From the Desk of the Superclerk: Blackest Night #1 Reviewed

27

Jul

Posted by Steve

Jason aka Superclerk on the forums joins the ever-expanding team as a regular reviewer of comics for the site.  Today he brings his reactions to the kickoff of DC’s big event this year, BLACKEST NIGHT.  Spoilers do abound, so if you haven’t read the issue yet and don’t want to know who is joining the Black Lantern Corps from beyond the grave, don’t read the review yet.

And now, from the desk of the the Superclerk:

The Blackest Night has begun…

For over a year we have known of it’s coming.  There were signs ignored.  Pleading from a Guardian of the Universe falling on deaf ears.  War broke out.

blackest_night_1.jpgWith the beginning of the Sinestro Corps war we began a story that has had time to grow and mature in a way we hadn’t seen before.  The DCU was taking its time.

As the war spread we were introduced to the idea of a coming event known as The Blackest Night.  An event that would bring the end of the Green Lanterns and everything they had ever fought for.  An event that the Guardians thought was just a tale for children.  Nothing that bad could ever occur as long as they were watching the vastness of space.  They ignored the signs and pushed forward new laws governing the Green Lantern Corps that did nothing but help the so-called tale become a dark reality.

The end of one war brought the beginning of a new one… the War of Light.  Red Lanterns, Indigo Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, Orange Lanterns, and the remaining Sinestro Corps channeling the Yellow light began to take hold all over the heavens and soon it was too much for the Green Lanterns to handle.

Within the chaos the Black Lantern began it’s work and now  we see the start of a challenge that the once mighty Green Lantern Corps cannot handle on it’s own.

Blackest Night #1 begins with The Black Hand, the vessel of the Black Lanterns, digging up the grave of Bruce Wayne with his bare hands.  Pulling the skull of the hero out of the mud is the start of something bigger.  At that point thousands upon thousands of black rings are set loose upon the stars.  The call for “flesh” whispering into the dark void.

The rings begin their journey as the Earth remembers the fallen heroes of their world on the anniversary of the death of Superman.  All over the planet people gather to remember the larger than life figures that gave their lives to make sure the world continued.

In Coast City the Green Lanterns of sector 2814 light a memorial to those fallen in the destruction of the original Coast City.  With this scene we travel into the past and witness the pain and loss of the heroes loved ones since accepting the rings of power.

Next we visit others.  The Kent family visits the grave of Jonathan Kent.  His passing has left a hole in the family that cannot be filled.  The newly returned from the dead, Connor Kent, wonders why he gets to continue when Jonathan Kent does not.

At the grave of the original Firestorm Professor Stein thinks of Ronnie Raymond.  A young man who he thought of as a son as the inheritors of the Firestorm identity look on and mourn a man they didn’t have a chance to know.

More scenes pass and we get a glimpse into the memorial chamber on Titans Island.  The Flash’s Rogues take time to honor their fallen as well.  The members of a former version of the Justice League visit the final resting place of Ted Kord.  We see a mass of heroes descend on Valhalla Cemetery in Metropolis.  Statues of the fallen heroes reach to the sky as they are remembered for their deeds.

Mera, the wife of the fallen Aquaman, visits his seaside grave with Tempest in tow.  While Tempest argues that Arthur should be entombed with the other kings and heroes of Atlantis Mera tells him that this is where he wanted to be.

Finally we begin to watch as the faithful butler and surrogate father of the Dark Knight begins his trek to the unmarked grave of Bruce Wayne.  As he nears he sees that the grave has been disturbed.  Bones stick up through the mud along with the splintered remains of a simple coffin.  His disgust, anger, and fear show clearly on his face.

Meanwhile, in the Hall of Justice… we see Hal Jordan and Barry Allen examining the final resting place of some of the Leagues villains.  They are kept under lock and key to keep people from trying to take powers and abilities from the remains.

Barry is upset that so many have fallen, good and bad, while he was gone.  The guilt of not being there to stop it burdening his soul.  He asks for Hal to tell him who has passed while he was gone.  Hal shows him with a ring construct all the heroes who fell.  It’s too much for Barry.

A confrontation between Hawkman and Hawkgirl brings forth memories of the deaths of Ralph and Sue Dinby.  The Atom has requested Carter Hall, Hawkman, to come with him to visit the grave of Jean Loring, the Atom’s ex wife.  Carter is angered at the request as it was Jean who brought about the death of the Dinby’s.

Hal finishes telling Barry about all that has happened in the time he was dead and that has brought the Flash to become still and sit down from the enormity of all the loss.

