This was a pretty big week for DC’s Blackest Night, with not only a new issue of the event series itself shipping, but a tie-in issue of Green Lantern and the conclusion of the spinoff Blackest Night: Titans series. Now, two of the three are definitely integral to the larger plot, but the Titans tie-in may also prove to be of importance to the event as a whole.
What I found most interesting about these comics was how the core plot of the series is unfolding in only one of them, and it’s not the core Blackest Night eight-part series. Now, the story itself seems to have shifted from the main title over into Green Lantern, which is appropriate, since the crossover story is, at its heart, a GL tale. Meanwhile, the larger-than-life action seems to be relegated to the event title. Overall, these Blackest Night comics are proving to be fun diversions, though like many event-driven comics, they suffer from accessibility problems.
Blackest Night #4 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
The force behind the Black Lanterns stands revealed at the end of this issue, but really, the bulk of this issue consists of the Flash, the Atom and Mera running around the DC Universe to let everyone know what’s going on, that the Green Lanterns can save the Earth and that everyone will have to stem the tide of dead superhumans until the good Lanterns arrive. Johns’s script is a lot of fun, delving into how the heroes feel as much as the super-powered conflicts in which they engage. I loved that the spotlight was on these characters. Johns goes out of his way to leave the bigger super-hero icons of the DC Universe out of the action. It was easily my favorite aspect of the issue.
Ivan Reis performs adequately in this issue, but the linework isn’t as crisp or clear as it’s been in previous issues of the event series. Perhaps one explanation is the contribution of not one but two inkers, but I think it’s more than that. To be fair, the premise calls for a lot of crowded action scenes, and I have no doubt that deadline pressure was mounting. Still, some scenes are difficult to discern; for example, Green Lantern Alan Scott’s efforts to stem the undead tide are amorphous and unclear. Furthermore, some of the designs for the Black Lanterns make it difficult to tell which characters have risen from the dead.
The Justice Society joins the action in this issue, as do Black Lantern versions of the Freedom Fighters (who were killed in Johns’s last big event book, Infinite Crisis). Unfortunately, Johns either forgets to explain the significance of these characters or there wasn’t enough room to include the information. Some readers might feel a bit in the dark. That being said, I think he does a good job of providing enough background information so readers who aren’t so familiar with Damage can appreciate the emotional conflict that’s so important in his scene with the Atom and the Black Lantern incarnation of the Golden Age Atom. 7/10
Green Lantern #47 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen & Mark Irwin
Unlike Johns’s script for BN #4, this issue of Green Lantern is a bit more accessible even though it delves into more convoluted backstories. Johns sums up the various Corps pretty clearly, especially when it comes to the Red Lanterns, whose pivotal role in the larger story becomes apparent. Of course, there are elements that might throw newer readers, such as what John Stewart is up to on a dead planet; for the full story on that, one has to go back more than 20 years to Cosmic Odyssey (though DC did recently release a collected edition of that Jim Starlin/Mike Mignola series).
Once again, the emotional conflicts steal the show, proving to be far more interesting than the colorful energy constructs and cosmic action (which are still fun, don’t get me wrong). The usually stilted Sinestro is actually more intriguing than the title character. While his typically arrogant facade is on full display, Johns continues to show the reader (though not the other players in the drama) a softer side. Johns also does a nice job of balancing this issue, shining the spotlight on several of the “supporting” Corps — Red, Blue and Orange in particular. Unfortunately, the strong female heroes of the story — Indigo-1 and Star Sapphire Carol Ferris — aren’t given much to do in this issue. They (especially Carol) seem like little more than window-dressing; I trust this won’t always be the case.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better fit for a comic story featuring a variety of undead aliens than Mahnke’s dark, creepy art style. His opening splash featuring monstrous, distorted visions of alien life establishes an unnerving tone right from the start. I also love the sharp features he brings to Sinestro and the motive quality of the characters’ faces. I was also pleased to find that the use of several inkers didn’t lead to jarring shifts in the art or any noticeable inconsistencies this time around. Colorist Randy Mayor is also to be commended for his approach to the Black Lanterns’ “emoti-vision.” The blends of the bright colors representing how the living characters are feeling are quite well done. 8/10
Blackest Night: Titans #3 (DC Comics)
by J.T. Krul & Ed Benes
Of this week’s three Blackest Night books, this one is the weakest in terms of visuals. Benes handles the action well enough, but the horrors of the Black Lanterns isn’t nearly as chilling as what we’ve seen in other comics (and he even has an undead baby to work with). I also found the backgrounds were lacking; there’s rarely a strong sense of place in this story; save for some scattered greenery, rubble and Photoshopped cloud cover, there’s nothing much going on behind the figures in the foreground. Most disappointing, however, are Hi-Fi Design’s colors, which fail to capture the same bright, seamless color effects for the “emoti-vision” elements, as we’ve seen in other BN comics. Those colors are flat, and the patchwork approach on the final just doesn’t look good at all.
I find it interesting that Krul has really limited the number of dead Titans that find their way into this plot. There were many other possibilities; two appear on George Perez’s variant cover for this issue (Phantasm and Baby Wildebeest) but don’t show up inside. The action is pretty gruesome, notably Donna Troy’s efforts to dispatch the Black Lantern baby, but these are undead monsters, not meant to be seen as people. Furthermore, Krul’s script could be a bit more accessible. He really doesn’t provide much background about the Beast Boy/Terra relationship, and the convoluted history of the Hawks and Doves, which is necessary to appreciate those characters’ roles in this story, isn’t touched upon at all.
That being said, Krul’s plot intrigues me in that it touches upon ideas and elements that we haven’t seen in any of the Geoff Johns-penned Blackest Night comics. Donna Troy’s “infection” is something we haven’t seen outside this limited series, and Dove’s unique nature in the face of the Black Lantern onslaught is interesting as well. My hope is that Krul didn’t overstep with this script and that we’ll see Johns follow up on these notions in the main event series. 5/10
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