Book of Doom: Blackest Night #0

One of my earliest thoughts when reading this story, most of which is a conversation between Hal Jordan and Barry Allen near Batman’s grave, was “I can’t believe this was written by the same guy who wrote Flash: Rebirth #1. I actually – no lie – flipped back to the cover to double-check that this was Geoff Johns, but more because Flash: Rebirth #1 was so bad and this felt so much like Johns at his best. He packs so much power into so few words when he needs to, like “It’s not my fault hiding in the shadows is your only ‘super power'” and “…If there’s an escape [from death], you can bet Batman’s already planning it.” Then there was that fantastic bit of dialogue in which Hal reveals the new Robin to Barry:

HAL: “…And Robin’s insisting that Bruce isn’t really gone.”
BARRY: “He’s holding onto hope. That’s what Dick always gave Batman.”
HAL: “I meant Tim Drake, Barry. You haven’t met him yet. He’s the current Robin.”
BARRY: “Right. Tim Drake. I like him already.”

I mean how sweet is that? Barry learns a little about the new Robin, but the readers learn a ton about Barry, and count me among the readers who needed to learn about Barry, particularly after not liking him much post-Flash: Rebirth #1. But what is so cool about this is that these two guys who have returned from the dead are having the luxury of reminiscing on their deaths as part of a conversation, all the while the threat of the Black Lanterns is looming overhead.

Although this wasn’t intended to provide laughter, I also got a kick out of the damage control regarding Aquaman. It wasn’t long ago that Grant Morrison was explicitly stating he brought Aquaman back from the dead as part of Final Crisis; shortly thereafter, DC editorial was dismissing that as just some Aquaman from the multiverse; and here, art imitates life with the line “There were rumors of his resurfacing during Darkseid’s attack, but they were just that … rumors.” Translation: Apparently nobody told Grant Morrison that Aquaman was going to be a Black Lantern.

In spite of the fact that this was a pretty short story, I thought this was one of the best comics I’ve read in a long time. Johns was so good at the poignant human moments in this issue that it was almost like he was showing off, making it look so easy and natural. And I have to admit, in spite of a relatively limited number of high-profile additions to the DC body count in the past couple years, I wasn’t expecting the surprise recruit to the Black Lantern roster that came at the end of this issue. And though I’ve felt like the Red Lanterns were a bit underwhelming, the Orange Lanterns somewhat lame, the Blue Lanterns somewhat annoying, the Star Sapphires somewhat hot, and the Indigo Lanterns somewhat stupid looking, I’m willing to be patient with all of that crap knowing that it’s leading up to the gut punch of the Black Lanterns. I’m excited to see who all those hands are punching up from the graveyard Thriller-style (So far the only ones I can identify are Martian Manhunter, Superman and Aquaman).

Enough gushing from me — let’s see what the rest of the gang had to say.

The prelude to the big thing that’s happening is … well … short. It’s ruminations from Green Lantern and the Flash, both formerly dead DC heroes, as they stand over the grave of Bruce Wayne, currently dead superhero. They have a nice chat about superhero mortality and then fly off and then there’s a creepy prelude.

Except unlike the rest of the Legion, I haven’t read GL since the new series failed to impress me, so I have no idea what’s really going on. I mean, I sort of know from reading the blog. But I have no investment in what I know – no reason to really care about “Blackest Night” aside from the words of people with Doom in their names.

So it doesn’t seem like it will be bad, per say. But with this new array of Lanterns, it feels like it’ll clog continuity once a less capable writer is aboard. Then it will be brought back to some semblance of square one. I guess this is the cyclical nature of comics, but it just seems like the road to heart ache, and with the Black Lanterns, perhaps what can become a cheap ploy to cycle old characters back in.

This weeks book is fine and dandy and whatever, but I’d feel cheated had I paid for this. And all things considered, I look forward to reading Jim Doom’s thoughts about reading Blackest Night as it unfolds.

Doom DeLuise:
This is the first comic I’ve picked up in months that I actually read and re-read many different times. In particular, I’ve spent a great deal of time poring over the last few splash pages of the different Lantern groups. The amount of detail in those pages astonishes me, and it truly surprises me that this was a free comic. A free comic that just so happens to be my favorite comic I’ve read in months. What are the odds of that?

What’s really interesting about my love for this comic is only apparent after you think about what actually happens in the issue. Hal Jordan and Barry Allen have a conversation at the site of Batman’s grave. That’s it. And at the issue’s close, we get our first glimpse of a Black Lantern, with the long-foreshadowed reveal that Black Hand will be the leader of the zombie lanterns.

The trick is in the characterization of the two main characters as they discuss current events and past issues. I especially enjoy how Hal’s not just moping about Bruce’s death without acknowledging the fact that the two of them rarely saw eye-to-eye on how to be heroes. But after all was said and done, they were friends. That relationship was one of the cooler developments during the events around Infinite Crisis, and I’m glad Geoff Johns pointed out the complexity of their friendship without glossing over the bad stuff.

I also felt like Barry Allen was acting like his old self again in this issue. Hard to believe the same guy who wrote this is writing Flash: Rebirth, which I didn’t much care for in the debut issue.

If you haven’t read it already, seek out a copy of this thing immediately and get onboard for Blackest Night. It’s gonna be a doozy.