Archive for Adam Schlagman

Blackest Night: Batman #1

Posted in Batman, Blackest Night, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Gotham comes to life.

Gotham comes to life.

“Who Burns Who: Part One”
Author: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Adrian Syaf
Inkers: John Dell & Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover Artists: Andy Kubert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Editors: Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

I’ve never heard of Adrian Syaf before, but damn he draws a fine Batman and a fine horror story.  Blackest Night: Batman is positively dripping with atmosphere.  This first issue opens with Batman and Robin at Gotham Cemetery, bearing witness to the upheaval caused firstly by Black Hand’s exhumation of Bruce Wayne, and secondly by Hal and Barry’s recent tussle with the resurrected Martian Manhunter.

Bruce’s skull is missing, and his parents unearthed, leading to a very emotional exchange between Dick (Batman) and Damian (Robin).  “It’s different when it’s one of your own,” Dick remarks.  Bruce was a father figure to both of them, so it’s a difficult moment for both as well.  Damian comments on the added weirdness of his situation: “I’m sure a lotta kids get to greet their grandparents this way.”  Peter Tomasi’s script is pitch perfect, hitting all the right emotional notes.

Deadman also features quite prominently, and rightly so.  As the name suggests, he’s already dead, placing him in the unique situation of having to wrestle with his own corpse.  But it’s his previous life as a circus performer (Boston Brand) which makes him the perfect partner to Dick Grayson.  His own murder mirrors that of Dick’s parents, and I can only imagine that they will need to pit their acrobatic skills against the Black Lantern Flying Graysons next issue.

But it’s not Deadman’s acrobatics that impress in this issue, rather his internal monologues.  Tomasi’s captions are short and suspenseful.  We catch many glimpses into the horrors that shaped our heroes’ lives, and the violent deaths that now stir the living dead of Gotham Cemetery.  This book is full of small moments made big by their emotional resonance and fan appeal.  Long-time Batman fans will find much to get excited about; there’s little doubt that the entire Bat-family will be put through the ringer by this story’s end.

Gotham’s seen a lot of death in its time, and I for one can’t think of a better venue for the dead to rise.  It’s as if all the planets in the DC Universe have aligned: Deadman’s seen a resurgence in popularity with appearances in both Wednesday Comics and the Blackest Night series proper; and Tomasi’s scripts have once again been lifted to their rightful place with some appropriately eerie visuals.  If you’ve ever wondered where the Tomasi who wrote Black Adam went, look no further than Blackest Night: Batman.

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Blackest Night #2

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Aquaman: Undead in the Water.

Aquaman: Undead in the Water.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inkers: Oclair Albert with Julio Ferreira
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair
Alternative Cover Artist: Mauro Cascioli

Blackest Night #2 opens cinematically with wide-shot panels – beautifully detailed by Ivan Reis, but not cluttered – and maintains that cinematic feel with the able assistance of his art team.  They achieve this, I believe, by treating each panel as a camera lens.  Inkers Oclair Albert and Julio Ferreira carve out each scene with subtle shade and deep shadow, while colorist Alex Sinclair provides a light source and sticks to it, by God!  Reis’ panel composition holds up to much scrutiny, as if each scene is mapped verbatim in his mind, and every item is there precisely because it needs to be.  Effective use of these three elements – depth of field, light sourcing and composition – drew my eyes to the focal point of each panel.  This level of care and attention is the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from a big-budget Hollywood film, not a comic book.  Blackest Night raises the bar for the comic book event in every conceivable way.  This is high-production, high-stakes superhero drama at its best.

The first person we see is Ray Palmer – The Atom – looking very small.  Standing next to a paperclip, in fact.  He misses his late wife Jean, and he needs someone to talk to.  Hawkman finally picks up the phone, but he’s not quite himself.  He still sounds like himself, though, and that’s what makes these Black Lanterns so chilling.  They’re more like ghosts than zombies, and they have unfinished business to attend to.

Geoff Johns has wisely chosen to convey the epic scope of his tale  through more minor characters; the bards and minstrels of the DC Universe, if you will.  The darkness over Gotham City is viewed through the eyes of Barbara Gordon and her father, Commissioner Gordon.  The oft-discussed return of Aquaman is experienced through those closest to him, Mera and Aqualad.  They are our emotional anchors to the events unfolding, and despite our foreknowledge of some of the more shocking returns, Blackest Night proves it’s nothing at all to do with what you know, but who you know.  I have an emotional investment in these characters, and knowing that they’re about to confront their loved ones with their failure and rip their hearts out only augments the tragedy.  Their grisly guise as Black Lanterns allows us to see our late heroes at their most formidable, commit unspeakable acts, and that is the greatest tragedy of Blackest Night.

