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Sunday Slugfest: Green Lantern #43

Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009
By: Thom Young

Geoff Johns
Doug Mahnke (p), Christian Alamy (i), & Randy Mayor (colors)
DC Comics
The prologue to "Blackest Night" starts here in Green Lantern (fourth series) #43 as the first Black Lantern is born. Black Hand has been Hal Jordan's enemy since 1964 in Green Lantern (second series) #29 when he developed a means of absorbing energy from Green Lantern's power ring. However, even Black Hand was unaware of the true power he held--power that will connect him to the Blackest Night!

Christopher Power:
Robert Murray:
Jason Cohen:
Charles Webb:

Christopher Power:

The last six months in the Green Lantern cosmos has been a non-stop ride of action and drama. On one side we have had Hal Jordan encountering all manner of tyrants from across the "emotional spectrum of light." On the other hand, we have had the rest of the Green Lantern Corps attempting to keep the galaxy from being torn apart at the seams--with a revolution against fear on Daxam, a riot on Oa, and the Oan battery being shattered. Big stuff.

Now, with Green Lantern #43, we reach the story toward which everything has been building: Blackest Night.

I assumed it would be more of the same leading into DC's big event of the summer, as it seemed that Geoff Johns and Company were careening into a mindless beat down that would be the comic book equivalent of Transformers 2. However, I have been surprised. This issue is pleasing and gives me with hope for this series.

Johns pulls us back from the action and drama that has been building to tell a thoughtful, careful origin story for the big bad villain of Blackest Night: Black Hand. Reminiscent of the work that he did on multiple Flash villains, Johns delivers a detailed, dialogue-centric script that explores the history of the villain--as well as giving the character a new focus in terms of motivation. This lull in the action could be the most useful thing to do at this point--providing a bridge between stories and giving the readers a chance to pause before Johns begins ramping up the action again.
The story itself is fiendishly creepy as it establishes Black Hand as being fascinated with death from a young age. His thanatopsis is partly related to the fact that his father was a mortician, and partly due to him being . . . well . . . off.

However, Johns is careful to emphasize that while Black Hand's family life was not perfect, it was not a loveless, empty existence. His family was wary of him, but loved him--which I found to be a very important aspect of the story.

This villain is not this way because he was abused, lured in by a cult, or by something else that "turns" him evil. Johns is approaching Black Hand as sociopathic (possibly psychopathic) due to it being in his very nature from early in his life. Something deep inside Black Hand is rotten--and with that rotting comes a deep cunning.

The book does a good job of setting up "Blackest Night"--such that a new reader can enjoy the experience without needing prior knowledge. A run down of scenes from Green Lantern: Rebirth, Secret Origins, multiple Crises, and other stories are presented--including the introduction of Atrocitus to Black Hand.

While new readers may be a bit overwhelmed by the information, they should be able to pick up on enough that they are not left wondering where the story came from or where it might be going.

The art in the book is carefully done--with anatomy being well represented, and even alien life looking reasonable. The recreation of some of the major moments of death in the DCU are well done, with some scenes having not been depicted previously--such as the actual moment of death for Oliver Queen.

Some are incorrect, though--such as Bart Allen's death. While Bart died at the hand of the Rogues, they beat him to death; they did not just blast him with their weapons (this was an important plot point in Marc Guggenheim's story in Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13).

I will not reveal the final, disturbing scenes of this book. They are best left for the reader to discover without knowing what is coming. If Johns wanted readers to know how truly rotten Black Hand is, as well as the Guardian Scar, he succeeded with this issue's ending.

I have a major nitpick on this one though. At the end of the Sinestro Corps war, we saw rings being sent out across the galaxy from the black power battery. The manner in which Scar provides Black Hand his ring is not consistent with that image (to say the least), and it is really gross!

Overall, Green Lantern #43 is a solid entry by Johns. I wish he would produce more carefully crafted books like this one. He clearly has talent, if at times it's a bit raw; however, I think he is just trying to do too much with too many series, and the quality of his writing often suffers.

When you look at the number of books he was writing during Infinite Crisis, I think it can be argued that it must have had an effect on the final products. I am hoping this series will not suffer the same fate--mainly because I'm really enjoying Green Lantern right now.

Robert Murray:

Wow! What a way to start "Blackest Night"! With an entire issue focused on the factors that created the first Black Lantern, Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke have presented a truly fearsome villain for this summer blockbuster--as well as upped the ante on an already super-hyped event.

With an obsession matching the serial killer in Se7en and the ghoulishness of a grave robber, Black Hand has presented the ultimate roadblock to the forces of the living.

Zombies? Please, who's scared of a bunch of slow-moving dimwits when you can have a fully-functioning corpse that can wield powers similar to the Green Lanterns?

Those are the living dead types that would terrify me--and should terrify every sane person in the DC Universe (The Joker will probably see this as the ultimate joke). Now, I can truly say my excitement for the "Blackest Night" event is at a Harry Potter level, as I simply won't be able to wait for the next installment.

Longtime comic book readers know that resurrection of characters is a fact of life, but resurrection has never come in this form before. I'm scared to see what kind of Black Lanterns that Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter will make--simply because these are two heroes I've always respected in the DC Universe. How can I watch them come back to the living only to work for the forces of death? Anyway, enough of my rambling: Let's stick to the issue at hand.

In case readers aren't fully boned up on the leader of the Black Lanterns, Green Lantern #43 is simply an origin story for Black Hand. Pieces of his story have been found in other Green Lantern books, but Johns keeps everything fresh here by installing the interventions of Atrocitus and Scar as the keys to Black Hand's transformation.

