Posted by Don MacPherson on April 23rd, 2009
Blackest Night #0
“Death Becomes Us”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils/Cover artist: Ivan Reis
Inks: Oclair Albert & Rob Hunter
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
This is one of two free comics DC is offering for Free Comic Book Day, scheduled for May 2 this year (the other is DC Kids Mega Sampler, obviously designed for new, young readers). As the title suggests, this is a prologue to DC’s big summer event, but it also serves as a primer on the Green Lantern Corps, the other color corps that have debuted recently and play a role in the event. Furthermore, the 12-page story also sums up recent events in the DC Universe, mainly, those that involve the deaths of a number of super-heroes, including Batman and the Martian Manhunter. Despite the fact that this story is steeped in DC continuity and a contrived (by fun) event concept, it’s accessible, which is exactly what one of these free comics ought to be. The goal of Free Comic Book Day is, after all, to attract new readers to the medium. DC’s goal with this publication, however, seems to be to attract existing comics readers — mainly Marvel fans — to its universe of colorful characters.
In the wake of the Batman’s apparent death during a recent crisis, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and his recently resurrected friend, Barry Allen, AKA the Flash, meet in Gotham to protect their fallen teammate’s city. Hal tries to impress upon Barry that the world isn’t as he remembers it, that it’s a darker place, that while they both returned from the dead, it’s now a time when heroes actually die and stay that way. As they set out to bring justice to the streets of Gotham, a dark figure visits cemeteries across the country, looking for macabre recruits for a cosmic war that lies just over the horizon.
Ivan Reis has developed significant as an artist over the last few years. He’s delivering the strongest work of his career on Green Lantern, and his efforts on Blackest Night is just as good. There are a number of influences apparent in his work; Alan Davis and Neal Adams are among them. His style is perhaps most comparable to that of Carlos Pacheco. Suffice it to say, he has a dynamic style that’s ideal for the super-hero genre. The most impressive visual in the book is his depiction of the villains of the story. He really conveys the madness and corruption that drives the founders of the soon-to-be-revealed Black Lanterns. Given the kind of cosmic energy that’s integral to the story, Alex Sinclair makes a vital contribution to the art as well. The power and color really pop.
“Death Becomes Us” is a little thin on plot. Actually, if one were to compare this story to last year’s DC Universe #0, it wouldn’t seem as though the events of Blackest Night have progressed much at all. However, this story does set the stage nicely for the stories to come. DC’s clearly trying to lure the hardcore super-hero reader into a larger plot and as many spinoff comics as possible. One can’t blame them, I suppose. One has to wonder how many young kids are going to get their hands on this free comic. Some of the characters are somewhat horrific in concept or twisted in tone. Furthermore, it’s such a melancholy story. As I noted, though, DC is offering a brighter, more fun alternative to this free comic this year. I just hope retailers and parents take the time to put the right free comics in the right hands.
As an adult fan of super-hero comics, I have to admit I enjoyed the character-driven tone of the script. Johns is best known for his work at DC not only for Green Lantern but for the Flash as well, and it’s fitting that he uses those characters to explore not only the state of DC super-heroes in general, but these two men in particular. I loved how out of place and out of touch the Flash feels after being gone for so many years. I appreciated how disheartened Hal feels, how he’s lost hope. This plays nicely into recent events from the “Rage of the Red Lanterns” story arc from Green Lantern without requiring the reader to have read those recent issues.
The ads later in the book are a bit distracting. They seem send the message that Geoff Johns is the be-all and end-all of DC Comics. Johns’s name leaps off the page in three of those house ads. It’s clear that DC has decided that Johns is the product, not Green Lantern or the Blackest Night event. It’s a logical approach, I suppose. Johns is vital to DC’s super-hero output these days, and Marvel also promotes its creators over its characters when it comes to its comics.
This freebie comic includes a series of pinups of all of the various lantern corps, illustrated by Doug Mahnke and various inkers. It’s a nice primer on all of the diverse and weird characters involved in this cosmic story. Now, some might complain that this comic features only a 12-page story, a series of pin-ups and a lot of ads, but then, those people need a reminder that this is a free comic book. 7/10