THE COMIC COMPENDIUM #27: Blackest Night (2009)

Is Geoff Johns’ recent run on Green Lantern better than the film at least? 

Who made it?: Geoff Johns (Writer), Ivan Reiss (Artist), DC Comics (Publisher).

Who’s in it?: Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman.

Original run: Blackest Night #1-8, Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps crossovers.

Published: June 2009-May 2010.

At the time it was released, Blackest Night was this big event of which the consequences would be felt for a long time in the DC universe, also paving the way for Brightest Day. It was also one of the few stories that somehow made it out of the NEW 52 reasonably intact, along with a good portion of the Green Lantern’s latest adventures. It seems quite odd that such a large series, especially when it involves many members of the DC Universe, can remain independent of the reboot. It probably helped that the primary writer, Geoff Johns, is also DC’s creative consultant so therefore he could indulge in a bit of favouritism.

But ignoring the wider issues of the DCU, is this event actually worth reading? The plot focuses mainly on the newly resurrected Barry Allen (The Flash), and the slightly-less-recently-resurrected Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth’s sector. They are paying their respects to the recently deceased Bruce Wayne. As you might have noticed, comic book characters appear to die and return from the grave fairly frequently, which is obviously what Johns was getting at, as along with Barry, Hal and the Lantern Corps taking centre-stage, you have almost every major villain or hero who has ever died at some point in DC continuity.

It’s no longer just Green Lanterns that exist, either, with the Care Bears apparently having taken over from the Guardians of Oa, as you now have Red (Anger), Orange (Greed), Yellow (Fear), Blue (Hope), Indigo (Compassion), and Violet (Love), each with their very own “call to arms.” This similarity to the Care Bears is alluded to by Johns himself who obviously sees the funny side of the comparison. Although Sinestro (Yellow Lantern) was the first to receive a different coloured power ring years ago, even going so far as to start a war upon the Green Lanterns with his very own Corps, this expansion of the theme does seem, originally at least, a little forced.

My fears weren’t completely ratified by the appearance of the Red Lanterns, who are so angry that they constantly foam blood at the mouth. Now that’s angry! Or is it? It sounds more like someone’s got a debilitating disease to me. However, Johns does make it a little less forced by subtle details, such as the slow destruction of the Blue Lanterns, as hope of preventing a war of the Lanterns is slowly failing. Saint Walker’s (Blue Lantern) constant cheerfulness is also a nice touch, as well as Atrocitus’ (Red Lantern) lack of patience and Larfleeze’s complete selfishness. At one point, Atrocitus needs to push him face-first into his lantern to get him to “charge up.” But if these members of the Corps have personalities highly sensitive to their rings, why is the Violet Lantern not constantly and exuberantly flirting with everyone? Why is Sinestro not cowering in a corner every time someone makes a loud noise? Really, if Red Lanterns are always angry and Blue Lanterns always hopeful, then surely Yellow Lanterns should be constantly in fear? Anyway, I digress.

Blackest Night is, of course, not about the various Corps fighting each other, but about the mysterious Black Lanterns which have appeared from space. Like a good Lantern Corps, they have their own call to arms as well as their own power battery. Unlike the other colours, however, they don’t appear to require recharging of their rings, and instead charge up the main battery by killing or harming people who are feeling emotion particularly strongly. Led by Nekron who is, in the Green Lantern comics at least, the embodiment of death, the Corps is made up of corpses. They are mostly dead heroes and villains who go around killing people they have a grudge against or think may try to stop them.

Blackest Night also has villains that want to achieve that old chestnut: destroy all life in the universe. If you think about how many times someone’s attempted to do that in the DCU, then you’ll either be wondering about the writer’s complete lack of creativity or why no one has succeeded yet. Saving the world is pure luck for the superheroes, but surely at least one world domination plot would come off once? Are the supervillians so incompetent that they can’t even do it one solitary time? Although, to be fair, out of all the villains of Superman and Batman, they’ve both only ever been killed once, so maybe they are. To be fair, to my recollection, only Bludhaven and Coast City have ever been completely destroyed by supervillains, so what chance would they have against an entire planet or universe?

Yet another thing that gets on my tits is how so many of these universe-spanning dramas always seem to end up focusing on Earth. Why Earth specifically? Is it because alien civilisations hate us for inventing reality television? However, Earth is actually even more important than we previously imagined. An entire Green Lantern Corps with a member from almost every “civilisation” out there, and it keeps focusing on bloody Earth. If we do ever make contact with other worlds, I hope they immediately hate us for being completely obsessed with our own importance.

The plot does occasionally seem to jump from someone going off to do something to it being done already, with Hal gathering a lantern of every colour being the most obvious example. I’m sure that it’s all in the spin-offs, such as Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps, but surely it’s not too difficult to write a story that flows, instead of being a bit jumpy? Don’t get me wrong, I like reading the different spin-offs, discovering what this person or that team did in that situation, but they should be separate enough that I shouldn’t have to read them for the main story to make sense.

Blackest Night, despite a few niggles and a typically cheesy Johns finish, is still an enjoyable read. Ivan Reis’ art is extremely sharp and detailed, certainly making up for the occasional lapses in the writing, as it manages to convey the light and the dark with the same levels of intensity without making one feel more important than the other. However, it does feel like it could have been better if they weren’t trying so hard to make sure certain events happened. It feels like elements were forced to conclude one way when the natural ending was originally quite different. Maybe Johns should have thought about writing the best Blackest Night plot he possibly could instead of diluting it to make sure Brightest Day could happen. While it’s not a bad story, it is rather flawed and therefore I would suggest reading only if you’re a Green Lantern fan, which is a wholly disappointing end to a story I was greatly looking forward to.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • Brightest Day was a 26-issue bi-weekly comic book written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi. Also, Action Comics featured a story arc in which Lex Luthor starts a universal quest to locate the energy of the Black Lantern Corps after being infused with the Orange Light of Avarice.
  • Johns was a co-producer on the awful 2011 Green Lantern film.

Comments

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2 Comments

  1. Gormania says:

    Your review makes it sound as if you haven’t read John’s GL run leading into the Blackest Night and/or the GL/Corp tie-ins which really paint a background image of the plot, specifically the introduction of each lantern color as the series progresses. Disagree with this entire article ASIDE from your accurate description of his watered down ending and quick wrap-up to flow into the [terrible] Brightest Day series

    • Comic Compendium says:

      Thanks for reading the review, I’m sorry you have a few niggles with it (although it does sound rather similar to my opinion of BN) and I readily admit that the only Johns’ GL I’d read before BN was ‘Secret Origin’. Yet if you have a major crossover that will affect the entire DC Universe you can’t have plot points that only make sense if you’ve read the lead in. I thought the explanation of what the corps colours meant was decent, but the reasons as to why they came into existent was lacking, and if you imagine almost 177,000 people read the first issue of BN and approximately only 100,000 people read the ‘agent orange’ prelude to blackest night that’s at least 70,000 people reading the series who haven’t read the immediate prelude, never mind the extra people who only picked GL up for the BN prelude so haven’t read the long-term hints and build up. It should be able to stand alone and I attempt to review individual comic storylines on their own merits rather than as an entire series (unless like the Ultimate X-Men review it was intentional).
      I hope you continue to read the Comic Compendium, and I look forward to more praise or constructive criticism!

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