Sunday Slugfest: Blackest Night #6

A comic review article by: Thom Young, Jason Sacks, Chris Murman, Christopher Power
The secrets of Nekron are revealed as darkness consumes the DC Universe.

Jason Sacks:
Chris Murman:
Christopher Power:




Jason Sacks:

Most of the big recent crossover books have really kind of sucked, but Blackest Night hasn't actually sucked much at all. Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis have delivered a series with large-scale scenes alongside smaller moments that showcase the essence of supporting characters. The combination of large and small moments in one book has helped to lift this series above so many of its recent crossover counterparts.

Blackest Night #6 has a number of character-focused scenes that I found quite pleasing. I was delighted to see Aquaman's ex-wife, Mera, presented as a tough and interesting character. I've always felt she was underused in comics. She has a complicated history as a queen, divorced wife, and mother of a murdered child--all things that help to make her red with rage while also being heroic.

Deadman has also been a longtime favorite of mine, and Johns gives ol' Boston Brand a nice moment in this issue by highlighting his true heroism. If there's been one flaw with Deadman over the years it's that he has always seemed to be out on his own island. It's the nature of Deadman's powers that he seldom gets a chance to interact with his other heroes in the DC Universe; however, we get to see Deadman's heroism on display here. After all, what better hero to fight an onslaught of resurrected characters than a resurrected dead man, right?

We also get a nice bit of Julius Schwartz-styled pseudo science from the Flash, which is always a treat. Of course Johns has a long history of writing the Flash, but I enjoy seeing a little bit of old-fashioned storytelling laid on top of such a modern comic.

At the same time as he hits the smaller plot points, Johns also moves his larger story along. Ganthet of Oa has come up with a way of doubling the Lanterns' efforts to defeat Nekron, which brings about an awfully cool ending.

As for the art, Ivan Reis delivers his customary wonderful work on this issue. There's a positively breathtaking double-page spread of John Stewart leading a sky full of resurrected characters through space, but I was also struck by how good his character designs are.

All the characters have their own unique looks as Reis captures--like George Perez does at his best--their essential natures. For instance, his Barry Allen has an earnest, Midwestern appearance while his Lex Luthor looks like one of the nastiest fighters you can imagine.

Blackest Night #6 is another crowd-pleaser from the now tried-and-true team of Reis and Johns.




Chris Murman:

"Lex Luthor, Avarice Lantern--I can’t deny the power behind those four words.

I’ve been hurling fiery lawn darts at this crossover for months (even I was starting to worry about hurting Geoff Johns’s feelings after a while), and I've been wondering when the pain would be over. Surely, I reasoned, this series couldn’t stay bland for eight entire issues! After all, the writer has been working on this story for several years, and he had to have an ace up his sleeve or two.

For those wondering what the new status quo would be in the Green Lantern Universe, look no further than the cover. The seven lanterns representing all colors in the emotional spectrum seem to be taking their place as the new Guardians of the Galaxy. What that means for the actual Oan Guardians is anyone’s guess; they’re currently too busy being a part of Nekron’s keychain.

For now, let’s get back to Lex.

Ganthet realizes that they can indeed win the day. He and the new Guardians just have to hold down the fort until the cavalry arrives--so he just replicates all seven rings and they search for new owners (except for the green ring). I’m not sure why Ganthet gave himself the weapon of willpower, but it will be cool to see this classic character do some ring-slinging next issue.

As for the new recruits . . . while it was interesting to see who was selected, this element was also the second most frustrating part of this issue. I’ll get to the first later, but I want to go over all of the new ring bearers first.

Luthor: What made his selection so cool was a flashback to the old Justice League Unlimited cartoon series. Remember when Brainiac and Lex teamed up to become a single super-being? In his mind, Luthor had achieved everything a human being could possibly want, yet he desired more. His thirst will probably never be quenched, so this choice is excellent.

Diana: How the pink ring replaced the black ring was horrible writing, and it’s a bit of a cliché to have the First Lady of the DCU wear pink. All that aside, is Wonder Woman really the character we all think of when it comes to the emotion of love? I mean, she did just turn Maxwell Lord’s head around a few years ago and she hasn’t actually interacted with her original love, Steve Trevor, in many moons. She’s more warrior than she is ambassador these days--and I can’t say I'm very fond of her new outfit either.

Scarecrow: The two pages describing his induction into the Sinestro Corps might be the best writing I’ve seen in a long while from Johns. The idea that Dr. Jonathan Crane wants to feel what his victims feel is really interesting--even more interesting is the fact that he can’t get a rush of fear unless Batman is chasing him. I want a mini-series that just follows the good doctor around while he wields his new weapon of fear. I’ll even write it for free if I have to.

Barry Allen: This revelation came as no shock to me, as he is the second most important DCU character in this series. I actually didn’t mind his selection considering Johns used Wally West as a horrible plot device earlier in this issue. Barry has old school values, and hope is tops on that list. If only more people could maintain their own hopefulness.

Mera: Again, another good selection--though most of the readers that have hung on this far still must be thinking to themselves, “who is this chick again?” If there was more exposition that informed readers about her story--or if there was a backup story--then I might be a little more on board with her wearing a ring. She certainly fits the bill of a Rage Lantern, but I just think there are better nominees for the red ring.

Ray Palmer: This selection feels like more of an emotional reaction to me--something along the lines of a “make-good.” I don’t believe that Dr. Palmer actually instills hope in anyone, but the writer has been trying to hammer that point home for two issues now. If anything, there is something about the Atom that instills hopelessness--but since the Indigo Lanterns are the unknown wildcard in the emotional spectrum, I’m interested to see how the story plays out for Ray.

