Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blackest Night #1 Review

The Blackest Night is upon us and in celebration, I thought I'd do a special review for it outside of the regular all-in-one post. The other reviews will be up with the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews tomorrow. In their stead is this image packed (and spoiler filled) review of Blackest Night #1. Once you've got your spoiler caps on, hit the jump for the review!

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert

First thing most current Green Lantern readers will notice about Blackest Night #1 is that it starts out farily slow. Those expecting a full blown Sinestro Corps Special repeat to kick off this event will be a tad disappointed with the "here's everyone that's dead and will more than likely be back at some point during this event" bits of exposition that filled out the first dozen or so pages.

"Tastes like chicken."

However, I'm not disappointed with this slow burn the issue starts with as a) it kicks it up to near Sinestro Corps War-levels about halfway through and b) I realize this is no longer just a Green Lantern title/event and that Johns has to clue in newer readers as to what this event is going to be about.

While many of these potential Black Lanterns were already known, I was pleased to see Azrael and Aztek the Ultimate Man included.

This introduction phase of the issue was mostly handled through Hal Jordan's narration of a super-hero veterns day and, later, through Hal's interactions with Barry Allen, who had been out of the loop for a while, what with being dead and all, and asked for an update, which prompted Hal's light show shown above. This also included a nice reference to Peter Tomasi's run on Nightwing and the creation of a super-hero/villain morgue in the JLA's Hall of Justice, which hinted at a whole mess of possible Black Lanterns. One villain's name I found surprising was Alexander Luthor's.

Also tastes like chicken.

The moment of the issue, for me, had to be when the Guardians first make their appearance and Scar's revealing of her true colours (black for those living under a rock). The scene kicked off with the Guardians looking down on their funky cosmic map and seeing flares of multi-coloured light all across the universe, each indicating the various corps fighting it out and signalling the War of Light the Guardians had been trying to avoid all this time. On top of this, the Guardians even admit they've been wrong all along and messed up and, just as they try to rectify their mistakes, Scar, as shown above, takes a bite out of one of her fellow Guardians and then proceeds to rip his heart out. It was at this point I knew Blackest Night was going to deliver the goods and it's easily my moment of the week.

"We are so $%^#ed."

During this time, there was also the followup to Green Lantern Corps, which saw the protective bubble around Oa destroyed by Scar and black rings on their way to Oa. The rings, as everyone had predicted, made their way to the Crypt of the Green Lantern Corps, which holds the remains of all fallen Green Lanterns, giving way to the splashpage above. My favourite has to be a tie between Ch'p and Bzzt. I'm not sure if an evil, zombie squirrel or mosquito is scarier.

There was one problem with this section, though. Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner had been shunted off to Earth at the end of the last Green Lantern Corps due to suspension. No call came back to them to come to Oa to aid the Green Lanterns and they were both shown honouring the dead on Earth earlier in the issue. Soon as the black rings hit Oa, both are back there, front and center. I assumed the suspension to Earth was to keep both safe as the Black Lanterns storm Oa, but that's obviously not the case. Even if they hadn't been suspended, their sudden appearance on Oa was a bit jarring considering their being on Earth prior.

"Shouldn't have prayed for a resurrection."

The attack on Oa is, of course, preface to the return of the big name DC characters, such as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, pictured above, who confronts Hal and Barry, pointing out both are supposed to be dead. This is a reference to Green Lantern #43, where the mystery voice of the Black Lanterns tells Black Hand it wants all the dead and anyone that was dead at one point, claiming they are all "mine".

"Ghost Detective business didn't work out for Sue and Ralph Dibny."

As I had already known about Martian Manhunter's return for a while, I'm glad it was only given the one splashpage in this issue as Johns went on to introduce two other Black Lanterns - Sue and Ralph Dibny. What was interesting with their introduction was the build up to their reveal, which saw Hawkman and Hawkgirl fighting/declaring their love for each other. During that exchange, the off-panel Black Lanterns saw each Hawk-person coloured differently based on their emotions, both going from red auras for rage to violet for love. The Dibny's attacked when the aura turned to love. Whether that was just the timing of the attack or if they feed on certain emotions was left open ended.

Another noteworthy fact was that Sue didn't have any powers, even with her ring (I touch on ring power levels in a bit), while Ralph had his stretching powers. They also had twisted versions of their personalities and knew the two Hawks.


However, the introduction of the Dibny's also heralded an increased gore factor for the book. Yes, Scar already bit into a Guardian and tore his heart out, but I was shocked to see how easily the Dibny's took down the two Hawks and more so by the gore involved. Sue started it by stabbing Hawkgirl through the chest with a spear and that was followed up by Ralph easily taking out Hawkman and then ripping out his beating heart. Yes, I know it's a bit odd to complain about that when we're dealing with zombies and what have you, but it was a bit jarring to see in a regular DC Universe title, especially an event book like this, nonetheless.

