As Diamond’s sales figures for October attest, DC’s Blackest Night brand is proving to be a major marketing and sales success story for the Time-Warner comics publisher. While some of the BN comics published up ’til now evoked some lukewarm responses from yours truly, overall, I’m genuinely enjoying the event, the simplicity of the concept and the structure of the conflicts among and co-operation of various Lanterns of Many Colors.
This month, however, marks a shift in DC’s approach to the event in that it’s spreading out beyond dedicated limited series to intrude on various ongoing super-hero titles. In another sharp marketing move, DC has helped comics retailers to move these tie-ins with plastic ring giveaways (I love me my rings, I must admit), but is that reason enough to buy these comics? The first of these tie-ins — last week’s Doom Patrol #4 — didn’t quite work. With this post, Eye on Comics examines the next two tie-ins in this month’s series of seven: Booster Gold #26 and R.E.B.E.L.S. #10.
Booster Gold #26 (DC Comics)
by Dan Jurgens, Mike Norton & Norm Rapmund
The first thing one notices about Jurgens’s script for this comic book is just how accessible is it. The writer tells his audience — which is bound to included thousands of the new readers, given the link to Blackest Night — everything it needs to know about Booster Gold and his deceased pal, the second Blue Beetle, and that exposition is woven logically into the story as the Black Lantern Beetle’s “memory download.” Jurgens wisely takes full advantage of the Blackest Night crossover element. In addition to a fun, accessible super-hero story, he also folds the Blue Beetle (the third one) backup feature into the main story, making for a full 30 pages of story and art. Now, this story isn’t exactly inventive or anything, but it is entertaining. Furthermore, Jurgens gives it a strong foundation in emotion, which goes to the heart of the Blackest Night concept.
Jurgens is the main penciller for this issue, and he always does a great job with not only the title character (which he created) but crowded super-hero scenes (of which there are a few in this issue). He boasts a crisp style that conveys the larger-than-life qualities of the characters that populate stories in this genre. However, his backgrounds were a bit lacking at times. One also has to give Jurgens credit for a striking design for the Black Lantern Blue Beetle. Mike Norton handles the linework for a few pages, and fortunately, his style is similar enough in tone that shifts back and forth aren’t too jarring. 7/10
R.E.B.E.L.S. #10 (DC Comics)
by Tony Bedard & Andy Clarke
Now while Booster Gold #26 is accessible, it’s not as though the character concept is all that hard to get. I’ve been reading comics — and specifically DC Comics — for years, and I know next to nothing about the L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S. Or at least I knew next to nothing, because after reading this issue, I not only finally understood the concept, I wanted to follow it. I love the cosmic-cops-for-profit angle. Writer Tony Bedard makes incredible use of the Blackest Night connection, using it as a means to promote his book without allowing it to derail his ongoing plotlines. Bedard does a great job of introducing the various obscure characters and concepts while still maintaining a strong flow in the storytelling. The mix of police procedural and cosmic action works incredibly well, and I absolutely loved Querl Dox’s blunt, insensitive approach to managing the people and circumstances around him. He’s like the Dr. Gregory House of the DC Universe’s deep-space sectors.
As if Bedard’s sharp writing weren’t enough, Andy Clarke’s highly detailed, intense artwork is an even bigger draw. I’m not familiar with Clarke’s name and style, but I plan to keep an eye out for his work from now on. His work looks like a seamless cross between the styles of Kevin (“Metal Men,” in Doom Patrol) Maguire and Travis (WildCATs) Charest. He captures the alien nature of the various characters incredibly well, but there’s still plenty of human emotion and expression through which the reader can connect with the players in the drama. His Black Lantern designs for Stealth and Harbinger are effective and eye-catching. This story boasts an expansive cast of characters, and Clarke handles it quite well. He never sacrifices the crisp detail that helps to make his linework so attractive. Clarke’s Wikipedia entry indicates he’s been doing work for DC since 2005, and the publisher would be wise to hold onto this talent. He has the potential to be a major star talent in the world of mainstream super-hero comics. 8/10
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