Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Blackest Night #1 - Review, Musings, Thoughts, Death.


So it's here. THE BLACKEST NIGHT has come. The most anticipated comic event that I can remember has arrived with a grasp at your heart. The third part in Geoff Johns' Trilogy that is interwoven in his epic saga doesn't disappoint. The Blackest Night is Geoff Johns' Return of the King(Ok he said Return of the Jedi, but Return of the Jedi is a disappointment), Rebirth was Star Wars, the mighty Sinestro Corps War was his Empire Strikes Back and The Blackest Night might have been the unmade Return of the Jedi directed by Spielberg.

I had a few issues to catch up to before The Blackest Night began, which is a shame since I wanted to be the first reviewer on the event I have been going apeshit over for 2 years. 2 years. Almost 2 years since we saw that brutal teaser at the end of Green Lantern #25 that was better than most movie teasers. The Teaser that showed Black Rings, and that The Dead Shall Rise.

Everyone knows I'm a Green Lantern fan. I would promote Sinestro Corps War on aintitcool whenever I could till I lost my password. Ha. Sinestro Corps War is the greatest superhero story ever written. End of Story. It's the best Star Wars story since Empire Strikes Back. Just epic, adventurous, grandiose, fun, heroic, magical. Since it ended and everyone has been jerking off in anticipation of The Blackest Night we've gotten brilliant issues leading up to it within Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. The War of Light started, the different Corps rose.

It's all exciting, the little differences in all the corps, how they function, how they come to be. How Johns manages to bring old continuity into it (the Manhunters and Sector 666). Ahh, Green Lantern has been the best book of the decade. It's just a joy reading. In regards to The Blackest Night, what I gathered from reading over the past 2 years is that a War of Light would erupt between the various Corps and then the Black Lantern Corps would come out of nowhere and fuck them all up. Since then the main theories - which seem that they might come true - are that the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps will have to team up, that the Guardians will get what has been coming to them and that Hal will become a White Lantern. Hal being exposed to virtually all the Corps seems to ascertain that fact.
The Blackest Night falls from the skies...
...the darkness grows as all light dies...
...we crave your hearts and your demise... my Black Hand--The Dead Shall Rise!
What an oath. Eerie. I thought it would have started with "In Blackest Day, In Blackest Night" and gone from there, but it's still a great oath.

By the start of the issue itself. The Black Hand has killed himself and made a Black Lantern, but not just any Black Lantern, but their herald and powerful wild card - an equivalent to Ion from the Green Lantern Corps and Parallax from the Sinestro Corps. Scar, that cuntish little Guardian who was scarred by the Anti Monitor has been playing everyone all along and set up the coming of The Blackest Night.

It's a worldwide memorial day for fallen superheroes and soldiers, doctors etc, originally the day of mourning for the death of Superman. A fitting day for The Blackest Night. Superheroes everywhere are mourning other heroes - Aquaman, Ted Kord, Ronnie Raymond etc - Alfred goes to see Bruce Wayne's grave when he realizes it's been broken into and his skull has been stolen. What I love about this issue is the multiple storypoints, everything creeping slowly, the sense of death coming. Everything is building, the various memorial gatherings, juxtaposed with the uncertainty on Oa where the armoured shell protecting the planet is shattered and now Oa is exposed. Basically Alfred going nuts to Hal and Barry about Bruce's missing skull kicks things into gear. It goes to the Guardians realizing they have failed, that Ganthet was right all the way back in Sinestro Corps that The Blackest Night cannot be prevented, it can only be confronted. This is shown by the Guardians observing the various corps in battle across different sectors of the universe. Star Sapphires engaged against the Sinestro Corps on Zamaron - Mongul doing his thing - the lost Lanterns on Ysmault fighting the Red Lanterns whilst trying to retrieved the body of Laira(you know where this is going) and the Blue Lanterns engaged against Agent Orange(which if you don't know, Blue Lanterns might be the most powerful of the many corps, but they're useless without a Green Lantern nearby). The guardians accept their failure and issue a code black to call back all Green Lanterns back to Oa, no doubt to set up a plan and fuck up shit. But Johns writes these event comics like a big blockbuster movie and the moment that Scar says that they will never receive their call for help because it will never be made, you can just imagine it as a movie. That's where everything goes to shit and whilst it's towards the end of the comic, the set up is so perfect that the pay off is excellent, especially knowing this has just started. That feeling of being let down after Final Crisis #1 and saying "ahh, it's just the setup, it will pick up next issue" - not here. It's started. And it's started with a low drone of death.