This second issue reveals much about the nature of the Black Lanterns, but many questions still linger as even the supernatural element of the DCU struggles to come to grips with the phenomenon.  Geoff Johns uses his ensemble cast empathically to put his readers in each scene.  Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash) form the emotional core of this story, and it’s great to see this team in action again.  There’s undeniably chemistry between the two (quite literally at one point), and despite the dark circumstances of their reunion, they light up every panel.  Whoever deigned to separate (and kill off) this dynamic duo all those years ago must have been stark raving mad.  Or perhaps they never saw the potential for comic magic that Johns did.

Whatever the case, I see the potential for plenty more comic magic from Johns et al in future.  You’d be stark raving mad to miss Blackest Night.

Green Lantern #44

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 29th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Martian Manhunter is back, and he's mighty pissed off about it.

Martian Manhunter is back, and he's mighty pissed about it.

“Only the Good Die Young”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Christian Alamy & Doug Mahnke
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover Artists: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy & Sinc
Variant Cover Artists: Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion & Nei Ruffino
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

Having read more than a few interviews with Geoff Johns and the folks over at DC editorial, I was surprised to learn that unlike the highly successful Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night would become a DC-wide event in its own book, and that Green Lantern – the book that started it all – would be relegated to second fiddle.

(Now, I have no illusions that this was ever Geoff Johns’ intention in the first place – though I do believe that the Sinestro Corps War was Johns’ successful bid for more creative licence from DC, as well as a reader recruitment drive for Green Lantern – but I do believe this was always intended to be his magnum opus.  The only difference is that this unexpected popularity among the comic book readership and almost unprecedented support from DC editorial has allowed him to evolve this into something with even bigger scope than he had previously imagined.)

Well, I’m happy to report that not only is Blackest Night more tightly conceived and consistent quality-wise than Sinestro Corps War was (if that’s even possible) thus far, Green Lantern #44, like Green Lantern #43 feels like a bonafide continuation of the Blackest Night story, albeit told in a more Green Lantern-centric manner.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of expected the events of Blackest Night to be confined to Blackest Night, and that Green Lantern would focus on the War of Light in outer space.  That this issue defied those expectations is not at all a bad thing, though I fail to see how anyone could read Blackest Night exclusively and glean even half of what the regular Green Lantern reader will.  Take my advice, newcomers: you need to be reading both.  You probably don’t even need to be told; chances are, if you’ve had a taste of Blackest Night, you’ll be hungry for more; so let me assure you right now, that you’ll get plenty more in Green Lantern #44.  It seems fairly obvious to me that Johns rolled with this editorial structure simply so he could tell more story in a shorter span of time.  Twenty-five issues of Blackest Night might be “wearing out its welcome”, but an issue of Blackest Night and Green Lantern each month for twelve months doesn’t seem as much of a stretch.

From the opening page, it’s clear that Johns and Mahnke are having heaps of fun with this story.  Johns knows these characters better than anyone, with plenty tips-of-the-hat for longtime DC fans.  Even the humble Choco cookie – Martian Manhunter’s favourite imitation Oreo snack – is imbued with rich symbolism.  It takes some serious skill to take one of the kookier elements of DC’s repertoire and turn it into something genuinely chilling.  As the cover art suggests, Martian Manhunter rises from his tomb as the first Black Lantern (well, sorta), and boy, is it cool!  Doug Mahnke was born to draw this kind of stuff.

This issue picks up where Blackest Night #1 left off, in Gotham Cemetery with Hal Jordan and the Flash.  Unfortunately, Johns dusts off the annoying little recap caption, informing us *yet again* that Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern of Sector 2814!  I thought it was assumed that Green Lantern fans would be reading this, Geoff, and everyone else would be reading Blackest Night!  You didn’t need to tell us the last few times, why do you need to tell us now?

