Saturday, April 3, 2010

Blackest Night - A Bright Beacon of Awesome

For years it seems Marvel comics have overshadowed DC in terms of scale, quality, and overall awesome. It always reflects in the sales figures which routinely have Marvel comics beating DC on a monthly basis. Every so often DC will come along with something like Infinite Crisis that will narrow the gap, but only briefly. They haven't had a real breakthrough story that beat Marvel at it's own game. Then Blackest Night came out and all bets are off.

This past week, the eighth and final issue of Blackest Night came out and it finished a story that can only be described as an ultra advanced supped up nuclear powered state-of-the-art mind-blowing supernova of awesome. This massive crossover, which spans nearly every corner of the DC universe, follows Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and nearly every other corps as they go up against the Black Lanterns, a corps led by Nekron who uses Black Lantern energy to reanimate the dead. These dead become wielders of the black rings and include some notable DC names like the Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, and Aquaman. But these dead aren't mindless zombies. These are dead with a very different persona, one driven by an emotional disdain for the living. They don't walk around groaning incoherently to eat brains. They forge together like a real Lantern Corp and unite with Nekron to find the White Light, which the guardians say is the same light that brought the universe into existence.

It is a masterfully crafted tale that builds various personal dramas around a heated core of action that is nothing short of orgasmic for comic fans or anyone who enjoys a good story. Even if a reader couldn't give two farts from a skunks ass about the Green Lantern or Hal Jordan, they come to relate to him and his struggle as he and other lanterns like John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and Guy Gardner take on Nekron.

Writer Geoff Johns, who was recently voted best comic writer by fans and promoted to chief creative officer in DC, demonstrates why he is one of the best comic writers of the modern era. Johns has the distinction of making people give a damn about the Green Lantern again with his landmark Sinestro Corps run. Blackest Night takes it a step further, bringing the entire DC universe into focus. Few writers can take on the responsibility of telling a story around an entire comic universe. Geoff Johns is one writer for whom the universe is always in good hands. What makes his writing so enjoyable are the little things. Most writers for any company will gladly omit certain details and leave certain plot holes open for the sake of moving forward. These holes are usually small and most readers couldn't care less about them. Who can blame them? Comics are short. There's only so much space to work with. It's only when those little gaps are filled that their true value shows.

This is highlighted in the final issue where Nekron is defeated and the many dead who were brought back were left alive and well. It would have been so much easier to just show them all alive again, have a few witty comments, and leave it at that. But Johns didn't do that. He dedicated several pages to certain character reactions and even focused on specific characters to highlight the emotional significance. This is something the reader doesn't realize is so powerful unless it is there and masterfully done. It is a comic that ends on a brighter note...literally in some respects. It's a welcome shift from a decade of style over substance coupled with a need to shock readers and make characters grimmer and grittier. After a while, that shit gets old. Readers just want a good story that will make them smile at the end. Blackest Night does that and opens the door to a new chapter in the DC universe.

I personally didn't want to review this until I saw the whole series. From issue one, I was sucked in even though I was more focused on Marvel events like Necrosha. Now that it's over, the awesome of Blackest Night has overshadowed everything Marvel has done to this point. The bar has been raised and I might just start working more DC into my pull list. From a lifelong Marvel fan, that is tantamount to blasphemy and worthy of being burned at the stake. Call me a revolutionary, but Blackest Night's awesome is just too great to ignore.

Months ago I was split between death-centered stories Necrosha and Blackest Night. Months later Blackest Night has kicked Necrosha's ass and that's saying something because Necrosha was still pretty awesome. But overall, Blackest Night wins with a knock-out. It raises the bar for comics and that bar is simple. Shock value and darkness can only go so far. Sometimes it's nicer and more awesome to read a story that ends with brighter days ahead. That being said, Blackest Night gets a perfect score!

The next big event, X-men Second Coming, has a lot to live up to. If it is going to follow in Blackest Night's big shadow, it better pull out all the stops. Awesome comes in many forms. For a big event to be special, it has to follow the examples of Geoff Johns and Blackest Night. Make sure the little things count, make sure the big things count even more, and make sure it all comes together in a way that makes a fanboy smile. It's simple, but it isn't easy. For stories like Blackest Night, it is so worth it.

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