Saturday, July 25, 2009

DC's Dead Rise to Mess With Some Lanterns

Blackest Night #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics

Rating: 5 Stars

Two years ago, we were given a brief glimpse of "The War of Light" and the Oan prophecy of "The Blackest Night" at the end of the extremely engrossing and exciting The Sinestro Corps War. Then, for months, Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have been building the excitement around DC's new mega event in the pages of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. We've slowly been introduced to a whole galaxy of new Corps that all wield one of the colors of the emotional spectrum, and now, it's all come to a head. The Blackest Night has begun.

Now, for a quick recap... In the pages of Green Lantern #43, we were shown the tragic back story of William Hand. A man fascinated with death since he was a young boy. His father ran a funeral home and his brothers didn't understand him. He would grow up to be one of Green Lantern's villains, The Black Hand, after being given a device that absorbs the energy of a power ring and allows him to manipulate it in return.

After hearing a voice from beyond that tells him how "hungry" it is, he returns home and slaughters his family. He then turns his own weapon against himself and literally blows his brains out. Scar, a Guardian of the Universe (who has been acting a little funny ever since he/she/it was burned by the Anti-Monitor in the climax of The Sinestro Corps War), comes to the scene and presents the corpse with a black power ring. William Hand is resurrected as the first Black Lantern.

Blackest Night #1 opens with Hand in a graveyard in Gotham City. He has dug up Bruce Wayne's skull which he will carry with him like some sort of morbid trophy. After a recap of who has been killed over the years in the DC Universe, we move to two people who have recently escaped the clutches of death - Hal Jordan and Barry Allen.

Hal and Barry are old friends. Johns does an excellent job showing their long relationship without having to force it down our throats. In fact, their relationship, and the importance of the early scenes with the two of them working together, serve as a theme for this first issue. Emotions are running high and what better way to fuel that than love? The love of two old friends, of mother and son (Clark and Martha Kent), of queen and loyal subject (Mera and Tempest), of two reincarnated souls unable to bridge a gap they are destined to cross (Hawkman and Hawkgirl).

Love seems to be at the center of this first issue. Barry's reaction to Hal showing him all those who have died since Barry was killed in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths is of deep sadness. These were his closest of friends and his partners in crime fighting. Ray Palmer desperately seeking someone to help him visit his ex-wife's grave to pay respects. Despite all Jean Loring did in Indentity Crisis, Ray still loves her and is terribly conflicted about his feelings.

Then, we have Carter and Kendra. Hawkman and Hawgirl have a way of dying, being reincarnated and finding each other. Their love is ages old. Unfortunately, things aren't working this time (not to mention they were apparently killed only not to be killed in the incredibly frustrating Final Crisis, but nevermind that right now). Carter is angry that they aren't together as they have have been. Many pages are spent on Carter trying to convince Kendra that they should be lovers. Ultimately, the Hawks are confronted by DC's greatest, and most tragic, lovers, Ralph and Sue Dibney. Ralph and Sue are Black Lanterns now and they plan to increase the army of the dead in a shocking conclusion to the first issue.

This is Geoff Johns as this best. He knows how to make us care about what's going on around the characters. He also knows how to make the characters interesting beyond anything they have been before. I remember when he wroked on my all-time favorite series, The Avengers. He made Jack of Hearts and the second Ant-Man, two nearly forgotten Marvel characters, relevant and interesting again. He's definitely put his stamp on The Flash's rogue gallery and he's done it again with Black Hand. This story is interesting and well-timed.

I think we're all in for big surprises with this event. I don't think anyone saw how much love would play a factor in the story as a whole. We haven't even seen the reaction Mera will have to the resurrected Aquaman or John Stewart's eventual showdown with his deceased love, Katma Tui, but I'm fairly certain the intensity will be driven by love. I really think most of us in comic fandom just thought, "We're going to see some dead people come back and there will be some tough scenes with the living people and some big fights will go down and it will be awesome." I don't think we were quite prepared for the awesome we've already gotten.

Speaking of awesome, check out issue #1's money shot...

I could stare at that shot for a long time and never get tired of it.

Thanks for reading. I'll be back soon with a review of Amazing Spider-Man #600!

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