It's Atrocitus who gives Black Hand the divining rod, sensing the darkness within him that will one day bring about the Blackest Night. Then, in the most disturbing scene of this issue (which is really saying something considering the dark tone of the entire story), Scar gives Hand the Black Lantern ring.

Johns goes to a very dark place in bringing Black Hand up to date--showing him as a child and young man who has been continually obsessed with death and dead things. In fact, the realization that the voice in his head wants everything dead, including himself, is the shock that really separates this issue from the pack.

Mahnke illustrates Black Hand's full-page final test with the gruesomeness that regular reader would expect--but with a mixture of faith and terror that is apparent in Hand's eyes. It's a wonderful image, just like the rest of the artwork in this spectacular prologue that includes cameos by Sinestro, Star Sapphire, and the Spectre.

I've always loved Mahnke's artwork, but he's clearly stepped up his game in this issue, with the help of inker Christian Alamy and colorist Randy Mayor. The dark, evil imagery is unrelenting--as are the images of the dead that Hand hears in his head and who may possibly return as Black Lanterns.

The Easter imagery in particular is very disturbing as Hand becomes a Christ-like figure of death--dying and then being resurrected by a higher power to pursue his ultimate mission.

Yes, this may be the darkest comic that Johns has ever produced, but it is also the perfect introduction to an event that may be the high-water mark for DC over this past decade.

Jason Cohen:

Finally, after two years of waiting, "Blackest Night" is here (well sort of). In this introduction to the most anticipated story of the year, Geoff Johns focuses on Black Hand for an entire issue and provides us with a multi-part story where all the elements comes together in the end.

The book opens with Scar finally initiating her plan to create the Black Lantern Corps. It appears that she is indeed talking to someone--her master--and her first orders are to seek out Black Hand (a.k.a. William Hand).

From the first turn of the page, it's obvious that Black Hand is a very disturbed individual--and that he has actually been like this for most of his life. Johns provides an interesting origin for the character, one that weaves in and out of past stories.

My only complaint is that there doesn't seem to be enough of a reason as to why he is fated to bring about Blackest Night, or even why he hates the Green Lanterns so much, but maybe that will come later.

After the trip down good old memory lane, Black Hand is given inspiration from "someone" and is determined to see that those who have died stay dead while those who have returned are punished. As what appears to be a final test, Hand puts his past to rest (literally) in a startling ending--leading the first Black Lantern to rise.

Green Lantern #43 marks Doug Mahnke's first issue on the title--and, like I thought he would be, he's fantastic. Who knew black could look so cool?

Everything looks how you would expect it to look, but with Mahnke's added signature style. He also got to draw a lot of characters here--characters that haven't drawn in years.

Every page is stunning and amazingly sharp and detailed. I only hope the rest of Manhke's run looks as beautiful. The art team makes a young William Hand truly frightening from toddler to adult, and Scar looks to be physically infected by everything evil you could think of.

It was interesting to finally see the death rings in action--seeing how they operate and even how they affect the wearer--and I look forward to learning more about how the new recruits will act and learn where the Black Light (is it a light?) came from.

This issue is the tip of the iceberg, ladies and gentlemen, so stay on your toes for more exciting developments next week. Any Green Lantern fan will love this book, and everyone who has been anticipating "Blackest Night" should go out and get this prologue.

Charles Webb:

At times I think Geoff Johns writes what should be on heavy metal album covers. His stories (particularly his Green Lantern output) focus on emotionally fussy characters looking to stick it to the system while all around them people wither, explode, and die in the most mind-bogglingly violent fashion. Itís less Iron Maiden and more Atreyu with all the artifice but none of the real emotion--which brings us to the history of one Mr. William Hand, erstwhile villain of ďBlackest Night,Ē DCís Next Big Event where heroes live, heroes die, and lives are changed forever!

If it sounds like Iím down on this issueóand, by extension DCís next big GL event, Iím not. In fact, I loved the ďSinestro Corps WarĒ from two years ago, and Iíve been looking forward to whatever the upcoming ďWar of LightsĒ portends. However, itís a love born of forgiveness.

The reader has to forgive the shallow emotionality and the relentless violence that is like Saving Private Ryan but in space if the viewer had not watched that film beyond the initial Normandy invasion scene.

So . . . William Hand--a.k.a. Black Hand--has an infatuation with death. No, not death; he has an infatuation with Death--as the end point to all things.

Itís appropriate that he grows up in a family of morticians as an amateur student of taxidermy and something of a necrophile (in a fit of restraint, Johns only seems to hint at the edges of the young William Handís necrophilia). Through the twists and turns of his transformation to a villain, he comes to the attention of Scar--the most metal of all the Guardians, with her inky black tears and gnarly face. Sheís been around the edges of the GL universe pushing events this way and that in order to ignite the War of Lights.

She takes a shine to Hand because of his incredibly metal, family-killing, grave-sleeping ways, and she chooses him to lead the Black Lantern Corps. Thereís something in there about Hand looking to right the wrong of DC characters escaping Death--itís not Johns without a stab at meta-commentary--but mostly itís a guy (Hand) who really has a hate-on for superheroes.

Doug Mahnke makes it all look suitably over the top. Heís one of DCís strongest talents, and Iím happy to see him attached to another big event. Johns gives him a lot of strong action and dialogue to work with, and Mahnke is up to the task of handling both.

If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at Monster In Your Veins

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