As this is happening the Guardians of the Universe and keepers of the Green Light have finally accepted that the Blackest Night is upon them.  As they decide to call the Green Lantern Corps home to prepare for the coming battle one of their own turns against them.  The one known as Scar, infected by the Black, rips one of the Guardians apart and tears his heart out.  As the other Guardians try and defend themselves the planet of Oa is invaded by swarms of Black rings.  The power of the Black rings is too much for the Corps and the rings find their way into the Crypt of the Green Lantern Corps.  They choose their hosts and soon the once dead Green Lanterns of many worlds are awakened and rise.

Elsewhere in space Black rings spread out calling for the flesh needed.  We watch as bodies are chosen.  J’onn J’onzz, Katma Tui, Ronnie Raymond, Arthur Curry… names of the fallen are called out from the darkness.

As the Green Lanterns on Oa are faced with their fallen comrades we see that an old friend meets Hal and Barry.  The Martian Manhunter has risen and he calls for his friends and challenges them about their own resurrections.

We end the issue with Carter Hall and Hawkgirl arguing about love, of all things.  As she finally admits to being in love with the angry hero she is impaled from behind.  As she falls forward bleeding Carter is attacked as well.  As they look upon their attackers they are shocked to find that the friends they thought last forever, The Dinby’s, have returned.  And they attack again.

Smashing the heroes into a bloody mess they call out with hateful words and lies.  As Cater and Kendra call out to each other the newly risen agents of the Black Lantern rip open their chests and tear their hearts out.

With the two Hawks murdered, Black Hand appears.  He holds in his hand the skull of Bruce Wayne and from that skull two Black rings emerge and call out to Kendra Sanders and Caret Hall of Earth.  They call for them to rise…

Story 5/5 :

I loved this issue. Geoff Johns does a great job bringing this story to life and giving us all the info we need regarding all the characters in the story without bogging the book down.  This is tough to do especially when you are dealing with so many characters.  My hat off to him.

I’m glad they are taking their time with this event and not trying to squeeze everything into three issues.  An eight-part epic is what this story deserves.  With all the months of build up it had to be this way.

The interactions between all the groups we deal with were just right as well.  Hal and Barry in the Hall discussing the fallen was a powerful scene as we continue to see Barry change from the Flash we once knew to a man with massive guilt for not being there for his friends.

I am also digging the Black Hand.  They managed to turn a b level villain into someone to be feared.  I love all his scenes and I really dig that he is using the skull of Batman as… I guess as something like a Power Battery.  I look forward to seeing how Bruce Wayne plays into the larger picture.

blackest_night_1_variant.jpgArt 5/5:

Not only was it great start to an event I have been waiting a year to see but it was a great looking book as well.  The art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert fit this story perfectly.  It’s realistic enough to really sell the danger of the whole situation.  I can’t see this story being drawn by anyone else.

There are some great splash pages in this book that really sell it for me.  The first is when Hal shows Barry the heroes that have been lost.  The grimness of his face and the shock on Barry’s give the two-page spread weight as we remember the heroes along with these two men.  There were even a few people in that image I had forgotten had died.

The other image comes with the first look at the risen Green Lanterns who have now joined the ranks of the Black Lantern Corps.  It’s a massive crowd and since we know the rings without hosts were more than the GL’s could handle… we see this dark mass and know people are going to die.

We also have the reveals of the risen DCU heroes as they make themselves known.  Martian Manhunter and the Dinby’s look awesome and bring with them a vision of horror.  Not only because they look like zombies but because these were once trusted and loved friends and now they call for the flesh of the living to join their ranks.  It is a true nightmare.

And lets not forget the colors of Alex Sinclair.  He helps add a mood to the book that gives it that horror movie feel and even a bit of the cinematic.  This is a team that works well together.

COVERS:

Regular Edition: 5/5
I love simple images.  The cover is dark and filled with the image of a skull with it’s mouth hanging open and the Black rings coming forth to find their hosts.  A Black Lantern symbol burns in its eye.

This image is made all the more creepy by the fact that this skull is the remains of Bruce Wayne.

Variant Edition: 5/5

This is a really great cover to showcase the people involved with the story.  Black Hand looms above the heroes holding a Green Lantern power battery in a way that closes off the openings that usually glow bright with power.  He has snuffed this power.  His army of undead heroes rising behind him ready to attack.

All in All –
I loved this issue.  I had to say that again.  I gave this book high marks because it deserved them.  Hopefully the rest of this series and the spin off books will continue to impress.

Retro (But Recent) Reviews – Green Lantern Rebirth.

