So, I'm back from the beautifully gorgeous U.S. Virgin Islands just in time for what I've been really looking forward to this summer — "Blackest Night!" Screw vacation, give me zombies any day of the week!
I'll get to more of an explanation for where I've been and why I abandoned you for so long, but for now I just got finished reading the first three parts of "Blackest Night" (including last week's Green Lantern #43, which I only just saw today, but not including the Free Comic Book Day issue), so we're all about zombies in this post.
Amazingly, when I start to think about this event's debut issues, I think less about action (though there was a good deal of it) and more about what we learned. First and foremost, Blackest Night #1 not only taught us the general demeanor of the zombie lanterns, but also the identities of many.
And yes, there are spoilers coming, so please put on your spoiler earmuffs if you don't want to learn a thing or two...
One of the most interesting parts of these issues is hearing (or reading, as the case may be) the Black Lanterns (or BLs from now on) speak. Not once did we get a zombie yelling "BRAINS!" Instead, we found out that these BLs have carried over their personalities from their previous, more warm-blooded lives. On the one hand, it was pretty creepy watching Ralph and Sue Dibney interact with each other and act with the same attitude they've always had, and yet, they were bashing their friend's head in. On the other hand, was there any real difference between how they acted here and just another "hero falls under evil mind control" storyline? I suppose the main difference is the emotional weight. This is definitely a "wait and see" sticking point for me.
This also begs the question of why their personality would carry over, and yet the BLs are still looking to kill their best friends. But, I trust we'll get a good answer to that question soon enough.
Writer Geoff Johns (I cannot believe I got so far into this post without mentioning his name) also gave us a quick example of the strange rhythm we are to expect in this event — Heroes fight BLs; BLs kill heroes; Heroes receive BL rings. It will just be interesting to see just how many of our beloved heroes become zombified before the tide turns to the side of good.
On a related note, I really enjoyed the splash page showing all of the newly-minted BLs on OA, each one a character we watched die during the past two very bloody years of "Green Lantern" comics. Nothing like a giant "War of Light" to provide zombie fodder.
Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1 also taught us a good deal, with three standalone stories, the first of which was a fantastic Johns-penned origin story of Saint Walker, worth the price of admission on its own. The second story? Not so much. Watching Mongol run around killing things as a young boy is not my idea of necessary, and really the only thing I was left wondering was just how much of a role does Mongol play in this storyline with Sinestro looking to take back leadership of his Corps. Maybe he becomes a BL himself?
The third story, though, is where the intrigue begins — a story introducing the Indigo Tribe. We get to watch the compassionate bunch in action for the first time. The only problem is, Johns intentionally keeps us all pretty much in the dark by making their language indecipherable and failing to narrate anything. So we're left with Rags Morales' art to show us that the Indigo Tribes' staffs seem to inhale the light of other lanterns and then use that power against them. As far as compassion goes, we watch the Indigo leader put a Green Lantern out of his critically-injured misery by suffocating him, and scare a Yellow Lantern away instead of pursue him for nearly murdering a GL. Interesting stuff.
Finally (actually it was chronologically first), Green Lantern #43 gave us a whole lot more information on one of our story's main antagonists, Black Hand. However, I don't know what you all thought of this issue last week (I was without Internet for seven days, so checking reviews on an issue was not first on my to-do list), but this origin story fell a little flat to me. Don't get me wrong, aspects of the story were downright awesome, like the fact that BH's original costume was made from a body bag and that Johns insinuates BH's first kiss was with a corpse. It was the crescendo that falls flat for me. The best Johns could think of was BH killing his family? That's sort of played-out as far as villain origin stories go.
And, unfortunately, for as much as I enjoyed all of the information Johns dropped on us this week, the first issue of "Blackest Night" fell a bit flat for me too — and probably because my expectations were so high.
See? I bet you thought a formal review wasn't on its way!
The main device Johns uses to bring us readers into the story — a day in which all of the heroes across the planet are gathering to honor their fallen — felt a bit too close to the debut of "Flash: Rebirth," in which Johns began the story gathering heroes into parties everywhere to celebrate Barry Allen. I don't know if we was looking for that symmetry or not, but it came off as unoriginal to me, not clever.
Further, I could not help but compare this first issue to the feeling I remember while reading "Sinestro Corps War #1," which left my jaw on the floor with amazement and possibilities. Here, it was impossible for Johns to floor us with his ideas because all he really did was run through a list of every dead character over the last 20 years, and insinuated that all would be back as BLs. Well ... we've been compiling that same list for the last two years since "Blackest Night" was officially announced, so this issue felt more like a formality instead of a revelation. Learning about Black Lantern Ralph Dibney did not have the saw shock as Yellow Lantern Superboy Prime.
That said, this series definitely leaves the reader with the feeling that the action will be cranked up to 11 in a very short time, so it still managed to hit its goal of getting this reader anxious for more. I just can't wait to see what happens when BL Ted Kord and BL Maxwell Lord team up!