Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blackest Night #1 - A Review

Blackest Night #1 (of 8)
Publisher DC

Writer Geoff Johns

Pencils Ivan Reis

Inks Oclair Albert

Colors Alex Sinclair

This was a great opening to this event. It served as a true starting off point to the story and it had an epic feel to it. Johns with this story may finally give DC that smash event that they have been looking for. Infinite Crisis was not it. It had a lot going on and tons of stuff happening but ultimately fell short. Final Crisis wasn’t it. It had an epic feel to it and had tons of stuff going on, but Grant Morrison’s experiment in how to tell the story failed for me (it may work when I read it again in one sitting). Over at Marvel they have certainly had sales successes with House of M, Civil War and Secret Invasion, but it all still has felt a little hollow. This feels more organic and it is more of a home grown event. While it will be wide ranging and impacting all over the DCU, it is still at its heart a Green Lantern story. In thinking about it I think an epic adventure needs to have a central focus. In some ways Grant saw that also and made Superman the heart of Final Crisis, but this is the story of the Green Lantern Corps in the midst of their worse day.

The lead-ins felt a little crammed at times with almost too much information, but the build up has been continuous for about a year and really longer. Then last week the prologue was excellent as we see Black Hand become the first Black Lantern. Then we get to this issue and we see the true beginning of the Black Lantern Corps.

I liked how it started off slow and gave us a story about how the DCU have come to honor their fallen dead and made it into a time to mourn and celebrate all at once. I like that idea, that if I die (I know I said if, I refuse to believe I will) that people would both be a little sad that I died, but that they would also laugh and celebrate what I may have contributed to their lives (if anything). This showed a celebration in Coast City, people mourning the lost of various heroes like Ronnie Raymond, Ted Kord, Black Condor, Phantom Lady, Aquaman, Batman, Martian Manhunter and more. It gave us glimpses of the personal loses suffered by Hal, John, Kyle and Guy. It used those scenes to build a sense of the amount of death the heroes of the DCU have endured and some of the scenes gave us a subtle sense of foreboding of what was coming. One of the most powerful scenes in this opening half of the book was with Hal and Barry Allen as Barry learns of all who have died since he has been gone and when Hal shows them with his ring it is a staggering number of people.

We then cut to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. We see Carter Hall in a rage as he is talking to Ray Palmer on the phone. Kendra tries to talk to him, but her rejection of him has just made him worse and the anger in Carter is palatable.

Next we cut to the Guardians who see they have failed. The lights of the emotional spectrum of the other corps have broken out into battle. They are about to call out the entire corps when Scar reveals himself and actually bites the throat of a fellow Guardian and rips out his heart. The black rings begin to fly out across the universe calling out to the dead. And many, many people who had died have now risen again as the black corps is formed with the bodies of people and loved ones who have died. The numbers are overwhelming.

Not to be content to just get us that far, Johns continues the story. We flip back to see Hawkman and Hawkgirl as they are attacked by Ralph (Elongated Man) and his wife Sue. Kendra is killed and then Carter and then we see that they are being turned into Black Lanterns. I feel sorry for Hawkman as even since Johns left his book his continuity (that Johns had fixed) has gotten stamped on and screwed over 100 times. He was killed off in Final Crisis (but that was explained away), he was a main player in Starlin corner of the DCU and that was taken away and now Johns ended his life here. Still since Johns brought him back and fixed him as well as anyone could, he should be able to be the one who kills him.

It was just a great opening act. It built on what had come before, but it felt very accessible to me. It gave us the high points of what has been happening and then jumped feet first into the story. It gave us the start of the story and then gave us the dramatic ending, which was not the death of the Hawks, but the fact that they immediately become Black Lanterns. This has started like an epic event and as I said it feels organic. The story was the natural flow of things and not the forced type of events other things have been. Also it has a focus, Hal and the GL Corps are the heart of the story and I think this will make it an event story line they may stand the test of time (almost no “event” really holds up over time). I can’t wait for more.

Now if you think this book was all about the story you would be wrong. Move over Neal Adams, Bryan Hitch look over your shoulder, George Perez watch out because Ivan Reis is announcing to the comic world that he can draw with the best of them. The two pages spread of Hal, John, Kyle and Guy flying into Coast City with the Air Force jets flying beside them was wonderful. The panels afterwards showing the losses these men have suffered took us from the “wow and cool” feeling to the gasp in horror feeling. The quite moments at the grave yards, the double page spread of Hal showing Barry who has died with his ring, the emotions, the rich details, the battle scenes, the savagery of Scar, Ivan has it all. His photorealistic style is very much in the Adams / Hitch type category and he does it very well. Of course his inker Oclair Albert is a perfect compliment to his pencils. His inks let Ivan’s pencils shine through and give them the extra depth and strength that is needed. Ivan is a perfect artistic choice and catching someone at the height of their prowess. Finally the colorist is Alex Sinclair. Probably the best super hero colorist in the business. He always sets the right tone and never overpowers the art. His work is a true enhancement to the book and a testament to what coloring can do to make the pictures pop off the page.

Overall Grade A – Blackest Night will be DC’s Biggest Hit. This is an event that you really do not want to miss. Do not wait for the trade.

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