Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blackest Night #4 – A Review

Blackest Night #4 (of 8)

Writer Geoff Johns

Pencils Ivan Reis

Inks Oclair Albert & Joe Prado

Colors – Alex Sinclair

Price $3.99 – 25 Pages and story and art, 2 pages illustrated text

I love this event, but unfortunately this issue had middle chapteritis. This disease inflicts many book as a saga has it ebbs and flows and it is seldom that any creator can succeed in making every chapter that slam bang hang onto the edge of your seats type of excitement. I will admit to a tinge of disappointment with this issue as my expectations had been raised to such levels that anything short of a grand slam feels like a little bit of a let down. It is tough when you have set your own bar so high, that you can’t always make that height each and every time out.

With that as the caveat this was still a wonderful issue. Let’s start with the art. Ivan Reis is the love child of Neal Adams and Alan Davis, with a little George Perez thrown in for good measure. As a super hero artist, no one, right now, is doing it better. He is beating out anyone you want to name and since Marvel’s big event has Hitch, yes he is doing a better job then Hitch. We start with 5 wide screen panels on page 1, a two page spread with tons of Black Lanterns, next a three panel page then two back to back six panel pages with large and small panels mixed in. Ivan is utilizing the larger panel to be the close up dramatic shots and the smaller panels to show the action. This is a Barry Allen issue and his use of multiple images of Barry and blurring effects to show speed are very well done. The art shows the action, the emotions, the drama, the tragic moments and all are done well and the story is never lost. This is important in that not only is Ivan doing a great job with his photo realistic and fluid style, but he understands how to tell the story. Geoff scripts may layout the panels (I don’t know), but the artist has to make it work. When this work is collected in an oversized edition it will be a blast to pour over the work. If DC is listening do a directors cut with John’s and Ivan’s commentary over the black and white work as the back up for the collection.

Two more points about the art. First, hats off to Albert and Prado. The level of detail in the pencils must have been tough to do justice to as an inker. These guys did such a great job of showing off Reis’s work that in reading it I never noticed a switch in who inked what. Second is Alex Sinclair, who is one of the top colorists and he is really strutting his stuff here, perhaps more then ever as he keeps it a super hero type palette, but also makes it an appropriately dark book. This is a coloring job that is a truly masterful job of setting the tone, lighting, mood in both subtle and overt ways. Alex always enhances art, never overwhelms.

The actual story has a little bit of middle chapteritis as the crux of this book was the Flash running around and being the super hero Paul Revere and letting the troops know what is happening and what they can try to do to combat it. Essentially he is letting the super hero community know what the Black Lanterns are and what they are not, what harmed them and that they need to fight a holding action as Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan is gathering help to shut this menace down. At the end we see that maybe the whole thing has been a feint as Nekron shows up and appears to be the guy behind everything. I now know why DC started to let the cat out of the bag about Nekron being behind it, because I have no real clue who he is and why he is behind the whole thing without a little wiki help. DC really should have released a reprint of the Nekron story from years back as background, but I’m sure Johns will fill in any blanks and may have revamped him somewhat since that story from 1981. Basically he has been shown to be a lord of the dead and has resurrected people before.

Some great elements of this story is the spotlight given to Ray Palmer as DC seems set on making him the Atom again, pushing the new Atom off stage. Johns does a nice job with Ray and since we have Barry and Hal back I guess Ray fits better, but I was happy with Ryan Choi. Also Mera is getting a big role which is a total shock as she has always been a background character. I’m enjoying that as I always thought Mera was a cool character and had better water based powers then Aquaman ever did. The shocking death of a JSA member was a stunner. I was reading the section where the JSA are fighting off Black Lanterns and I had already moved past the deaths from before when the deadly danger these foes represent was brought home with **&^&*’s death. You really get the feeling that unless you have your own book, you could die.

Another part of this issue that was surprising is that Hal Jordan was not in the issue at all. Even with this event being an outgrowth from the GL book Johns is weaving the actual event to being its own story. Earth has become the focal point again with Nekron’s arrival, but prior to this it appeared as OA was the center of this story. Finally Johns has really put death on the table so to speak. We have major “B” players being taken out and a lot of “C” level characters biting the dust. How this all plays out is really intriguing and this event is really engaging me into the DCU like few things have. I’m anxious to see what DC is offering after this event is over and it better be an immediate follow up with an actual impact. One of the failings of Final Crisis is that absent the “death of Bruce Wayne” the landscape in the DCU did not change. DC has been behind Marvel in changing the landscape of their Universe and if they do this right it could reap benefits for their line for a couple of years. I’m really curious to see how DC deals with all of these deaths, reviving all of these people would make a mockery of this event, so I think most have to remain dead.

In re-reading my own review, even with that tinge of middle chapteritis, this was another great chapter in the Blackest Night event.

Overall Grade A- The more I reviewed it, the better it got. Johns and Reis are the current reigning Kings of comics right now.

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