Monday, July 20, 2009

Blackest Night #1

I debated for the better part of a day on just how best to review this book.

In the end, I have decided that rather than address the complaints of the haters (who wouldn't be satisfied with anything I have to say, anyway), I am just going to show you - in order - the five things about this book that I liked the most. I hope this may give you all some insight into the subtle beauty and craft of this tale.

1. A National Day of Mourning For Fallen Superheroes

Say what you will about Geoff Johns, but the guy does know how to world-build. He is always sneaking little details on how day-to-day life in the DC Comics universe is shaped by the existence of super heroes. And the idea of a National holiday in the USA, devoted exclusively to fallen superheroes is a good one. And in the context of this world, it makes perfect sense for such a thing to exist.

More, this whole sequence is a perfect introduction to everyone who might not be familiar with all the characters we're about to see.

2. All The Little Scenes Showing Our Heroes Mourning.

There's a lot of wonderful character moments here. Atom Smasher taking Damage to task on his apparent disrespect for the original Atom; the former's mentor and the latter's biological father. Bart Allen quickly going from selfish to sweet as he considers the Titans statue gallery, complaining of how his statue looked nothing like him and then wishing that they could get rid of all the statues in that gallery. And Clark Kent mourning his dad alongside his mother and Superboy.

Some have asked why Superman would be mourning his dad on a day for departed heroes. Simple. Pa Kent was HIS biggest hero.

3. Honor Among Thieves.

Trust Geoff Johns to sneak in a cameo of The Rogues, but this is a very effective scene regardless.

This is one of the reasons I prefer DC Comics to Marvel of late - because many of the "bad guys" in DC Comics aren't really bad guys, when you get right down to it. Most of the Rogues are inherently more honorable than many of the so-called heroes at the House of Ideas. They may be thieves, but they know who their friends are and stand by them, through thick and thin.

4. When Words Can't Say It...

Hal Jordan is a man of action. He's not shy about speaking his mind but there are a lot of things he can't find the words for. So when Barry Allen asks him just how many of their old friends have died while he was "away", Hal hesitates for a moment before creating a projection of all the dearly departed.

What might have been just a feeble excuse for a two-page splash spread under a lesser writer speaks volumes about the character of Hal Jordan without a single word or thought balloon being necessary. Hal Jordan may not be afraid of death but he isn't comfortable talking about it either.

5. Stretching Zombies!

A part of me wonders just how the Zombie Ralph can be stretching, since his powers were based on a metabolic process caused by digesting a concentrated fruit-juice formula. But then, I realize that this is justified by The Rule of Cool which states that stretching zombies - especially stretching zombies who can still put an arm around the rotting corpse of their zombie wife in a loving and protective way - are just too awesome NOT to exist.

Incidentally, am I the only one who noticed the irony in Ralph and Sue Dibny - the poster couple for pointless, plot-driven death - killing Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the poster couple for slowly and gradually developing a relationship over time in a regular series book?

Nobody cared about Ralph and Sue until Sue died. Nobody cared about Hawkman and Hawkgirl until Johns made them live together.

I think the symbolism has to be intentionally, since I can't see Geoff Johns killing off two characters he worked so hard to develop and, in Carter's case, resurrect in this manner unless it is to make a point.

Regardless of what anyone else says, I like this series so far. And I cannot wait another two days for the next few issues. I think you'll feel the same way if you give this series a shot.


  1. What have been the criticisms? The only one that I could think of is that maybe it started off a little slow. Personally, I don't really buy that. Practically every #1 event issue from both companies the last few years has been a foundation-laying issue.
    As an outspoken critic of Final Crisis, this looks to me like it's getting off on the right foot. I can't wait for more.

  2. Well, to name some of the more common ones...
    1) The whole story is a blatant rip-off of Marvel Zombies and DC is totally ripping of Marvel for ideas.
    2) Geoff Johns can't tell a story without killing a lot of people.
    3) It doesn't make sense for people to celebrate fallen heroes in a universe where death is so frequently circumvented, much less on the day Superman died when he got better.
    4) Why are they bothering with losers like Golden Glider and The Top in building this ultimate army of evil?
    My response to these being...
    1) GL: Rebirth was laying the groundwork for this six months before the first Marvel Zombies comic came out.
    2) Geoff Johns has brought a lot of people back from the dead too. For every Extant, there has been a Hawkman. For every robot Hourman, there has been a Rex Tyler. I'd have to reread JSA and do a tally, but I suspect he has made better use of more forgotten concepts than he has killed heroes.
    3) I imagine they set the day of mourning up BEFORE Superman came back. And after a proclamation like that, it would be an extremely dickish move to cancel the holiday simply because Superman wasn't dead anymore.
    4) If you're playing a war of psychological warfare, the fastest way to get The Rogues to knuckle under is to take out Captain Cold. And nothing will affect Leonard Snart quite like seeing his beloved sister walking around all zombified.

