Blackest Night by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reiss

I don’t read many comic books. The ones I do read are almost never of the superhero variety. This book is a perfect example of my reasons for that.

If you haven’t read every single comic book ever then you have no idea what is going on. When I was little I could go into a comic store (I did this rarely even then) and buy a comic book. It didn’t matter if I picked Superman or Batman or Green Lantern or Fantastic Four or Spiderman or Ironman, the comic would be exciting and fun to read and I would usually read it until the book fell apart and I threw it away.

The world of comics has changed. The learning curve here is beyond the ability of people who work and have lives to accommodate.

Blackest Night is a prime example. It starts out interesting. There is a character that is going around reanimating deceased superheroes as some kind of zombie hunters that feed off of emotions, any emotions, good or bad. These zombie superheroes are hideous and creepy in a number of ways.

That’s when everything explodes into huge epic thousands-of-comics-have-come-before-this grandeur that completely wipes a normal brain (like mine) into stupefaction. There is one two-page spread that shows all the heroes who have died and been brought back as zombies. There are more than 55 of them on the page. That’s just the dead ones. It all goes downhill from there.

Green Lantern and the Flash discover, somehow, that the zombies are being created by a new Black Lantern – representing Death. (Let’s ignore the fact that Death would not be bringing things back to life for now. Also, yes, the skull of batman — in the picture — does have bat ears for no reason in particular and his reanimated corpse has some kind of magical abilities that none of the other superheroes had — no reason for this either) They are intent on destroying the universe because what comic would be complete if the entire universe weren’t at stake. In answer Green Lantern sets out to recruit all the other Lanterns in the spectrum so that they can shine bright lights on the bad guys and kill them. Apparently there is a whole rainbow of Lanterns out there – other than the Green Lantern Corps – and they don’t always get along. Meanwhile the Flash runs around and gathers up all the living heroes to help fight the zombies until Green Lantern comes back. Heroes come and go, fight, die and become zombies without any way of distinguishing who they are, (in fact many of them are different incarnations of the same hero – at one point there are three different Flashes on the page) especially because the other heroes always just call them by their first names.

I think even the writer realized how silly it all looked at one point when one of the characters refers to the collected Lanterns as the “Lite Brite Brigade.” Alas, that doesn’t stop them from having ever more ridiculous things happen that nobody knew was possible until suddenly they were. Nothing works until the last chapter when Green Lantern suddenly turns everybody into White Lanterns – no explanation of how – and resurrects some of the dead heroes, but not others.

The art by Ivan Reiss is simply amazing. The detail of the drawings is astonishing and looks like every frame is a piece of fine art. The writing is at times poetic and at times just as silly as the story is.

It will probably be a long time before I pick up another superhero comic book. I’ll stick with the ones that stand on their own.


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