9

Jun

Posted by Steve

green_lantern_rebirth2.jpgWhen I started collecting comics, I never really paid much attention to who wrote a story, who drew a comic, who inked something. In fact, I only really knew who the editor of a book was because that was usually who responded to letters in the letters pages. (Remember those? I miss ‘em.) Then, as I was reading the Fantastic Four, there was a lot of hoopla being made about Walt Simonson coming to the title to write and draw. When he came onto the title I recognized two things. One, I enjoyed his writing. Two, I didn’t so much like his art. (Sacrilege I know…but it was never my favorite for the FF.) (I’ve learned to love it now, but that’s a different post.)

It was at that time I began to recognize writers and artists in comics. My taste began to develop beyond, “I buy this book because (insert character’s name here) makes an appearance. I genuinely became interested in this group of people who are individually responsible for bringing the stories and images together to give us comic books.

Having said all that, I don’t know that I’ve read anything written by Geoff Johns outside of Infinite Crisis. I enjoyed Infinite Crisis, but it was as all crossover event books are, bound to the whims of more than justthe primary writer of the series. I have also read a few of the Action Comics books by Geoff Johns and I really ended up enjoying his run with Richard Donner. The two told a story that they obviously had sat around and talked about the arc for a while. (Insert obligatory delay joke here.) However, I had been reading people rave about him online for a while, especially with the advent of The Sinestro Corps wars over in DC. Couple that with a curiosity as to how in the world Hal Jordan and the corps came back, and I had to go on eBay and pick up the Rebirth series. That’s right…I eBayed it. The individual issues. Not the trade. I’m one of those guys.

If I can sum up in one word what Geoff Johns did in Green Lantern: Rebirth, it would be “WOW!”

This was honestly a story like no other I’ve read in a while. Johns has a way of taking what has gone before (both pre- and post- crisis) and making all fit into what is now. I don’t know that Hal Jordan ever needed to come back from the grave. I don’t know that he ever needed to be a Green Lantern again. I think his fall from grace and his ultimate sacrifice were an interesting journey and end for a heroic character. I liked Kyle Rayner as The Green Lantern. I appreciated what his insecurities and fears of being the only one in the universe brought to his character. I would never have thought that Geoff Johns would be able to convince me that we needed Hal Jordan, and if he did that, I thought for sure that he would do it at the expense of Kyle Rayner. Well, I was wrong on both counts.

What Johns does in Rebirth is set up a world and a universe that needs Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern, and he takes all of the apparent flaws of Kyle Rayner and turns them into his greatest strengths. So much so, that he is a key player in what takes place.

Then there’s the old silly stuff from back when Hal Jordan was GL. The yellow imperfection. The fact that Green Lantern’s primary color (was not a primary color…heh) is green probably caused very few eyebrows to raise back in the days of the Silver Age when one read that his weakness was anything yellow. Heck, I was a child of eighties and totally bought that concept while watching Superfriends. Geoff Johns takes a fairly silly premise and turns it into something epic. Parallax IS the yellow impurity. He was a creature that fed off of fear and lived because of fear, he worked through the color yellow. The Guardians imprisoned him in the power battery on Oa and he “infected” the Corps’ rings causing the imperfection. Because the Corps knew no fear, he was able to creep in unnoticed. Then, he found Hal Jordan, and because Hal refused to know fear at all, he was able to “possess” him.

WHO IN THE WORLD WOULD HAVE EVER THOUGHT OF THAT?!?! Not only did Johns explain Hal’s actions in the aftermath of the destruction of Coast City, but he gave an awesome explanations to 4 or 5 decades worth of continuity that by and large we all thought was pretty silly.

The first half of Johns’ story sets up all of the turmoil and despair it can. We are introduced to a Spectre that is losing his grip because of Hal Jordan, we are introduced to a broken and battered Kyle who is scared to use his ring. Guy Gardner almost dies as his body rejects the Warrior power he possesses. Then, when it seems things can’t get any worse, Sinestro shows up. Hal can’t help because he’s fighting a battle within himself against The Spectre and Parallax. His spirit is finally released and launched into his remarkably well-preserved body. As hal Jordan officially returns, I found myself wishing that there had been a Green Lantern movie made with a kick butt theme because my mind was screaming for it as I watched Hal Jordan return and light up the blackest night.

Later, as the Lanterns are facing down Parallax, Johns writes each Lantern individually. We see how each Lanter uses his powers differently, and it is amazing reading.

In the end, Geoff Johns pulled of a Green Lantern story and managed to bring back a long lost character in a really good way without trampling on what has come before and what is in the here and now.

Rebirth only made me more excited to get my hands on The Sinestro Corps Wars and for Johns run throughout the next year on Action Comics in which he promises big things for the Man of Steel.

Green Lantern: Rebirth is highly recommended if you’re a GL fan or a DC fan, or just a comic book fan.