08
Jan
10

What I’m Reading: A Month of Blackest Night!

Okay, so over the holidays I fell behind on my Blackest Night reviews. I’m sorry. I’m so… so sorry. Please forgive me.

Sniff.

Okay, now that that’s done, let’s talk about some comics! First, as promised, let me link you to my Comixtreme.com review of Superman/Batman #67. (I’m not going to duplicate full reviews from there over here, but I will point you in that direction.) Then, I’ll go through the rest of the tie-ins to the event of the year in the order in which they came out. There’s a lot of ’em here, so let’s get started!

Outsiders #25: Terra confronts her brother, begging him for help. She begs him to kill her, ending her existence as a Black Lantern… but is she being genuine, or is this just another example of Black Lanterns pulling the emotional strings of the living? Katana, meanwhile, faces her late husband, while Creeper does the surprise team-up thing with captive Killer Croc. As I’ve come to expect, Tomasi does a really good job nailing the emotions of each character. He sells us on each of them, working in great stuff for the Outsiders who are forced to face a dead love one, and having fun with those who don’t. Halo gets some very nice moments in this issue, and the Creeper/Croc team-up is a blast. I almost wish Croc was joining the cast of the book. We also get a feel for how the original members are somewhat divorced from the “newcomers” (namely Creeper and Owlman). The dynamic is interesting. Fernando Pasarin and Derec Donovan are the artists this month, and while both of them are good artists, their styles are really quite different. If you’re going to shift artists in one story, you need to get two artists whose styles mesh, and that’s not the case here. I’m sorry to see Tomasi leaving this book, but he had a good run.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League of America #40: In part two of “Reunion,” we watch as the remnants of the Detroit-era Justice League do battle with their less-fortunate teammates, and Gypsy and Vixen find no love lost with the dead Steel and Vibe. Zatanna continues her battle with her dead father, Red Tornado is out and Plastic Man can barely hold it together. James Robinson has a nice feel for these different characters, and even though most of them aren’t going to carry over to his regular JLA team, he makes them feel like significant, important characters, and that this is a story worth telling. The highlight of this issue, however, is the battle between Dr. Light and her late villain counterpart. Between this book and Superman, Robinson is doing really interesting stuff with Dr. Light, stuff I haven’t seen before. This is some of the best screen time the character has ever gotten, and I’m really glad she’s made the cut on the regular team. Mark Bagley has always been a fan favorite artist, but I must admit, all of his characters seem to look really young. Not a problem during his days on New Warriors or Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s been noticable in stuff like Trinity. Fortunately, most of the new team is going to be relatively young, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Really good issue.

Rating: 8/10

Green Lantern Corps #43: After the staggering events of last issue, I have to admit, this one was a bit of a letdown. (If you haven’t read issue #42 yet be warned, spoilers follow.) Last month we watched as Kyle Rayner sacrificed his life to save the main power battery on Oa from an invading army of Black Lanterns. This month, his lover Soranik Natu struggles desperately to bring him back. As Soranik — a doctor as well as a Green Lantern — works on Kyle, his partner Guy Gardner allows himself to succumb to his rage… Guy Gardner is now a Red Lantern. The Guy stuff here is handled really well. Peter Tomasi has done a nice job of selling Kyle and Guy as buddies, and I’ve got no problem at all seeing Guy go red with anger at Kyle’s death. My only real beef here comes in the bits with Soranik Natu. (I’m going to try very hard not to spoil this particular issue, but that won’t be easy.) Soranik’s efforts have an interesting result. Nothing happens here that I didn’t expect, but I didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly, and I feel like there was a missed opportunity to tell an interesting story or two in the meantime. There, I think that did it. I still liked this issue, but not as much as I expected to.