"2 down, 9998 to go."

Gore aside, the issue ended quite strongly with Black Hand showing up, Bruce Wayne skull in hand, and inducting the two fallen Hawks into the Black Lanterns. For those wondering what Bruce Wayne's skull is for, two black rings came out of its mouth here, similar to how Scar puked up the black ring for Black Hand in GL #43. I'm kind of shocked they killed both Hawks after the big fuss over their death/non-death in Final Crisis, the mess with Dwayne McDuffie having to rewrite scenes dealing with those deaths and so on. As both die and resurrect every second Tuesday, I probably should have seen this coming, though.

Also, it looks like the Black Lanatern rings have no power starting out. After ripping out both hearts, Sue and Ralph absorbed, for lack of a better word, their essence and the rings gave off the messages, "Power Levels 0.01%", and, after the second heart, "Power Levels 0.02%". The fact both rings gave the messages, I'm tempted to say the rings aren't charging and that it looks like they are funnelling this lifeforce/emotional energy to the Black Lantern Central Power Battery. Otherwise, each Black Lantern ring will require about 10,000 kills to fully charge.

Verdict - Must Read. Slow start for anyone following the buildup to this event, but kicks it into high gear about halfway through and never slows down. Lots of new Black Lanterns to mull over and tonnes of new information to speculate on. Not a flawless issue, as it has its faults, but was damn entertaining and a great way to kick off this event.

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Klep said...

I'm not even a DC reader, but I saw scans of the Hawkman/Hawkgirl induction and it was like a punch in the gut. Based on that alone, this event seems to be starting off very strong.

Eric Rupe said...

I was unimpressed by the whole thing and found myself not caring through the entire issue.

Andrenn said...

I agree with most of this review, great job Kirk. I myself was very impressed with the debut issue. though I admit as someone who's only stuck to Gotham for DC comics I was confused by refferences to JSA and Atom Smasher that made no sense to me.

Still an awesome debut for a great looking event.

One thing that confused me was Guy/Ice, I thought they broke up again sometime in GL Corps.

James said...

"Shouldn't have prayed for a resurrection."


jwcraw said...

If they are targeting heroes (and villains?) that should be dead who is next? Green Arrow, Jason Todd (he should definitely still be dead)? Someone should make a list of chacters who have "been dead" and aren't any longer.

Hooligantuesday said...

I loved the scene with Hal and the flash. It's like Hal had a think and tried to find the single most tactless way possible to tell him about all of dead friends and comrades.

Kevin said...

Great review Kirk. Agreed with everything you said. Though to play devils advocate I had three big problems with the issue:

1)We never get a to that the War of Lights actually started only a brief mention. (Which makes me worried about if Johns can handle such a massive cast.)
2)Some of the dialogue felt like a rehash of what we got in Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, and Flash: Rebirth.
3)To much time devoted to Hawkman and Hawkgirls love problem that could have been used to actually show the war being fought.

Overall all this was still a great start to what looks to be an epic event.

Flip The Page said...

fuck me... great review. I best pick this up tomorrow!

brandon said...

Nice review!

Overall I liked the issue but as a non-DC reader, except the GL titles, I was lost about who the hell these characters were. Ralph and Sue who? And who was Atom and Hawkman referring to on the phone? I dont know who was hanging out with Superman either. Was that his son?

I would think if you've been reading GL/GLC for like four years you shouldnt come out of this comic confused about the characters in it.

hydrogenizedsoy said...

The brutality was pretty horrible, but also quite pretty. Reis really brought his "A" game especially with that last scene with the Dibnys and the Hawks... Hawkman was so messed up with the chunks ripped off from his cheek and his nose all squashed in, incredible, incredible work.

Kirk Warren said...

@Eric - Care to expand on that? I'm curious what exactly turned you off on the book. I can see the first half, but I thought it really ramped up as soon as Scar revealed herself.

@Andrenn - I was surprised by the amount of time Johns dedicated to random small talk with non-Green Lantern characters, like Atom Smasher and Damage. I assume he, or DC, has a JSA tie-in planned for the second half, similar to the Superman and Batman ones for the first half of the event.

@jwcraw - There was a list of people that came back from the dead in last week's Green Lantern #43, which I posted a scan of in the Moments of the Week.

@Hooligantuesday - While a bit tactless, I just viewed it as a comic book 'here's who we're talking about' scene. If he had just listed off the 30 or more dead people, it probably would have came off a bit stilted and no one would know who half of them are or we'd be complaining he's naming their hero names (so people might recognize them) instead of real names, again being tactless. The only option I could see being used there was something similar to Doug Mahnke's split panel technique from GL #43, but even he didn't have to show off that many characters.