  3. Oh, that was my mistake... I was judging the book on its own merit. My bad. =D

  4. See, that's why you aren't a highly respected critic like Chris Sims. :)

  5. Well, I think the one that is silliest to me is the Marvel Zombies comparison. Who HASN'T done a dead-invasion before? It's the context that keeps people reading.

  6. But... but... but... it HAS to be a rip-off! Nobody ever did a story about zombie superheroes before!
    Yeah... you know my answer to that? I liked Secret Invasion a lot better when it was called Millennium. :D And I liked Dark Reign a lot better when it was Lex Luthor: President.

  7. Ok, I know you're a DC guy and all but that last one... let's keep it in this reality. ;P

  8. You're right. That was unfair.
    Lex becoming President was a thoughtful, well-executed storyline that took place across two years, fully exploring the ramifications of a super-villain getting a position of power in the Federal government. :)

  9. Ok, I think it's past your bed-time, mister!

  10. I keed, I keed.
    You are right though. It is past bed time.

    This looks good.

  12. It was?! Man, I must've been reading the wrong comics. :p

  13. Good panels I would have liked to see the bart and damage ones.

  14. Well... compared to Norman Osborn, head of SHIELD.

  15. Hell, I keep picturing Atom Smasher and Damage as a pair of tag-team wrestlers, with that costume.
    Might as well call 'em "Demolition".

  16. 1) GL: Rebirth was laying the groundwork for this six months before the first Marvel Zombies comic came out.
    Infact Johns laid out the Blackhand story back in like issue 7 or so of the latest Lantern series.
    I still hope this story ends up with Dead Hal and Kyle back as the main lantern.

  17. Actually, it was issues #5-6. That's the story where Black Hand was kidnapped by the German-speaking aliens and given the death-touch. That was the month before Marvel Zombies #1 came out.
    But he originally lost his hand in Rebirth.
    Still, good eyes. :)

  18. Well, that is fitting given that Al Pratt was a wrestler originally.

  19. I need canary wearing a nurse hat...cuz seriously.. Naval Cavity??? methinks he's talking nasal.. oh.... geoff..*facepalm*

  20. Isn't "Naval" what "Nasal" would sound like if you tried to say it with a collapsed nasal cavity?
    BTW, Happy Birthday.

  21. As for the Canary in Nurse Hat, will this do?

  22. I forgot that stuff in Rebirth. There was some nonsense with Hector Hammond too right?

  23. *catches self* Actually, that was in Secret Origins. William Hand did appear in both stories, though. The Hector Hammond stuff was in Secret Origins. And I dunno if I'd call it nonsense since the intent was to give more of Hal's rogues a direct link to his background and eliminate some of the random elements of their backgrounds... i.e. Hector Hammond being some random guy who found some random rock in the forest that made him telepathic.
    But yes. Hector was rectonned into being another would-be suitor of Carol Ferris and a private consultant for Ferris Aircraft who got his powers after tinkering with the wreckage of Abin Sur's ship.

  24. FYI, I didn't mean nonsense in the strictest sense. I don't recall owning Secret Origins though, and I know I have a modern story with Hector, in a prison cell, locked away being all creepy.

  25. Ah. Well, in that case...
    Hector Hammond DID appear fairly early on in the new series, too. I forget the issue off the top of my head, but I think it was the same story where William Hand was being experimented on.

  26. Boy do I wish they switched the release dates of this and Legion, but hey, it's cool.
    Loved the issue. Some things about the wider DCU doesn't fill me with happiness (Identity Crisis), but this hit all the good notes. Makes complete sense the first heroes to die would be the Hawks and that Hal and Barry would be grouped together since they both came back.
    Right now the only thing I'm worried about is what'll happen with the BL's once this whole thing is over. Will they all just go back to being dead or will some stick around?