Jun 8, 2010

[Comics] Blackest Night (DC)

Blackest Night (DC)I don't fully understand how it happened, but in recent years zombies have come back as a pretty cool plot device. Sure, zombie movies have been around since forever but if you tried tracking their popularity in recent years, you'll notice a sharp increase in zombie-related media.

I figured we were definitely headed in a strange direction when the comic book industry decided to embrace zombie culture completely, resulting in some pretty strange comic book stories, events and alternate realities. I think one of the more ridiculous outputs of the rise of zombie culture definitely has to be the Marvel Zombies storyline, complete with it's own official designation as being Earth 2149. But of course the fun didn't end there.

When DC announced this major crossover event, I was a bit annoyed and yet not at all surprised. Positioned as the logical conclusion to events that pretty much started during the SInestro Corps War storyline and continued with the introduction of the alternative color-coded corps in story arcs like Mystery of the Star Sapphire, Rage of the Red Lanterns and Agent Orange. All were meant to come into conflict with one another in what had been prophesied to be the "War of Light" as was ultimately fulfilled in this comic book event.

Blackest Night is the comic book crossover event for 2009-2010. Although primarily centered around the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps books, the event spilled-over into many different DC titles as well. This is a review of the event as a whole and not just the 8-issue Blackest Night limited series.

Teaser for "Blackest Night" from the...Image via Wikipedia

The seeds of Blackest Night were sown at the end of the Sinestro Corps War with the formation of a Black Lantern on a distant world. After the emergence of the different color corps as based on what is now known as the "emotional spectrum", the stage was pretty much set for the War of Light to begin in earnest and the Black Lantern to fully come into power. This triggers the release of thousands of Black Lantern rings that seek out the bodies of the dead in order to revive them. Somehow the rings are able to animate the dead with their memories and super powers intact as well.

Thus the Black Lanterns now start attacking Earth and Oa as part of some greater plan. In order to further their goals, the Laterns using the bodies of those closest to Earth's heroes approach them individually in order to evoke stronger emotional responses, thus potentially giving them more fuel to feed on once they consume the hearts of the still-living heroes. It's chaos all over the universe and the only hope appears to lie in bringing together the seven leagues to fight the Black Lanterns together.

In past events, DC would have the main crossover comic book title with around 4 or more limited edition comics running within the theme of the major arc. This was probably better demonstrated during Infinite Crisis with its four tie-in's The OMAC Project, Rann-Thanagar War, Day of Vengeance and Villains United. This is still separate from any one-shot crossovers with on-going comic book titles. This time around, DC decided to go for about 7 different limited comic book runs with a whole host of 1-2 issue tie-ins embedded within existing titles and of course the on-going saga within the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps books. So yeah, this whole thing felt like a major money-making mess of a tale.

Build up for the story was certainly very interesting as we started to see heroes and villains coming back to lie in a zombie-fied format one-by-one with their own little emotional tales of woe. This included past lovers, heated rivals and a few kids here and there. It was a nice opportunity to revisit certain old plot lines and show some character vulnerabilities across the DC Universe. The early books also started to hint at little chinks in the armor of the Black Lanterns such as how different colors of light made them vulnerable to attacks and the mystery of why the various incarnations of the hero / heroine Dove were immune to the Black Lantern's effects of resurrection.

But as the story progressed, a lot of these plot threads were abandoned for no obvious reason. For months upon months we had been reading about how the War of Light would be coming and the only way to stop the coming Blackest Night would be for the different colors of the emotional spectrum to come together as one. However once the third act of the story was rolling along and the different color corps were starting to work together like some crazy Captain Planet parody, their combined efforts didn't work and thus they had to change tracks and figure out another way to stop the zombies. And no, they never did explain why Dove's powers were so effective against the Black Lanterns either.

The side stories and tie-in issues are just a lot of fluff and you should get by more than fine by just reading the core Blackest Night issues along with the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps books. Everything beyond that is just more useless story pseudo-development that never contributes to the conclusion of the entire series and really drives home the point that this was never about the other guys - this is just about the Green Lanterns.

Once you cut all that stuff away, the resulting story isn't totally bad. As a longtime Green Lantern fan, the books do present a lot of interesting angles plus there are some blatantly fan-pandering moments that you just have to love. Yes, I am talking about watching Mogo join the battle. If you are not excited by the prospects of a Green Lantern who happens to be a sentient planet, well, then you need to check if you still have a pulse yourself. Majority of the run is pretty good but the story definitely suffers from major third act problems.

In the end, Blackest Night certainly had the potential to be a jaw-dropping crossover event but was ultimately revealed to be a springboard for more DC retcons and of course Brightest Day. The entire event gets 3.5 WTF Black Lantern zombie stories that end up going nowhere out of a possible 5.

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