Rating: 7/10

Blackest Night: JSA #1: The last Blackest Night spin-off miniseries starts here with the creative team of Blackest Night: Superman picking up the story they began there. The Justice Society is caught off-guard when several of its Golden Age members — the original Sandman, Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific among others — rise from the dead and attack. Superman and Superboy, meanwhile, have brought the defeated Black Lantern Superman (of Earth-2) and Psycho-Pirate to the current Mr. Terrific to study and — hopefully — find a weakness. This issue takes place on the heels of Blackest Night #5, and it’s a nice way to shine a spotlight on these heroes in the midst of those events. While most of the zombie comparisons to these titles have been derisive, this is one of the few stories I’ve yet seen where the comparison is apt. Watching the still-living JSA members holed up in their headquarters, trying to stave off the swarm of Black Lanterns, has a definite Night of the Living Dead vibe to it, and I mean that as a compliment. James Robinson nails the mood of this piece, giving us a fantastic stand-off between the living and the dead. The plot threads carried over from Blackest Night: Superman are also solid. I don’t know if DC has really considered how these miniseries will be packaged in the inevitable trade paperback releases, but the two miniseries by Robinson and Eddy Barrows really should be collected together.

Rating: 8/10

Teen Titans #78: Why in the world has J.T. Krul not been given one of the Titans family books to write on an ongoing basis? I don’t even care which one. Between this two-parter and the previous Blackest Night: Titans miniseries, he’s shown a better grasp of these characters than any writer since Geoff Johns left. In fact, I’ll say this is one of the beast Deathstroke stories I have ever read. Ravager, last issue, hunted down her father with the intention of killing him. Instead, the two of them found themselves in an uneasy alliance, fighting for their lives against the Black Lanterns of their shared past. And just when things looked their worst, an unexpected ally arrived — Ravager’s brother and Deathstroke’s son, Jericho, who is looking in much better shape than he did the last time we saw him. The richness of the characters here is wonderful. Krul absolutely sells us on a genuine relationship between the father and children that makes sense and works perfectly in the context of the story. And while Deathstroke is still undeniably a bad guy (as he should be), this issue also manages to paint him as a father too, something that hasn’t been done very well since the days of Wolfman and Perez. There are a few things in this issue that make me believe there are plans in the works for Deathstroke, and in fact he’s supposedly joining the regular cast of the Titans series soon, but without Krul at the wheel, it’ll be hard to get me on board. He’s one of DC’s rising stars, and I’ll be anxiously watching where he goes next.

Rating: 9/10

Green Lantern #49: Since this event began, Geoff Johns has used the main Green Lantern title to basically tell the stories in-between issues of Blackest Night. This issue is no exception. While Hal Jordan has been assembling the “new Guardians” and Kyle and Guy are facing the dead of Oa, what’s been up with John Stewart? The fourth Green Lantern of Earth takes the spotlight this issue, as he has to face the dead of the planet Xanshi, a world he failed to save from destruction years ago. If that wasn’t bad enough, his dead wife Katma Tui is part of the assault. John is, in many ways, the Neglected Lantern these days. He had a bit more of a spotlight when he was on Justice League Unlimited, but he’s taken a back seat to Hal in the title they ostensibly share. This is a really good spotlight on John, and it comes not a moment too soon. What makes this issue more interesting, however, is the back-up story. In a “Tales From the Corps” story, we follow the Atom and Mera, who shrank down between the molecules of a Black Lantern ring. With the Black Lantern Jean Loring as their guide, the delve into the origins of Nekron himself, and find a valuable ally in the process — Deadman. This look back into the history of the Black Lanterns is pretty good, and even better is the fact that the always-welcome Jerry Ordway does the art. And when it’s over, it’s time to jump right into Blackest Night #6. So let’s shall we?

Rating: 8/10

Blackest Night #6: The only book that came out on December 30 is likely the book that would have been the best in any given week. Last issue, Nekron revealed that he’s been allowing people to “return” from the dead for years, setting them up as foot soldiers for this invasion. Now he’s turned the likes of Superman, Green Arrow, Superboy, Wonder Woman, and more into Black Lanterns, and the grand prize will be taking Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. As the two of them race for their lives — literally — Ganthet decides a little more firepower is needed for this battle to turn, and he begins a really interesting recruiting drive. The fanboy in me turned as giddy as a child on Christmas when I realized where this was going, and the final two-page spread had me as excited as I’ve been for a comic in a very long time. Beyond just the action figure potential of these pages, we’re seeing something that’s a hell of a lot of fun playing out against an intense backdrop. We’re seeing the restructuring of the Green Lantern Corps and DC’s cosmic side as a whole, we’re seeing characters like Ray Palmer and Mera (freaking Mera) raised to A-list status, and we’re getting it all under the prism of just beautiful art by Ivan Reis. Have I said I love this book? Because I’ll say it again. I. Love. This. Book.