Okay, rather than go on unnecessarily, let’s just address the big beef I had and call it a day.

For the past month or so, we've been seeing how Johns plays favorites in this story--with Barry and Hal the only ones able to evade black rings. Thus, I was certain that they would get out of it in just a few panels--and I was not let down.

So, Bruce Wayne’s corpse is used to create an emotional connection to the resurrected heroes, and the rings can then search them out; okay, I can buy that. In fact, I thought it was clever.

Wayne was used because his bond was very strong with everyone, so how does running two seconds into the future sever that connection and render the rings inert? If there is a connection with these stupid rings, you’re telling me that two seconds changes all that?

It was a cheap gimmick that does little to dissuade anyone from saying that Johns plays favorites. If you don’t have a problem with this plot point, I point my finger and laugh at you.

I’ve shrugged my shoulders at ridiculous notions before. Just don’t tell me that it makes sense that running two seconds into the future severs emotional connections. Any explanation to the contrary will just not work.

With the usual “climactic twist” that this writer places in all of his stories coming in this issue, what we have then is a two-part finale coming up in the next two issues. A big fight looms, along with some promised reveals about the Oan Guardians.

Blackest Night #6 actually piqued my interest, but I’m sure a lot of the ideas presented in this series won’t stick. There’s no way Luthor or any of the new Lanterns will keep their rings--and the notion of the Little Blue Men disappearing forever is a bit disconcerting. However, I would welcome the changes that this issue reveals.

Let’s just hurry up and finish so we don’t have to read the words “emotional connection” again.




Christopher Power:

I find myself in a bit of a quandary over the Blackest Night event and all of its tie-ins. From the prologue all the way up to Blackest Night #4, I really felt that it was one of the better events that has been put out by DC in the last decade.

The first set of tie-ins, Blackest Night: Superman, Batman and Titans were of varying quality, but they all seemed to be moving the story in a coherent direction. Both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps were pushing forward the War of Light on its various fronts and were highlighting the gathering of the New Guardians.

However, now that we have passed the midway point of the event--with a month break in between the last issue and this one--I find myself fatiguing. There is now another set of crossover books that are of substantially lower quality than the first set. Events in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps seem to have lost their way a bit--with the lacklustre story of John Stewart and the "shocking" death and resurrection of a key character not resonating as they should have with fans.

With this issue, the sixth of eight, it feels like we are moving to some kind of climax, but the beats of the story, the relentless pulse that was present throughout the beginning, seems to have been lost. Without revealing too much, there are key moments in this issue that just do not make a lot of sense.

Two black rings are chasing Barry and Hal to bring them into the fold of the Black Lanterns. They manage to lose them, only to have Barry reveal that Batman’s resurrection created "an emotional reaction in all of us that the black rings latched on to. . . . As long as we don’t jump out of our boots again the rings will have nothing to grab on to.”

Wait . . . what?

First of all, how did Barry know that? Second of all, why is Barry's revelation the case?

We seem to have moved from the walking dead needing to have high levels of emotion to consume to the rings needing high levels of emotion to connect with the resurrected--which I guess kind of makes sense, but was it not the case that the resurrected "belonged to Nekron" anyway?

I went a little cross-eyed trying to figure this out.

Then, there is a scene in which a prophecy in the Book of Oa reveals that during the Blackest Night the rings based on Oan technology can deputize "one individual into [one of the colour corps] for twenty-four hours.”

Wait . . . what?

Why would that be a rule just for this one occasion? It does not sound like something that would be in a prophecy. Furthermore, why only 24 hours? Did the Oans never consider that a "war" might take more than one standard Earth day?

I know that Earth is the keystone of the universe, but this is starting to get a little far out there, even for me.

Finally, why only one person? Would it not make more sense that if you knew something was going to go so wrong that the all of the Lantern Corps would effectively be dismantled that you would deputize an army? A Lantern Militia, if you will.

However, the biggest problem is the same one that appeared in the later issues of the Sinestro Corps War. So much was going on, with so many story threads coming together, that there is no room for any of them to be developed or begin to resolve. In this one issue we had:
  • Hal reviewing all recent deaths in the DCU for readers who do not know (this exposition seems like a supplement that should have been published separately).

  • Wally, Barry, and Bart reviewing the events of the recent years in the Flash storyline.

  • Hero Black Lanterns beating on the living.

  • Hal and Barry escaping

  • A fight between Jean Loring, Ray Palmer, and Mera

  • Deadman showing up in said previous fight

  • John Stewart showing up with an army of the dead on his tail

  • The deputizing of lanterns which takes eight pages of the book
The result of these plot points is that we are pretty much in the exact same position at the end of this book that we were at the beginning, except with new deputy Lanterns and an army of Black Lanterns. Not a lot happened in all of these pages, and what did happen was very fragmented.

I do not hate this event like I hated previous ones, nor am I really warning readers away from it, but this issue was pretty weak.

Just to touch on the art before I end this review:

Ivan Reis is a real treasure. The action beats within the panels are absolutely fantastic, which is most obvious in the scene where Hal and Barry escape. Everything from the way they take off running from the rings to the close up on Barry’s face presents a feeling of motion and energy.

Similarly, the scene with John Stewart entering the atmosphere had a vertigo feel to it that I have never seen depicted on a two dimensional page. Kudos goes to the whole art team for what is a beautiful issue in terms of pencils, inking and colour.

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