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Sunday Slugfest: Blackest Night #8

Posted: Sunday, April 4, 2010
By: Thom Young

Geoff Johns
Ivan Reis (p), Oclair Albert (i), & Alex Sinclair (colors)
DC Comics
Earth has become the final battleground for life versus death, but how will the heroes fight back against the darkness of sentient space itself?

Michael Deeley:
Maxwell Yezpitelok:
Chris Murman:
Chris Kiser:

Michael Deeley

I was going to give Blackest Night #8 2 bullets, but then I remembered I was gave that rating to WWE Heroes #1, and this comic is worse. WWE Heroes tries to draw parallels between history’s greatest wars and modern day fake-fighting, and Blackest Night is still worse. Why? Because WWE Heroes doesn’t ruin other comic books in the process of presenting its bad story.

Remember how in Identity Crisis Boomerang was killed just after reconnecting with his long-lost son? And even though he killed Tim Drake’s father, it still felt tragic?

Remember when, as a tie-in to The OMAC Project lead-in to Infinite Crisis, Wonder Woman reminded everyone she was an Amazon warrior by killing Maxwell Lord, the murderous villain who had killed lots of people, and demonstrated his intention to kill many more?

Remember when Jade sacrificed her life to save the universe in an Infinite Crisis tie-in?

Remember when, in 52, Osiris was killed by the talking crocodile Sobek whom he thought was his friend? Or maybe you read the Blackest Night tie-in where Osiris came back as a Black Lantern, but resisted the ring’s influence to save his people?

Remember how Final Crisis began with the death of the Martian Manhunter setting the dark tone of that story?

And how many of you are old enough to remember when Barry Allen accidentally killed the Reverse-Flash, setting into motion events that ultimately led to his own death? And what about all those great Deadman stories that were only possible because Deadman was dead?

Geoff Johns just ruined all of those stories.

Reversing their deaths negates the impact and consequences of their deaths. It lessens future deaths. What will a hero’s sacrifice or a villain’s murder mean in the future when there’s a cure for death lying around?

Sure, Jordan says, “Dead is dead from here on out.” Bullcrap! The White Power Battery that brought these characters back to life is around! Whoever finds it can reverse death anytime he or she wants!

However, worse than the mass resurrection is the choice of characters. Why them? Why not bring back everyone who has died in recent years?

Why not bring back Isis, Osiris’s sister; Ralph and Sue Dibney; Jonathan Kent; or Supergirl’s father, (when does Blackest Night take place in relation to New Krypton anyway?).

Why not bring back Tim Drake’s father; Ted Kord; or the victims of Superboy-Prime?

I think the answer’s obvious: Johns brought back characters he liked. I bet he revived Reverse-Flash so Barry Allen wouldn’t be a murderer anymore. Why else would someone revive Hank “Hawk” Hall? Why would anyone care about Hank Hall? It should also be noted that none of the returned characters was ever killed by Johns. Sorry Blood Pack, you’re still dead because Geoffey wanted his old heroes back.

Blackest Night #8 is filled with ridiculous questions. How can Guy Gardner have enough willpower to wield one of the most power weapons in the universe but not enough to resist the telepathy of the man who betrayed and murdered his friends?

How did Jordan break all those rings with the white light? How does white light work anyway?

Does Johns realize that his “White Lantern Corps” was made up entirely of people who look Caucasian?

Why would the Indigo Lanterns, a tribe driven by compassion, take Black Hand away in chains and imprison his mind?

Why was the Anti-Monitor in the central Black Lantern? How did his power help revive the dead? Why did the white light bring him back?

Why?! WHY? WHY?!

The only question I’m not asking is the one I’m “supposed” to ask: What happens next?

I don’t care. I’m retreating back into the world of Marvel Comics. Sure, it’s a world where a woman goes crazy because her babies are dead, a hero who represents the common man deals with Satan, and a known supervillain gets a cabinet post. Yet, there’s a difference between Marvel and DC. Marvel allows bad ideas. DC allows bad corrections.

Maxwell Yezpitelok:

Oh, don’t act like you don’t know the plot by now: the DCU defeats Nekron, the Lord of Death, and then a bunch of long-deceased characters come back to life--including Aquaman’s hand, Martian Manhunter’s old wardrobe (sans shorts), and the Anti-Monitor.

Yes, the Anti-Monitor, because he hasn’t been in enough crossovers already. (Thankfully, everyone sort of forgets about him one or two pages later.)

So let’s go straight to the pros:
  • The scenes with the Rainbow Lanterns are relatively few. Up until the moment they actually started showing up, I was completely onboard with the idea of the multicolored Corps (with precedents like the Dominators and the Zamarons, they DO make sense). However, they’re all just so . . . boring.

  • Look! It’s the final issue of a DC Crossover and it’s drawn by ONE ARTIST! All right, DC.

  • You know, I kinda like Hank Hall. I’m glad he’s back.
That’s it--and now, the cons:
  • How come no one’s trying to arrest that bastard Hank Hall for killing half the JSA in the 90s? Maybe everyone automatically assumes he was possessed by an evil space bug back then--since that’s probably how they’re gonna explain it now anyway.

