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.