The chaos of the Green Lanterns not knowing what to do after the breakdown of Oa, no explosions, they're just standing there, no orders, not knowing what's going on, what to do etc. And then the black rings fly by them into the Green Lantern crypt. The guardians getting owned by Scar and harvested like the humans in Alien/Aliens by the xenomorphs. Then that two page spread of the Black Rings flying all across and giving rise to the dead whilst Hal and Barry check out Bruce's grave. Then that double page spread. The excellent reactions of Salaak, Kilowog, Kyle and Guy who can't believe their eyes with Guy mouthing "what the fuck?" as the Black Lanterns "Rise" before them. Fucked up, mummified, death entrenched fallen Lanterns.

To see Ralph and Sue Dibny turned to perverted Black Lanterns is pretty shocking, sure Identity Crisis had the whole thing of breaking apart the most loving couple in the DCU thing, but here to turn them into Black Lanterns who kill and rip out the hearts of Hawkman and Hawkgirl(first they smash Hawkman's face - including leaving the side of his face ripped open - brutal). To have that loving couple become...those things. I don't think it's fucked up from Johns, just that this couple who were the loving couple of the DCU, the heart if you will, being brought back in death just shows how broken everything is.

What's excellent and scary about this title is that superheroes are not just facing death, but real fear, confronting grief, which may be the worst thing one can feel. Knowing that Kyle will have to face Jade, a zombified Jade no less will sure be interesting. And if Hal has to face his ultimate fear and hero - his father. Forget it. What would you feel in such a moment.

The stakes are really high in this, the tension, that sense of dread that Final Crisis was missing is in here. In Sinestro Corps, the tension came from the fact Green Lanterns couldn't kill, you kept thinking "holy shit, what are they gonna do? They're fucked!". But the Guardians were all right, they knew shit was fucked but they had it under control. Here, the Guardians are taken out. I have a feeling this event will leave a real lasting effect on the DCU. All I can say is I'm not disappointed, I'm blown away. Hopefully I will continue to be blown away.

And I don't know if I'm mistaken but did bzzd the fly lantern actually die? I don't remember. Apparently it was Green Lantern Corps #26, which was a while ago. He was awesome. The little dude with the willpower of a planet....And now he's a Black Lantern.

Also I like what I will christen "Hamlet Black Hand", that final page with Black Hand holding Bruce's skull(in effect holding the skull of the ultimate brutal hero, he holds it in his hands) over the bodies of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The Shakespearean-esque character of Black Hand, and the visual style - well that just adds to it.

As for the visual side -

Ivan Reis is a genius. He is one of the best storytellers in comics. You can be a great artist but being a great storyteller can get you that much more involved in what are surely some of the best comic stories ever written. This guy is incredible. That double page spread of Salaak, Kilowog, Kyle and Guy seeing the Black Lanterns is simple but so effective. The first page of Hamlet Black Hand in front of Bruce Wayne's grave, the detail. Incredible. The 00's in comics will be marked by the genius of Ivan Reis amongst other guys like Alex Maleev and Bryan Hitch - their artwork will be remembered as part of this decade. That double page spread of Hal showing Barry all the fallen Heroes - beautiful.

I still have problems with the title. I don't like "Blackest Night", I like "The Blackest Night", like it was originally called. Like it had in the teaser. It sounds more epic, this sounds like Didio just being a dumb cunt. Sorry Didio, but "The Lord of the Rings" sounds epic as does "The Blackest Night", it was called THE BLACKEST NIGHT continuously throughout Sinestro Corps. So explain it to me why it's now called just "blackest night". It's a little thing but it makes a big difference.

And I still have problems with Didio. We all know that The Blackest Night was never meant to be a miniseries, it was always purely a story going to be told within the pages of Green Lantern. Sinestro Corps War was never marketed properly, it was a word of mouth hit(DC was too busy promoting Countdown - fuck me - worst comic series of past 20 years?). Didio never realized what he had, and this is confirmed in the sales results report on CBR detailing Sinestro Corps War special. Once Didio realized how much everyone liked it, it was "ahh Green Lantern this, Green Lantern that ahh". So how did I know he was going to meddle with it. Once he knew that there were people jerking off in anticipation to THE BLACKEST NIGHT, he turned it into a mini series, showing the whole DCU, never mind that it's a Green Lantern thing. He exploited it, all cash, turned it into a mini series so anyone could get into it. He changed the name to "Blackest Night". It's business sure, but it pisses me off. Now Johns has to cater to the DCU rather than it being just purely a Green Lantern story. It's great, no doubt, but that's thanks to Johns. I still wonder however, if Didio cared in the first place, whether we'd see this epic saga just in the pages of Green Lantern. And what that story will be. As long as it stays mainly with the Green Lanterns then all is ok.

But really, he just doesn't get it, does he? If the reason everyone was excited was because it was good then why not just let Johns do his own thing? Why would you fuck it up when people were excited about the story, but nooooo you just had to exploit it huh? Ahh end of Didio rant.

Yes. It's better than Final Crisis #1.

In Blackest Night...

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