Nerd-rage aside, it’s great to see the Martian Manhunter back, albeit in an undead capacity.  Johns is a bigger DC fan than all of us, and you can tell he’s playing with his favourite toys.  Don’t get me wrong, though, Johns remains reverent to the source material; and it soon becomes clear that the Black Lanterns are not mindless zombies; rather, they retain their original personalities.  This provides the emotional backdrop for Johns’ storytelling; dead heroes are returning, and those closest to them are forced to confront their deaths, and their worst failures, all over again.  There’s a harsh truth to everything J’onn J’onzz says, and yet it is apparent he is possessed by dark forces beyond his control.

What follows is a piece of the most interesting superhero fisticuffs I’ve seen – and one of the best Martian Manhunter stories I’ve read – in quite a while.  I’ve always thought that Martian Manhunter would make a formidable foe, and Black Lantern Manhunter doesn’t disappoint here.  It makes me wonder how he ever could have died in the first place.  It seems to me that Johns’ chief goal here is to remind us just how much we loved these characters, and just how well they can be written; enough to make us pray for a real resurrection.

Meanwhile in the Oa Citadel, Scar reveals the dark purpose of the Black Lantern Corps, with strong hints towards future events affecting the coloured Corps.  I don’t want to give too much away, but next issue should finally see John Stewart’s turn in the lead Lantern role…

Can’t wait for the next one!

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
"Unnecessary" has never been so entertaining.

"Unnecessary" has never been so entertaining.

Authors: Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi & Ethan Van Sciver
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Gene Ha & Tom Mandrake
Inkers: Ruy José
Colorists: Nei Ruffino & Pete Pantazis
Cover Artists: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter & Nei Ruffino
Variant Cover Artist: Rodolfo Migliari
Letterers: Steve Wands & Sal Cipriano
Editor: Adam Schlagman

Once again, I have to disagree with this book’s detractors.  Tales of the Corps #2, like the first issue, is an entertaining read, and while its connection to Blackest Night proper may not be readily apparent, it fleshes out the players in this War of Light.  The emotional spectrum is an interesting concept in itself, and though the seeds were planted from the very beginning of Geoff Johns’ stellar Green Lantern run, it’s clear that not all avenues have been explored in the rush to get to Blackest Night.  Perhaps it was editorial pressure; perhaps it was fan demand; I don’t know – but if this book affords Johns and his cohort the opportunity to explore this War of Light in greater detail, then I’m all for it.  And if you’re a Green Lantern fan, you’ll be all for it too.

Like the first issue, the opening story is by far the strongest.  “Fly Away” tells the tale of angelic beauty, Princess Bleez, and how she comes to embrace the rage of the Red Lantern Corps.  I wasn’t being flowery when I used the word ‘angelic’ either, Bleez has wings – with feathers – and Johns uses these as a simple narrative device to tell a story of freedom yearned for and ultimately, lost.  Eddy Barrows’ pencils are breathtaking, especially in depicting Bleez and her home planet, Havania.  It just goes to show that when given a full story to work with, Barrows absolutely shines (not that that was ever in doubt in the first place).  It’s not just the beautiful vistas he excels in either; his penchant for gritty, horror-inspired visuals is also on display here.  Credit must also go to Nei Ruffino, whose colours went a long way toward evoking the beauty of Bleez and her planet homeland.  All of this beauty – Bleez’s soft, metallic skin and Havania’s crystalline waterfalls – lends the story a great deal of its power when the Sinestro Corps come to strip it all away.  It’s interesting that Bleez’s turn as a Red Lantern owes more to the Sinestro Corps than it does the Red Lanterns themselves.

The second story, also penned by Johns, centres on Carol Ferris, and how she came to be a Star Sapphire.  “Lost Love” is beautifully drawn by Top 10 artist and co-creator, Gene Ha.  As much as I love any opportunity to enjoy Ha’s artwork, I’m going to have to side with the naysayers here and say that, yes, this story is entirely unnecessary.  We have seen most of this before.  The entire story essentially takes place within the confines of Carol’s cockpit, as she converses with the violet ring.  On comes a series of violet-filtered flashbacks concerning Carol and Hal Jordan’s on-and-off love relationship.  Now that the Star Sapphires have refined their crystals into rings for recruitment purposes, acceptance of the ring is voluntary.  This doesn’t ring true to me – the situation and the conversation itself seem to be a contrivance on Johns’ part to separate this particular instance from the earlier ones – it attempts to rationalise something that isn’t at all rational, and that is Love.  The conversation between Carol and the violet ring is a thinly veiled internal monologue, and it comes off as being rather stilted in the end.