@Kevin - I think the War of Light got shunted off into GL and GLC after Blackest Night became a linewide event book. Everything shown there is basically going to be shown in those two books, such as the Sinestro vs Zamarons in GLC and, I think, the Blue Lanterns vs Larfleeze in GL. I like how this issue was basically the introduction to the Black Lanterns and big threat of the event, but agree it could have used more hints of the War of Light. Maybe scale back a few of the non-GL scenes (didn't really need Alfred's reaction to Batman's grave desecration or any JSA or the lengthy morgue talk with Flash) in favour of a few War of Light scenes.

@brandon - I hadn't thought about how difficult a non-DC reader or someone with little experience with DC would have with this. I'll try to fill you in here and in the Black Lantern Corps primer at the end of the week.

Sue and Ralph Dibny were former JLA members. Sue has no powers, Ralph is basically Mr Fantastic in terms of stretching powers. Ralph loves mysteries and they were a nice couple in the DCU. Jean Loring, whom the Atom was trying to get Hawkman to go see with him, was the Atom's deceased ex-wife.

However, the whole story starts a few years back in the Identity Crisis storyline, Sue was mysteriously killed and it turned out to be Jean Loring behind the attack. SHe used the Atom's shrinking powers to try and scare Sue Dibny, but ended up killing her, supposedly, by mistake. She then faked an attack on herself. This was all in an attempt to win the Atom's love back or some nonsense and the whole event resulted in teh darkening of the DCU. Later, in 52, Ralph Dibny died trapping Dr Faust and Neron.

I think the main thing yous hould take from their appearance is just that two former heroes and friends became evil zombies and killed their friends, all with similar, twisted personalities and with the knowledge and powers they once had.

As for Superman's "son", that was Conner Kent, Superboy, back from the dead in Johns' recent and unfinished Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds.

hilker said...

Speaking of Conner, will he fight his own corpse before all this is over? It's in a regeneration chamber somewhere, right?

brandon said...

thanks kirk for the info!

i didnt realize just how much i didnt "get" reading this issue.

the last superboy i remember had a leather jacket and a really bad haircut - lol

Anonymous said...

I'd like to get into this, but I'm just so wary of how this story will end. Is this gonna kill everyone a la "Infinity Gauntlet", but voila, everyone's alive or resurrected by the final issue? Given that bar seems to be set so high, and given the price of comics these days, I'm going to wait till the books hit the 50-cent bin.

Daringd said...

Blackest Night #1: Johns/Reis DC $3.99
FLESH! And so begins the epic Blackest Night event. It starts off slow then takes off. I couldn't believe the amount of stuff packed into this issue. The story is so well done, Johns is playing around that’s for sure. The art was fantastic Reis really set the bar high. The last 12 pages are just spectacular, especially the Sue and Ralph stuff. From start to finish this is what it was built to be. The first issue has lived up to the hype. Could not be happier with the first issue, can’t wait to get more.
Oh and one more thing poor Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

The Dangster said...

I loved loved loved this issue. Johns is at his best and Ivan Reis did a spectacular job on the dead. His Elongated Man was soooo cool and creepy.

Yeah... seems like DC pulled some strings so that the Hawks would die in this issue.

Can wait for the following:

- if batman becomes a black lantern
- Superman of Earth 2
- The Green Lanterns without Guardians calling the shots
- clearing up Ted Kord's death
- how the other lanterns will play into this

Anonymous said...

Awesome awesome first issue.

Been waiting a long time for this issue and it was worth the wait.

Eric Rupe said...

Kirk - Mostly zombies and apathy, and they kind of connect. I loath zombies so I find it hard to get into Blackest Night, which is basically cosmic zombies vs. superheroes.

The other big part of the story, the emotional impact thing Johns said he was going for, falls flat more because I don't actually about large swaths of DC's characters. I like Identity Crisis well enough but I don't care that about Barry's reaction to the Dinby's death or nor I care about the fact that the Dinby's killed the Hawks. Nor am I going to care about all of the other heroes facing their dead loved ones because I mostly don't care about them.

Johns does have some good moments though. The Superhero Memorial Day is a wonderful idea and one of the things Marvel and DC generally ignore. A lot of the Hal/Barry scenes work and the Hawkman/Atom one is surprisingly good but, overall, I'm just apathetic towards to the whole thing.

Reis is a great artist but I don't think he is suited for a horror themed book, Mahnke is a better choice. He would have a lot of the "disturbing" scenes look disturbing instead of kind of weird they way they did with Reis.

Matt Ampersand said...

Overall, I liked it a lot, and it did a great job of kickstarting the event in a grand style.

Some of the "emotional" scenes fell kind of flat on me though. The Barry and Hal scenes were fine, although a bit too long, but some of those funeral scenes (the JSA one specially) felt totally cheesy.

Also, I got the impression that the only Black Lantern that needs recharging is Black Hand. He had to be there for a reason, right?

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