The word zombie was first recorded in 1819, so we can say that zombies have been around for a while, with the first movie being White Zombie in 1932. But it wasn’t until 1968’s George A. Romero’s Night of The Living Dead that these undead creatures crawled out of the grave into the public view. Ever since then we’ve had dozens of zombie movies, game, novels, and comics, oh so many comics. With any good idea/concept it could easily become dead and brainless like the rotting creatures themselves.
I knew many people growing up infatuated with zombies and the cult phenomenon surrendering it, I was never part of this “group”, instead my cup of cult tea was skin-tight action packed american superheroes, mixed in with some Shonen Jump. It wasn’t until May of 2009 (Free Comic Day) where one of my favorite genres and one of my least combined to make one hell of an epic comic, that comic was Blackest Night written by Geoff Johns and art by Ivan Reis.
Prior to the release of this #0 issue, I wasn’t that big of a fan of Green Lantern. Plus, I wasn’t up to date on the current comic events, so reading this I was as behind of recent deaths and other plot points just like the recently resurrected Barry Allen. Luckily for both of us, Hal Jordan gave a brief summary of the events, with even more summaries following in the issues afterwards.
With most comic epics or events – whichever you want to call them – you must have a good understanding of prior events and shell out a ton of money for tie-ins. Most times these tie-ins are more cash grab fillers or so crucial to the plot you wonder why the issue was a tie-in and not just a numbered entry of the event. With the ongoing Green Lantern, and Green Lantern Corps tying into the story and another nine separate three issue mini-series there was a lot of stories that tied into the overall plot. Having read all of them and enjoying most of them I personally felt the only ones that mattered some was the two on-going, the mini-series focused on specific characters and the dead coming back to life around them, the big contribution from these nine mini-series was the Black Lanterns Battery filling up with the more people dead. So this meant that there was no real need to read all of the issues unless it featured characters you loved or you where interested in the charging of the Black Lantern battery.
The story line was first teased in Green Lantern (VOL 4) #25 two years prior to the events start, then teased further in more preludes including Green Lantern: Secret Origins (VOL 4, #29-#35) which reintroduced William Hand who would later become Black Hand laying the foundation of things to come.
When the first issue hit shelves and the reviews came in, it was getting ratings of 4 and 5 out of 5, praising it for the story and art, and after doing a recent re-read I would still agree to those scores having instantly fallen back in love. With it being eight issues (nine if we count the zero issue) that gave it a lot of breathing room to flesh out plots, motivation, resurrections, reactions and character moments. The pace was quick which helped propel the story forward and not feel drowned out which would have been easy if not for Geoff Johns understanding of all the characters and motivations, taking time between large battles to show us just how hard some heroes were reacting to their loved ones coming back to life. As I previously mentioned there were times we broke away from the action for a history lesson on recent events, which really helped if you weren’t super ingrained in the recent events of the DC Universe. This event could have easily been a cash grab zombie story, but with amazing story telling and some of the best art it turned into something beautiful that helped change the history of the DC Universe and the things to follow.
Blackest Night came off the heels of the huge and inappropriately named Final Crisis, because we all knew it wasn’t the final DC crisis story. In Final Crisis we saw the brutal death of Martian Manhunter and alleged death of Batman, then only three months later at the end of the zero issue we are shown the Black Hand desecrating Bruce Wayne’s grave to grab his skull, with a quick panel of Ralph (Elongated Man) and Sue Dibny’s grave and another panel of Ronnie Raymond’s (Firestorm) grave. Then after another few months we had Martian Manhunter resurrected in the first issue of Blackest Night. Since I wasn’t in tune with all that was going on this never bothered me, but there is bound to be a few fans that felt this was pouring salt into the fresh cut from months prior. To add lemon to that salty wound they added in Ralph (died in 52)and Sue Dibny who had died years earlier in Identity Crisis, seeing these two fan favorite brought back had a lot of negative feedback due to many not being a fan of Identity Crisis. One of the characters that had an impact on me was one on my favorite heroes, Ted Kord A.K.A. Blue Beetle. I had read a good amount of his antics with Booster Gold, and his death in Countdown To Infinite Crisis hit hard, but seeing him brought back to life and Booster’s reaction to this hit me even harder.
I can’t finish without gushing about the art, which was so great many of the pages could be made into posters. The double page spreads by Ivan Ries are still some of my favorite pages to date showcasing Ries’s attention to detail and how he can have dozens of characters on screen without losing said detail or making the art feel to cramped. His human models look great showing emotion in movements and facial activity, and the aliens strike a certain terrifying feel like they could be real. Then there are the zombified heroes and villains, whose costumes are changed slightly to reflect the control of the Black Lantern, with small logo changes and now in black suits it changes them in a slight but noticeable way. When the zombie heroes get injured or destroyed the details are beautiful in a horrifying way. This event also introduces a new design for the old Green Lantern villain Nekron. Making him more grim reaper like with his scythe and skellington like body sporting a hole in his chest revealing what one is to believe is a heart, this whole design was so awe-inspiring to me I went out and bought the action figure.
Some may say this comic is not Halloween themed, but what is more Halloween then a horror event about dead heroes and villains coming back to life?