Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Blackest Night Is a Triumph

Comparing the Mega Events
Where others have failed, Blackest Night is a triumphant masterpiece

For the past 25 years, the biggest thing for either Marvel or DC has been to publish huge "mega events". These events always promise to create a new status quo for the publisher that usually turn out to be not to be that big of a deal or gets retconned out of history. Throughout this quarter of a century, Marvel has produced such events as Secret Wars, House of M, Civil War, and Secret Invasion among others. DC normally relies on titles that have "Crisis" in their title (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis). All of these titles brought in several of the characters, if not all of them, into the story.

Blackest Night is not an exception to this. BN went from being an event specifically for the Green Lantern line of DC to being a DC Universe mega event. A lot of concern over editorial interference began to surface when that announcement was made. After Final Crisis was released to a "love it or hate it" kind of reception, fans were understandably worried. Now just a few issues in, I think it's safe to say the worries and concerns have gone away.

Back in 2003, Marvel made plans for an event that was going to primarily focus on the Avengers, but would touch nearly every other character in and around the Marvel Universe. Avengers Disassembled was built up to in several books, but ultimately, came to a head in the pages of The Avengers. Of course, like any other event, promised a status quo changing story. Boy, did it. Brian Michael Bendis completely tore apart the Avengers so he could give them a new beginning of sorts. Old time favorites, like Scarlet Witch and the Vision (two of my all-time favorite Avengers), were changed forever. Other characters, like Hawkeye, were killed only to be brought back again very soon after the event was done. Disassembled proved to make the Avengers Marvel's top selling book, but the aftershocks of the event, and subsequent popularity, has left sour tastes in some of the older fans (such as myself).

For Green Lantern, the rise to popularity has not been the result of status quo changing events. Instead, it was a very well thought out and carefully executed plan by one of the best writers in comics, Geoff Johns. From the moment Hal Jordan was brought back from the dead, Blackest Night was on its way. Here is a breakdown of why I think Blackest Night has done what has been so difficult for other huge events to do - crossover and be a universally accepted masterpiece.

1. Planning that gave weight for this story to happen
As mentioned above, Geoff Johns seemed to be putting the pieces into place for this entire event the moment he started writing Green Lantern. Allowing Hal Jordan to come back to life opened the door for the other lanterns to be created. A prophesized "War of Light" would soon kick off when the Green Lantern Corps faced off against the Sinestro Corps (who had the power of the yellow light of fear). The planning for the Blackest Night event is akin to the planning that went into the granddaddy of all comics mega-events, Crisis on Infinite Earths. The planning for COIE began nearly 5 years before that story started. Everything from the story structure to the characters who would be created or killed was carefully and thoughtfully planned out step by step. Neither BN or COIE happened immediately following a few months of revelation or storyline. These took years to come to fruition.

2. Execution
When dealing with years of planning, a story has the opportunity to boil and marinate. This allows the universe around it to prepare itself for a storyline that is nothing short of kinetic. Johns was even responsible for some of the universe being ready for this type of event. When he wrote Infinite Crisis, he was able to kill certain characters that could later come back to play a major roles in Blackest Night. Characters like Superboy, Earth-2 Superman, Psycho Pirate and all the Teen Titans that got murdered are all going to play major roles in BN and some of the affiliated mini-series. Along with the ability to set up the story through other means than just the Green Lantern titles...

3. Horror!
It's no secret that horror is hot right now in comics. We've got oodles of zombie books on the shelves right now. Marvel Zombies was the first to really put superheroes in the heart of a zombie horror fest. Marvel Zombies was a little more light-hearted and was a fun "alternate reality" type of tale. Blackest Night, on the other hand, has some legitimately creepy scenes of zombies tearing people's hearts out of their chest. Then, you've got this guy, Black Hand, that is literally in love with death. Each page of the issues in the main series and surrounding minis and crossover issues crackles with eerie energy that really sucks the reader into the story. The creepy Black Lanterns are always lurking behind a bush or around a corner or something. They are really playing up the whole "these guys are monsters" thing. Also, you know a Black Lantern is around because there will be two characters talking to one another and suddenly you're given a panel with "Black Lantern vision" where you can see the emotional aura of the characters talking. When you see that panel, the shit is about to hit the fan for those characters.

4. A whole new Mythos that doesn't take a big ol' steaming pile on what came before
The greatest thing about the brand new Green Lantern Mythos is that it wasn't promised by DC Comics when Green Lantern: Rebirth hit the stands. Almost every great story builds upon the greatness of what came before but also creates its own niche in the character's history. What's most important is that it doesn't crap all over what other writers have brought to the stories of the past. I'd like to point out one story in which this kinda happened... Final Crisis. In my opinion, it crapped all over everything everywhere - especially a lot of things that came immediately before it (lead up that had no clue what to do because editorial didn't give them any direction) and a lot of what Jack Kirby (one of the greatest comics people of all time) did in the past. All it was was Grant Morrison retelling ideas from his own history of writing like it was a 7-issue greatest hits of me type of f-u to the people buying the comics. Oh, don't get me wrong, some people LOVED it. I obviously didn't, but that's because the story and this whole idea of the mythos of the DC charcter and what it means to be a story that was kinda like watching a Stanley Kubrick movie done by Stanley Kubrick who is writing it while going down on himself.

5. Really interesting characters created and re-created
Forget about all the different characters that have popped up with different color rings. As fascinating as they are, they aren't anywhere near as interesting as the characters who have gotten face lifts by Geoff Johns. Most notably, Johns has given the Guardians of the Universe a lot more personality and Black Hand a whole new backstory that doesn't take a steaming dump on the history of the character. For the Black Hand, Johns took a very brief origin and expanded on it and made him eerily attracted to death and decay. This was a character that was originally kinda cheesy and silly. Not to mention he blew his own brains out after killing his entire family to become the first Black Lantern. That's pretty hardcore for a superhero book. But nothing can top the greatest of all Red Lanterns and reason #6 for Blackest Night being so damn awesome...

I mean seriously. This guy is awesome and seriously pissed off. It also appears that Dex-Star has become something of a sensation all over the interwebs as well. There are people paying for commissions of little Dexy:
There are people drawing their own Dex-Stars:
So yeah... This guy's pretty awesome. The cat is also out of the bag (pun totally intended) about there being a big time fight in Blackest Night between Superman's dog Krypto and Dex-Star. Being a cat kind of guy, I hope Dex-Star messes up some Kryptonian canine ass!

I leave you now with Dex-Star's most endearing image - his first appearance. He's all like "look at me, I'm a cute and cuddly kitty cat!" And then, he's all like "blaaaagh... acidic blood in your face, bitches!"

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