  • I laughed out loud at an exchange near the end that went something like this: “So now that Nekron is gone, no one will come back from death ever again!”
    “Nope, dead means dead from now on!”
    “Ecept for Batman, of course.”
    “Of course.”

  • The issue contains a “White Lantern Corps” spread that is the most pointless thing I’ve seen in a comic since the time John Byrne devoted a Spider-Man annual to explaining what happened to Peter Parker’s round glasses.

  • Speaking of which . . . um, didn’t Marvel do this same ending not too long ago? Seriously, I feel like I read this exact same scene at the end of Secret Invasion when a bunch of thought-dead characters came out of a Skrull ship to everyone’s surprise and delight.
Still, damn them, I have to admit I’m now curious to see what they’re gonna do with some of the returned characters. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Aquaman or J’onn.

Everyone knew the Hawks would get their lives back by the end of the series, but I didn’t expect Hawkgirl to regain her memory too. The new circumstances for Firestorm (now a mulatto) and not-so-Deadman present some potentially interesting conflicts. Same goes for Jade; let’s face it, Kyle Rayner is at his finest when he’s dealing with awkward romantic mix-ups. And I loves me some Hank Hall (God bless his kind soul).

I’m even morbidly curious to see what will happen with Max Lord--still in his retconned “villain all along” state--since he’s going to be written by Keith Giffen now (in the new Justice League: Generation Lost bi-weekly series). Will Giffen swiftly revert the character to the way he’s always written him or will he continue with the current interpretation while making fun of how little sense it makes? I see no other alternatives.

I almost forgot about Osiris, but I do like the character, and I’m looking forward to finding out what his return means for Black Adam--but that’s how they get you, isn’t it? That these plot points make us curious, or even excited, about what comes next hardly makes this story itself any better. Indeed, Blackest Night is hardly a story.

There’s a reason these types of series are called “events”; they are simply a collection of moments that are meant to make us say “oh, cool” (and hopefully buy some toys to re-enact them at home). The companies build up to something for a year or two, and when it finally arrives they trick you into forgetting how disappointed you are in the actual story by making you look ahead to what might come next.

One of the many reasons why most readers found Final Crisis so puzzling was the lack of spin-off moments in the last issue. Sure, there were plenty of ideas that could lead to other series, but there was no two-page spread of every new character running towards the reader.

Final Crisis utterly confused anyone who isn’t used to stories with actual resolution. There are plenty of two- and even four-page spreads in Blackest Night, and it seems those scenes was all Geoff Johns ever hoped to accomplish with this series.

He does have a talent for coming up with those scenes, though. The next DC event should be one big 154-page spread published over seven issues. At least then we would be spared having to read Johns’s dialogue.

Chris Murman:

I thought I would hate Blackest Night #8 a lot more than I actually did.

It’s not like Geoff Johns and I are making up or anything, but there was stuff to like in this issue--though I could just be weary form this series and I’m eager for it to end (but you have to take the victories where you can get them). The Green Lantern mythos is in upheaval right now, but there are many possibilities for stories with this status quo. Plus, there is one giant factor lording over this issue.

After last week’s issue of Green Lantern tried to tell me the entity embodying Love is named “Predator,” Johns would have to screw up pretty bad to top it. Every couple of days, I pick up GL #52 just to make sure that name is still there. Then I giggle and wonder if Johns is married.

Don’t worry readers, my nagging will begin soon, but first let me say this series accomplished more than it’s predecessor Sinestro Corps War. Sure, both stories paraded out an all-star list of foils for Hal. The difference this time was the purpose.

Instead of Sinestro giving yellow rings to quite a few people who never really became a part of the story, we saw once-resurrected members of the DCU act as pawns for Nekron. Granted, I would have happily read a Black Hand companion series, but that would involve having decent tie-in issues. Can’t have that now, can we?

The art on Blackest Night was wildly underrated as well. Instead of fans discussing the merits of Johns and Ethan Van Sciver reuniting and way too many splash pages of posing, Ivan Reis merged form and function to seamlessly move the Blackest Night story along as it proceeded.

Sure, the quadruple-splash gatefold page in the middle of this issue took me out of the moment as we witness many of our favorite dead characters live again. Yet, for the most part, I think Reis choreographed his panels very well. One would think that all of the use of color in this series could spoil a penciler, but I often found myself wishing I could have read this series sans rainbow. Plus, how many pages of every color of Lantern focusing their rings on one source can I be forced to take? In the end, I was never wowed by the art, but I also feel it did a fantastic job of communicating the script. Couldn’t ask for more.

I’m not sure if I can keep this up much longer, so let’s just get the nasty bits out of the way.

I’ve given up trying to reason my way through a Geoff Johns-penned series. However, with each series I find myself wondering if there’s any sense to be made in one of his endings. I’m sure there is something coming later this year in a mini-series or other event, but how fringe characters such as Hank Hall and Amon Tomaz can be brought back into the land of the living yet the Dibnys don’t is beyond me.

