Blackest Night #1(of 8 ) - 'Blackest Night' - Johns, Reis and Albert
Story - I often find it difficult to review Event books, since their aim is often to make the reader forget their critical faculties and mark out at 'OMG Spider-Man revealed his identity!!!!' or 'Squeeee! The Multiverse is back!!!!', it's hard to review something when your inner fanboy is so totally rocked. And Blackest Night certainly has it's fair share of OMG moments, so I'm going to get that out of the way now. HOLY SHIT HAWKMAN AND HAWKGIRL ARE DEAD I CAN'T BELIEVE IT AAAAH HOW COOL WAS THAT AND OH SHIT FUCK SCAR TOTALLY ATE THAT GUARDIAN'S HEART AMAZING.
Ahem, right, on to the serious business of reviewing the issue. For the last few years, DC Comics, and particularly Geoff Johns' books have been accused of being too dark, too violent and too full of death, and with Blackest Night #1, Johns seems to be showing us that he may have had some kind of purpose, this crossover is all about death. The central plot is that all the dead DC characters are coming back as Zombies (or Black Lanterns) and fighting our alive heroes. It's a strong idea, a simple one, and it allows for a lot of conflict. I also liked how Johns seemed to be doing a little bit of meta-commentary on the nature of comic book death, such as J'Onn telling Hal and Barry that they are supposed to be dead, or even the opening page where Black Hand breaks the fourth wall. Sure, I could be giving Johns too much credit and reading too much into it, but he's done meta before with Superboy-Prime, and if there is more of that here, I will be a happy bunny. Geoff Johns is obviously an intelligent writer, but too often he puts his energies into boring stuff like continuity, rather than this fun stuff. I also intrigued by the mechanics of the Black Lantern, they seem to be absorbing the emotions of the people they kill, and there is also the mysterious force powering them, probably Nekron.
But Johns' examinations of death is not just about the DC Zombies, he also looks at how the living react to it, lest we forget, this is a Green Lantern event, so the focus is on Hal (boo-urns) and the other GLs, we see all the people they have lost, their parents, lovers, whole fucking planets, we see exactly how impactful death can be. Johns also hits on a pretty clever idea, of a superhero Memorial Day if you will, where every year, on the anniversary of Superman's death, the world remembers dead Capes and all the innocents. We see all over the DCU, how different characters remember the dead. Sometimes I think Johns goes overboard with DC's lovey-dovey super-community, but here it works. Some of these scenes are a bit on the nose, with pretty awful dialogue, Bart Allen, Damage and the Flash Rogues in particular are pretty painful. To me, these scenes show how wide an impact all these resurrections can be, and they also serve as launching points for all the tie-in mini-series that are coming. We do get a pretty nice moment with Hal and Barry in the JLA Hall of Justice though, with Hal showing some humility and showing Barry just how many heroes have died. It was quite powerful really, and the Tempest/Mera scene was also good, I thought Tempest was dead though? Oh well.
After this, the events begin in earnest, there is a painful scene with Hawkman and Hawkgirl whining at eachother, it's a good job they are dead now, because seriously isn't Hawkman supposed to be a bad-ass Warrior? He was so emo, and what a dick to the Atom! I was annoyed their deaths in Final Crisis were over-turned, but am pleased that they got a nice brutal one here. Bad dialogue, ham-fisted and just dull, good riddance!
Wow, a bit angry there... yeah, the Guardians, from them we get a reminder that there is a War Of Light going on, you know, with all those other colours of Lantern? This kind of worries me, there is so much going on with all the different Corps, is bringing back all the Dead too much? Is it over-kill? I hope not, but Johns' last go around at a crossover, the absolutely dire Infinite Crisis definately had too much going on, so Geoff needs to tread lightly and keep his plots in order otherwise... it's going to be a mess. But from here on out, it's full-swing, Scar bites another Guardian's neck off, all the dead GLs (even Ch'p!) are resurrected as Black Lanterns, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are dead, and Martian Manhunter is back. End scene, cliffhanger in your face.
Overall, Blackest Night is a strong opening issue for an event, Johns establishes all his major players in a fairly strong way, some of it was a bit declarative, but that's just Johns. The event has a strong central hook, the kind of thing previous DC crossover failures have lacked, and there were certainly some shocking events that will have fans coming back for more. Geoff Johns has been building up to this for 5 years (seriously, the first issue of Rebirth was called Blackest Night! That's planning...), this is his Secret Invasion, let's hope his conclusion is as strong as Bendis' mini was. Oh yeah, and OMFG ZOMBIE RALPH!
Art - I really like Ivan Reis, he's been pencilling Green Lantern for a long while now, but I've been a fan since his run on Action Comics with Chuck Austen and even Rann/Thanagar War, he has a clean style, reminiscent of Neal Adams and Alan Davis, but still pretty singular. He can handle both the brightness of the GL and also the creepy Black Lanterns and the violence that they bring, seriously, Hawkman was mangled. And man, that double page spread of all the dead heroes was almost Perez! This is the swan-song for GL he deserves. One of DC's best.
Best Line - 'Rise!' From the 2 page spread of all the dead Lanterns.