Rating: 9/10

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2: Set between the pages of Blackest Night #6, this issue features Wonder Woman as a Black Lantern. As we’ve come to suspect, we see that the real person and the Black Lantern are separate entities, with one controlling the other. As Black Lantern Wonder Woman battles Wonder Girl and Mera, the “real” Wonder Woman, riding shotgun, struggles for freedom. The book also expands greatly upon the last few pages of Blackest Night #6, showing what happens to Wonder Woman there from a different perspective. In and of itself, the issue is fine. Greg Rucka is a good writer and knows Wonder Woman well. The art, by Nicola Scott and Eduardo Pansica, is very nice. Scott is one of DC’s greatest artistic assets right now, and they’d be insane not to try to get more high-profile work out of her. The issue here is that, unlike the other Blackest Night miniseries, this one doesn’t seem to be telling a solid story of its own. Instead, it seems to exist only to slip between the pages of the main event. That’s not quite enough for me. It’s not bad when it happens in a spin-off issue of an ongoing, especially one as tightly tied to the main book as Green Lantern is, but it seems a bit superfluous to create a miniseries expressly for that purpose. It will also make it a less satisfying read in collected edition later.

Rating: 6/10

Suicide Squad #67: There will be no issue of Blackest Night in January, which is very very sad, but that doesn’t mean the tie-ins will stop. In fact, DC is doing something pretty cool this month to come up with unique tie-ins. They’ve taken eight old series, books that have been canceled for years (or, in some cases, decades) and they’ve brought them back for one more issue. If the characters can come back from the dead, why not the titles, right? First up is Suicide Squad #67, written by Gail Simone and original series writer John Ostrander, with art by Jim Calafiore. As Simone is using former Squad member Deadshot to great effect in her Secret Six series, it only makes sense that this one-shot would tie in to that one. The Six and the Squad find themselves at odds when the Six are hired to break out a convicted drug dealer from the prison where the Squad is based. As the two teams face each other, the dead of the past begin to rise. This isn’t a bad issue, and it’s great as part of a crossover between the two teams, but the Blackest Night connection is actually pretty tenuous. It begins with one character rising from the dead, it ends with several more rising, but otherwise there’s no real connection. The story continues in next week’s Secret Six #17, so there’s more to come, but I can’t help but wish there was more here.

Rating: 7/10

Weird Western Tales #71: The next book brought back this month (and the last in this review-a-thon) is one of DC’s old-school western titles. The light-based hero called The Ray has managed to snare one of the Black Lantern rings, and he brings it to a facility in the west, near the mass graves of a slew of cowboys, soldiers, and Indians slain during the wild and wooly days of the DC Universe. The likes of Scalphunter, Super-Chief, Bat Lash, and the king of DC’s western tales himself, Jonah Hex, all rise to reclaim the ring. Honestly, I didn’t really have high expectations for this book — it seemed a bit more of a stunt than some of the other “dead” titles brought back here — but I was pleasantly surprised. DC’s executive editor, Dan Didio, has put together a story that is suitably creepy — in fact, this too has the hopeless horror movie feel of a great zombie flick — but he also managed to capture the flavor of a western in the process. That sort of combination isn’t easy. Renato Arlem‘s artwork fits in nicely, and the result is a book that’s actually better than it should be.

Rating: 7/10

So that’s it, friends. I’m all caught up, and actually, I kind of like this format. I have no intention of letting another month go by with no reviews, but from now on, I may do a single weekly review post instead of separate ones for each title. Seems more efficient that way, doesn’t it?


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