Archive for Black Lantern

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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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 #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.

Green Lantern #43

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Dark and brilliant.

Dark and brilliant.

“Blackest Night Prologue: Tale of the Black Lantern”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Christian Alamy
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Cover Artists: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Artists: Eddy Barrows & Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

Green Lantern #43 is a great many things.  It’s an end to the too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth approach of the last few issues, it’s a Blackest Night #-1 if we are to subscribe to negative numbering, and it’s a Black Hand: Secret Origins of sorts.  That is to say that Green Lantern #43 is consistent in both art and narrative; the events take place before those we saw in Blackest Night #0; and the story revisits events we saw in the Secret Origins storyline, this time to explore the origin of one who will surely be Green Lantern’s most compelling villain, William Hand.

It would be all too easy to dismiss some of these scenes as simple re-treads of stories faithful Green Lantern readers have read at least twice by now, but Johns has put yet another interesting spin on past events, unpacking for us something that was probably there all along.  I am of course referring to Sinestro and Hal Jordan’s first confrontation with now-Red-Lantern Atrocitus.  I have to admit, as much as I tried to tuck this little tidbit away for future reference, I had all but forgotten William Hand’s presence at this pivotal scene.  That’s kind of the point, though: everyone‘s forgotten about William Hand, and he [Geoff Johns] is making it his business to remind us just who he is, and how foolish we were to ignore him in the first place.  It’s incredibly interesting just how much each of these major players have evolved since then.  Sinestro, no longer a Green Lantern – former Sinestro Corps leader at that – is now the most-wanted war criminal in the universe.  Atrocitus, one of the sole survivors of the massacre of Sector 666, then-prophet of the Blackest Night, is now leader of the Red Lanterns.  Hal Jordan – let’s just say he’s seen a lot of changes over the last two decades.  And William Hand, once a disturbed boy with a disconnected childhood, is now the resurrected Black Hand and avatar of the Black Lanterns.  That all of this is coming full circle is further testament to Geoff Johns as writer and Master Chess Player.

“Tale of the Black Lantern” shows us William Hand’s journey from son of a coroner to undead supervillain is not an excuse, rather an explanation of how he came to be this way.  As you’d expect, the tale is very dark in the telling, both literally and visually.  Mahnke, as he has proven in the pages of Final Crisis (another book he rescued from artistic inconsistency), is consistently good at horror-inspired visuals.  His pencils are simultaneously gritty and clean, which is to say there are *a lot of* lines, but each one seems purposeful and deliberate in its placement.  While I can’t help but wonder whether Eddy Barrows could have accomplished similar feats, I know deep down in my heart of hearts that it couldn’t have been this confident.

The only real criticism I can level at this book is that it isn’t really about Green Lantern – in fact, he only ever appears in the aforementioned scene – it probably should have flown under the Blackest Night banner proper.  That’s all null and void in the face of one inescapable fact: this story is critical, both to future events in Green Lantern and Blackest Night.  Besides, I’ve long since given up questioning Geoff Johns’ storytelling choices – he’s proven time and time again that he’s at least three steps ahead of us all.

Only one thing remains to be gleaned from all of this: if you’re a comic book fan, you need to be reading Green Lantern and you need to be reading Blackest Night.

The Flash: Rebirth #2

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Something's afoot in the Speed Force...

Something's afoot in the Speed Force...

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver, Carmine Infantino & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Alex Sinclair
Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavaleri

Holy Shit.

The shock twist in this issue of Flash: Rebirth had me absolutely floored.  Sure, I considered the outside possibility of these events unfolding, and the hints were certainly there from issue 1, but damn if this doesn’t feel like a brave direction for The Flash.

It’s tempting to write this off as one of those ‘fan’ what if? moments – remembering Johns has had both Batman and a de-powered Superman flirt with Green Lanternism during his tenure with DC – but far too much has been done that can’t be undone for that to be the case.  Sorry for being so damn coy, but I really want you to experience what I experienced when I read it.  I’ll tell you this much: no, Barry Allen does not become a Green Lantern.  He doesn’t become a Black Lantern either, but with all of these themes of death and rebirth across the board, I can’t help but wonder whether Johns’ brainchildren will intersect.

In every corner of the Flashes’ world, from Gorilla City to the Balkan Mountains and back to Central City, Rebirth #2 really gave me the sensation that something big was brewing in the Speed Force, and indeed, the DC Universe.  I can’t help but sense Grant Morrison’s influence in all of this – the quick cuts, the bold moves, the cinematic style – all of these things lend the story a weight; a significance.

Sure, it’s a little continuity-intensive at times – the quick cuts and flashbacks may prove difficult for newcomers to keep up with – but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and if Geoff Johns proved one thing with Green Lantern’s own Rebirth, it’s this: there WILL be growing pains, but the outcome will be well worth it.  Those with rose-coloured lenses remember Green Lantern: Rebirth fondly (and rightly so), but they too easily forget the occasional awkwardness and intensive continuity inherent in the project.

It’s necessary.

Take heart, fans, Geoff Johns is THE continuity doctor: leave a mess on the carpet, and he’ll turn it into art, like Pro Hart.

Speaking of art, Ethan Van Sciver’s is brilliant as always.  He’s far and away, one of the best artists in the biz.  His panel layouts and spectacular splash pages contribute a great deal to the book’s cinematic feel.  His linework is clean and detailed.  His characters are expressive; his backgrounds are meticulous and never boring to look at.  Check out the water effects on page 6 – the detail is just mind-boggling.  Oh yeah, and Iris is HOT.

The track record’s there: Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver are a great comic partnership, and if this issue is any indication, they’re cooking up another storm of Rebirth proportions.