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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Thursday, May 19, 2010

Blackest Night 1

I warn you in advance. I can't review Blackest Night #1-6 [DC; $3.99 each] without using the "Z" word.


Outside of their appearances in other Marvel titles, I have never read any of the "Marvel Zombies" comics. But they seemed to have sold well and, that being the case, it's not at all unusual for DC to try to get some of that action. However, there are those who get bent out of shape when someone refers to this new DC event as "DC Zombies." I can understand why. After all, Marvel zombies are undead versions of Marvel characters who rend and chow down on other Marvel characters while DC zombies are undead versions of DC characters who rend *without* dining on their victims. They are as totally different as night and night. In non-sarcastic terms, get over yourselves already.

That Geoff Johns is the writer of Blackest Night was my primary reason for reading it. He's been one of my favorite comics writers for some time. Even so, I must admit to having second thoughts after reading the promotional Blackest Night #0 with its flow charts of the Green Lanterns and the Red Lanterns and the Puce Lanterns and whatever. It's hard to believe DC management once believed having an Earth-1 and an Earth-2 were too confusing for its readers.

I give Johns props for addressing some big issues here. The mercurial nature of death in the DC Universe (and super-hero comic books in general) is a meaty subject. I especially like that he's putting so much emphasis on how the heroes who have come back from the dead are handling their revivals and the current mass invasion from the grave. The multi-colored Lanterns still make my poor head hurt, but I have a new bottle of Tylenol, so I'm good.

Digression. I like Green Lantern best when I'm not constantly reminded that he's one of 3600 Green Lanterns. Julius Schwartz got it right back in the 1960s when he only used the other Lanterns a couple times a year. Now, with all these different color Lanterns added to the super-hero mix, ring-bearers are the fastest growing segment of the DC Universe population. Enough already.

I also don't much like the Guardians of the Universe, but I'll save that rant for another day. Back to the review.

Johns gets additional props for some honesty scary moments in these six (of eight) issues, which I won't tell you about because I don't want to spoil them for you. However, the mayhem mutilation does get repetitive rather quickly, though I'm sure it's a big draw for fans of splatter and zombie fiction.

On the visual ends of things, penciller Ivan Reis does a good job throughout. My quibble with the art is that there are scenes where, either because of the drawing itself or the murky coloring, what's happening isn't clear.

I'm a pretty tough sell when it comes to company-wide events, legions of Lanterns, gore, and zombies. Given that, I think it's impressive these issues of Blackest Night earn a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys. With two more issues to go and surprises reported on the horizon, it's entirely possible that rating could rise before the end of the series.

Tony Tony Tony

Blackest Night [$29.99] is being collected in hardcover with a projected release date of July 13.

ISBN: 9781-4012-2693-0



Blackest Night

The preceding review originally appeared in Comics Buyer's Guide #1666. What follows is new.

On rare occasion, I look back at my reviews and realize I got it wrong. On this occasion, after reading the concluding issues of Blackest Night plus Green Lantern #44-52, Green Lantern Corps #39-46, Blackest Night: Batman #1-3, and Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1-3, I sadly conclude I was way too easy on this gore-drenched DCU event.

There was a leaden sameness to all the above, alleviated now and then by some nice scene or mildly intriguing revelation. As I see it, these are the main results of this event:

DC brought back characters it had foolishly killed and did so in an arbitrary manner. There was no discernable logic to who came back to life and who didn't, though I found the concept of Deadman being brought back from the grave amusing. Let's see, what was the thing that set him apart from other DC heroes? Oh, yeah.

He was dead.

I'm telling you, friends, I can't wait to read DC's incredible new Liveman series.

Some of the characters believe this represents the end of the heroes and villains dying and coming back to life, but any reader that falls for that likely can't afford to buy comic books anyway, having sent all his money to Nigeria.

I guarantee DC heroes and villains will continue to die with little contemplation of their future value to stories and they will continue to be resurrected at the whim of editors and writers. If this were a religion, they would be considered born again and again and again characters.

Moving on...

The Green Lanterns, that cosmic legion of slow-learners, learn once again that the Guardians can't be trusted. Those little blue creeps are the abusive husbands of the DCU. They will never change and you stay with them at your own peril.

Some characters seem to have emerged with new motivations and new powers and new baggage. In this, Blackest Night reminds me of too many other lame events from both DC and Marvel. I hope writers manage to use the cosmetic changes to great advantage, but I won't bet the farm on it.

Green Lantern 52

Green Lantern Corps 46

Writers Geoff Johns [Green Lantern] and Peter J. Tomasi [Green Lantern Corps] succeed in showing the multitudinous chaos of Blackest Night. They are less successful juggling their vast cast of characters. They do manage a good bit here and there, but, spread out over 17 issues of these two titles, the result is a plot that plods, players who aren't nearly as interesting as they needed to be to engage this reader, and a sense that the ordinary people caught up in this madness are included as little more than body count statistics. A vast epic like this needs more humanity than I saw in these issues.

Blackest Night: Batman #1

If there was a point to Blackest Night: Batman beyond providing a Batman tie-in to the event, it escaped me. These three Tomasi-written issues have no real bearing on the overall story. All they do is pit the cast against villain zombies.

Reading these comics felt like re-reading them. Nothing new to see here.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps

Written by Johns and Tomasi, Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1-3 appealed to be more than most of the event tie-ins. In the first issue, "Saint Walker" by Johns and artist Jerry Ordway is a solid story. There is emotional weight to the writing and the images here. It's far and away the best of these tales, though I also enjoyed Tomasi's Kilowog and Arisia stories in the third issue of the series. Kudos to artists Chris Samnee and Mike Mayhew for their contributions to those tales.

Less appealing to me was the self-indulgent "Blackest Night #0 Director's Commentary" that filled out that third issue. This is a comic book, not a DVD.

As noted above, Johns is one of my favorite comics writers and I think Tomasi is pretty good, too. But they weren't writing up to their talent in this event. I don't know if the cause of that is overwork - they wrote a whole lot of Blackest Night comics - or too much editorial group-mind involvement.

Maybe if DC takes a breather from these tedious "epic" events, they and other writers will get a chance to shine as individuals. I think I'd enjoy that a lot.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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