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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.

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Blackest Night #0

Posted in Comics, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2nd May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Pretty bright for the "Blackest Night", huh?

Pretty bright for the 'Blackest Night', huh?

Author: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis & Doug Mahnke

Now I’m all agitated.  Moving in my seat.  Blackest Night #0, is a real tease, so mission accomplished.  It’s probably the most cleverly disguised ad since DC Universe #0.  Oh, and it’s free, so I can pretty much recommend it to you straight away.  For one solitary day in the year, it’s costing DC money for you to read a comic, so make the most of it.

The cover art’s pretty nice – it’s just a pity they had to put that garish ‘FREE COMIC BOOK DAY’ at the top, and the ugly blank white rectangle in the bottom right corner reminding us that yes, again, it is free.  Not all the free comics today were uglified in this manner, but all the DC ones were.  It even has a barcode – I don’t quite understand that.  Why take stock of a free item?  Anyway, it’s free.

This issue consists of a story snippet with art by Ivan Reis, a letter from Geoff Johns, and some profile pages with art by Doug Mahnke.  The story is deftly scribed by Geoff Johns as always, and Ivan Reis’ art is (somewhat) spectacular as always.  It’s a little bit subdued (hence the ‘somewhat’), because obviously it’s a prologue and no real action.  The story opens as always with a narrative caption from Hal Jordan telling us that he’s an officer of the Green Lantern Corps and that Space Sector 2814 is his space-cop beat.  (Hey Johns, can you quit doing that?  I know you’ve got a lot of new readers picking this up because it’s Blackest Night and it’s free and all, but I also know that you’ll do it again, and I’ve read that damn caption on a monthly basis for the last four years!  We KNOW who he is, we KNOW he’s Green Lantern – that’s why he’s GLOWING GREEN in a GREEN UNIFORM with a GREEN RING, and that’s why we bought a comic with ‘GREEN LANTERN’ on the cover!)  From here, it becomes pretty clear who Johns intends to resurrect for this mega-event.  I’ll give you a hint: the entire issue plays out in Gotham Cemetery.  How doubly appropriate.

Rise from your Grave!

Rise from your Grave!

(I also figured out a couple of weeks ago that Earth-2 Superman would be a resurrect-ee, thanks to the tactless ad for the Blackest Night action figures, which also features in this issue.  This begs the (loaded) question, with all these superheroes rising from the dead all zombie-like, will they be full-blown villains, and if so, is that desecration?  I can’t imagine Geoff Johns desecrating any superhero, much less the likes of Batman, Aquaman, or even Martian Manhunter.  Tell you what, I’ll just assume there’s more to it and we’ll move on, ‘kay?)

Hal Jordan and Barry Allen (the second Flash) have a pleasant little chat over a gravestone, discussing their respective deaths, which is all very strange to this mortal reader.  (Is there any major DC superhero that hasn’t died?  I think Wonder Woman may be the only one, and she’s kind of…arbitrarily major.)  Something sinister is going on in the background (literally), though, of course.  It’s a cemetery at night, what did you expect?  The ending is pretty te[ase]rrific.

A letter from the man himself follows explaining how he wanted to tell this story from the get-go and it wasn’t really intended to be an ‘event’ as such, and you know what?  I believe him – I’m just not sure DC does.  I re-read his Lantern run a few months back, and there’s plenty of foreshadowing going on back there (one could argue it goes back as far as Alan Moore).   It sounds like Geoff’s trying to assure people that this thing won’t run away from him, that it’s still his story, and still under his control.  And I *sort of* believe him.  The checklist on the back page kind of contradicts this a little – 6 titles a month – but still, it’s not exactly Tie-in City.

The profile pages are nice and pretty, and serve as little fact files on each of the Corps.  Does anyone honestly believe that indigo is a legitimate colour, much less an important stripe of the rainbow?  Between the Blue Lanterns’ hope and the Star Sapphires’ love, I can’t even begin to imagine how Johns will squeeze this Indigo Tribe (compassion) between the two and give them an actual purpose.  (It’s the only group in this war of light that hasn’t been revealed yet, so I guess I’ll just assume again, shall I?)  Each Corps’ profile details their represented emotion, homeworld, history, powers and weaknesses.  I wonder if this is the kind of thing Johns used to pitch the idea to DC originally.  Probably they just handed him the keys to the city after Rebirth and he didn’t need to pitch it at all.  Nerds will have fun trying to recognise all of the arms reaching out of the ground on the Black Lantern page.

Mongul, where are you?

Mongul, where are you?

Anyway, very informative, but there were a couple of niggling things.  One being the omission of Mongul from the Sinestro Corps page.  I wonder what that means, or was I not paying attention somewhere?  Well, Mongul’s cool and he should be in the Corps.  The other thing being how damn mathematical all the weaknesses are.  They have ‘rules’ that remind me of schoolyard fare: ‘the orange rings can’t drain the blue rings, and the blue rings beat the red rings, but the blue rings don’t work unless they’re with the green rings, and the yellow rings beat the green rings, but not the blue rings.’  And I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal.

Like I said, though, I assume there’s more to it.  Did I mention it’s free?