The third and final tale in this collection chronicles the journey of the all-conquering, alien floating head, known as Blume.  Peter Tomasi excels at these kinds of dark, quirky tales, and “Godhead” is no exception.  The malevolent head prowls the universe, hungry for anything of value.  Amidst these flagrant displays of greed and cruelty, Tomasi achieves rare moments of poignancy, as Blume learns the true subjectivity of value and sheer breadth of what is valuable to people.  Blume’s fate as an Orange Lantern construct is a foregone conclusion, but that doesn’t rob this story of its value.

The issue finishes with a two-page featurette from Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver, titled “The Symbols of the Spectrum: How They Came to Be, and What They Represent”, which documents the genesis of the seven symbols we’ve seen in the War of Light.  This is great for Green Lantern fans who want an insight into the creative process that goes into the making of their favourite comic book.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps is a great supplementary book to the core Green Lantern series and Blackest Night itself.  You don’t need to read it to understand the events of those two books, but it’s a great read nonetheless.  If it was ‘necessary’ or ‘important’, fans and critics alike would be complaining about how they have to follow yet another book to gain an appreciation of the overall story.  As it stands, though, Tales of the Corps represents the very best kind of tie-in to a comic book event – wholly unnecessary to the progression of the main story, and yet an interesting and entertaining read in its own right.

Blackest Night #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Black is the new Green.

Black is the new Green.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Hi-Fi

If you had of told Dan DiDio four years ago that Green Lantern, under Geoff Johns’ guidance, would not only stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Batman and Superman in stature and following, but would also spawn the biggest comic book event of 2009, he probably would have slapped you twice and thrown you to the Crises.  Well, that was then, and this is now, and let me tell you, I was more than excited to be opening the first issue of Blackest Night proper.  In fact, I can’t remember ever being this excited for a comic book event in all my years of reading comics (which I’ll admit, is not very long at all compared to some).  Well, it turns out that all that anticipation is paying off in spades, and that Blackest Night is every bit the bee’s knees it promised to be.

Naturally, Blackest Night #1 picks up where Blackest Night #0 left off, in Gotham Cemetery.  It’s a dark and stormy night, and Black Hand ushers in the Age of Dark and Stormy Nights with a decidedly sick and twisted invocation.  The first thing I noticed about this issue was, damn, it’s great to have Ivan Reis back on a Green Lantern book.  Then of course I noticed the striking visuals, the epic presentation, et cetera, but honestly, there’s so much going on here that I really don’t know where to start.

This book is a great jumping-on point for newcomers, but they’ll also find a lot to digest here; while long-term Green Lantern and DC Comics readers have plenty of Easter eggs to scour through.  Sure, there’s a fair bit of background that the DC faithful will already know, but Johns is clearly highlighting which parts to pay attention to (and believe me, there’s a lot to pay attention to) and fleshing them out to augment the emotional impact of future events.  It’s actually surprising to see which untended plot threads he does highlight – without giving too much away – fans of Keith Giffen’s Justice League will no doubt be intrigued by the developments they see here.  It’s pretty clear by the end of this issue that Blackest Night represents his life’s work, drawing on every major DC storyline he’s had a hand in, from JSA to Hawkman to Infinite Crisis to 52 and everything in between right up to Flash: Rebirth.  Perhaps contrary to his original plans (though not by much), Blackest Night encompasses the entire DC Universe (or is it ‘Multiverse’?).  That is to say that its scope is far greater than just the Green Lantern universe – which is already massive thanks to Johns – and centres upon his two no-doubt-favourite heroes, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash), as our anchors to this epic tale.

The core of this super-sized issue takes place appropriately on the anniversary of Superman’s death; once a national day of mourning, now a day used to honour fallen superheroes.  Geoff Johns has stated in interviews that this issue mentions all the major players in this storyline, and I believe it – many names are checked by the mourners, which may as well be a roll call for the Black Lantern Corps – some are expected, though many may surprise you.  In point of fact, the first Black Lanterns to reveal themselves surprised the hell out of me, and their first dark deeds shocked me all the more, due in no small part to Ivan Reis’ grisly depiction.

It’s getting very dark in the DC Universe, and I, for one, am loving it.