Two of the most loved characters, whose marriage was even popular amongst DCU characters, and they stay dead. Don’t get it.

Speaking of “dead means dead,” the notion that Barry and Hal could try some pseudo fourth wall breaking and discuss something that will never happen made me fall to the floor laughing. Dead will never be dead, and frankly those panels sort of miffed me. We will continue to see deaths and resurrections in this medium, and we’re okay with it. Don’t insult our intelligence by trying to push crazy out of the way.

Also, I want to address how confusing it was to decipher all of the “connection bubbles.” We’ve been reading how connections have been severing for several issues, so I think I have that one down. When a black ring is disconnected from its host, severing happens. So how is that different than connections being “overridden” and “compromised”?

Even if you get all of that, how is it that Mera can have her rage ring fall off for feeling another emotion yet others can have multiple emotions all the time and keep their rings? It just seemed like rather jagged plot devices being used to cut up the story to make whatever new status quo they wanted instead of just providing a decent ending.

Additionally, the two biggest bad asses in the universe (Nekron and the Anti-Monitor), just magically disappear faster than they appeared. Did anyone even address their disappearances? You mean, this scythe-wielding creature makes all their friends into zombies and wages war on the world, and there’s not even a discussion when he vanishes? How about someone asking about where Nekron sent the Anti-Monitor?

Finally, Johns always takes the last page (or three) and sets the scene for whatever he has coming next. Call it a preview of things to come. After SCW, we’re shown the Anti-Monitor’s body being used to fuel a black power battery. That’s ominous indeed.

This time, we’re treated to a drugged up William Hand being led around in chains speaking “Nok-ese,” and a White Power Battery being found somewhere on Earth. Is that supposed to really wet our whistle for Brightest Day? It’s more like an afterthought. We don’t need to be shown the lantern; we can put two and two together.

How ‘bout showing the original Guardians? We could have been shown if they were alive--or, if not, who is taking their place. I know it’s darn near impossible to have a real ending in stories involving the big two publishers, but could it at least be attempted once in a while? We already know that Brightest Day is coming--and fans who picked up this issue will probably read Brightest Day anyway, so we don’t need to be teased or given a checklist. Just give us a story with a conclusion for crying out loud.

Chris Kiser:

Whether you’re a staunch devotee or an unenthused skeptic, you have to admit that Blackest Night has been rather lean in the plot department. Despite a core miniseries lasting eight issues (plus a prelude and more than fifty tie-in books), this Geoff Johns-helmed comics event has mostly lacked twists and turns to go along with its massive scope.

The entire story, including the events of this final issue, can be summed up as follows:
Throughout the universe, the dead rise to wage a war on the living, eventually converging on Earth for a climactic showdown with the Lantern Corps of Every Color.
This synopsis forms a perfectly valid basis for a story, but it has been executed almost completely without nuance or complexity in its structure. The entire saga has been driven by moments of spectacle--focusing more on the question of which character will show up next than on the development of an intricate plotline.

That said, this spectacular aspect of Blackest Night does not necessarily rob the series of its merit. This issue’s finale has been widely anticipated by many fans for reasons other than a simple desire to see which particular power ring color combination will ultimately result in Nekron’s downfall.

The strength of Blackest Night has never been in the particular details of its story but in the themes and metaphors that have permeated its pages from day one. The success of the conclusion--and by extension the series as a whole--will be determined by the degree to which it can provide a satisfying final word on this subtext.

For the most part, Johns does a fair enough job in delivering the goods from this standpoint. Nekron and the Black Lanterns--representative of a bleak worldview that prefers the stillness of death to the chaos of life--are taken down by an impromptu corps of “White Lanterns” made up of heroes who once tasted death but who came back to embrace life in all its foibles.

The conclusion is an affirmation of life that is difficult to argue against regardless of one’s religion or secular philosophy. Sadly, this warm fuzzy notion is also a bit too benign--failing to pack the punch that Johns-written superhero mythology often has.

For instance, even though our heroes defeat Nekron and manage to bring about the return of several of their deceased colleagues, the central thematic conflict is never truly resolved. When all is said and done, death will still come to claim the characters of the DCU; even those resurrected in this issue will one day die again.

With this fact in mind, how can one refute the villains’ assertion of the supremacy of death? Blackest Night could have boasted a much more fulfilling conclusion had Johns been able to make a stronger statement regarding the persistence of life over death’s seemingly unavoidable grip.

However, while the story of Blackest Night isn’t quite a triumph, the art provided by Ivan Reis in all eight issues surely has been. Not since the pencils of George Pérez graced the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths has an artist gone the distance on a DC Comics epic such as this.

Reis, along with colorist Alex Sinclair, may have saved the best for last. There are upwards of one hundred costumed characters in this issue, and all of them look great. The numerous beautiful poster-quality images alone are reason enough to give Blackest Night #8 a second read.

Now that it’s over, where will Blackest Night rank among the rest of comicdom’s grand-scale epics? Many writers in the future would be wise to at least somewhat pattern their big events after this one, but I’d be lying if I said that this finale didn’t leave me longing for something a little more memorable.

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