Blackest Night – The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Geoff Johns (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Geoff Johns is largely regarded for his resurrection of the Green Lantern Corps in the mid-2000’s under the DC Comics banner. Hal Jordan became a homicidal maniac back in the dreaded 90’s, becoming a villain and killing many members of the Green Lantern Corps before ultimately being put down. In the years since that time, the Green Lantern line had somewhat struggled, never really emerging as a front-runner title due to waning interest in the characters and properties. When Geoff Johns came aboard the Green Lantern title in 2005, he completely revamped the character, modifying his origin, villains, and even the supporting cast to give Hal Jordan a fair shake at redemption. Johns’ plans were a success and lead to one of DC Comics’ most thrilling events in recent years, Blackest Night.
The Book of Oa tells of a prophecy for the “Blackest Night”, the impending end of life thanks to the recent discovery of the different holders of power rings across the emotional colour spectrum. Fear, rage, love, hope, avarice, compassion, and willpower make up the colours of the spectrum, of which each has a corps that is capable of wielding a coloured ring that corresponds to the emotion. Hal Jordan, one of the many Green Lanterns of Sector 2814 (otherwise known as Earth), has recently been pulled to every end of the galaxy discovering or combating these new corps. Hal more recently finds himself back on Earth with his resurrected friend, Barry Allen, otherwise known as The Flash. Aside from Allen’s sudden and unexpected return, the superhero community has recently been rocked by the death of key members of the Justice League of America, with both Martian Manhunter and Batman having perished during a recent crisis at the hands of the villain Darkseid. Barry and Hal are both men who know their fair share about death and resurrection, so when a startling force of nature begins to wreak havoc on not only Earth, but across the entire galaxy as well, both men are forced to take action. The Black Lantern Corps begins to assemble, embodying the power of death, as it raises long dead villains and allies from their graves. Teaming with Mera, the wife of the late Aquaman, and the Atom, a man reeling from the loss of his deranged wife, Green Lantern and Flash work diligently to find a way to stop this sudden wave of resurrected heroes and villains who are out to kill them. Short on time and unable to contact his fellow Corpsmen, Hal Jordan reaches out to the only other beings capable of helping him to stop the Black Lantern Corps, the five other Corps that have either become allies or enemies over the recent months of his life.
An epic Green Latern crossover brilliantly disguised as a DC Comics event, Blackest Night is perhaps not only one of the finest Green Lantern storylines you’ll have the pleasure of reading, but one of the stronger DC Comics events you’re likely to read as well. Taking several mid-tier characters and throwing them up with A-level talent, Geoff Johns pens a superhero/zombie epic that is equally engaging as it is satirical. In a lot of ways, the story is so serious at times that it’s easy to miss that Geoff Johns is actually poking fun at the fact that death is a woefully overused plot device in comics and that, more importantly, rarely does it stick. He churns out big name characters who have been deceased for a long time while also bringing back obscure characters that you may have forgotten even perished in the first place, all for the sake of building the superhero zombie horde that the heroes face in this tale. The after effect of what Johns does with this story only helps to reinforce that one should look at Blackest Night as a satire as it does everything you can expect with the death trope in comic books. Heroes rise and fall at the drop of a hat, and although maybe Johns didn’t even intend for this story to poke fun at the topic, he most certainly does one way or another.
The mass resurrection of dead superheroes is a concept that, for the most part, appears to have remained largely untouched. It’s also a concept, that when said aloud, sounds like it could easily be one of the most disheartening, cliché ideas ever. Thankfully, Geoff Johns crafts a tale that is not only compelling, but the furthest thing from your “run-of-the-mill” superhero or zombie story. Instead, it latches on to key elements of both genres and twists them in a way that gives readers a new experience that will leave them satisfied. The story takes the action of the superhero genre, combines it with the horror of zombies, and then tops it off with Geoff Johns’ exquisite ability to humanize superheroes. We get a strong glimpse at the human nature of characters like Hawkman, Mera, The Atom, and many more as we see how they react to the loss of loved ones, or the return of said loved ones. The humanity that Johns instills into these super beings is some of the best characterizations you’ll find when it comes to superhero comics, leaving you with moments where you’ll forget that these people are human beings with exceptional powers and instead see them as just regular characters.
In terms of weakness, I found that Blackest Night only experienced one, in which it leaves out one of the major plot points in favour of telling it across a different book. With Blackest Night technically being a “major” DC event, it needs to have tie-in issues, with a plethora of them falling on the side of the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles from this time period. Unfortunately, Geoff Johns began building the Blackest Night saga across the primary Green Lantern title, introducing all the different Lantern Corps within that title and showing how they interact with Hal Jordan. One of the major plot points in Blackest Night is that the light from the Green Lantern’s power ring can only defeat a Black Lantern with the help of another coloured Lantern Corp. As such, Hal Jordan has to go around and gather up these other Corps to help him in his fight against the Black Hand only we don’t get to see any of that unfold in the midst of Blackest Night’s pages. Instead, Hal Jordan suddenly disappears in the middle of the event to only come back when it’s most convenient to the story with the other corps in tow. His adventures that involve the gathering of the other respective Corps isn’t something the reader gets to enjoy even though Geoff Johns does a stellar job of making it seem mildly interesting to the reader. It’s not even a terrible thing seeing as Geoff Johns still pens out that material over in the primary Green Lantern series, it’s just disappointing as a reader that you have to reach for the full story into other titles for this particular plot point.
Collects: Blackest Night #0-8
Best Character: Hal Jordan
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “No matter how brightly I shine my light today, the shadows won’t be lifted.” – Hal Jordan
Best Scene/Moment: A new corps is formed – Issue 8
Best Issue: Issue 4. Falling around the halfway mark of this collection, issue 4 is an issue that delivers consistent home run moments. It’s a key issue that sets all the major players of the story on the path towards the book’s climax. Flash, The Atom, and Mera hold down the frontline of the battle against the Black Lanterns on Earth in an epic series of fights while Hal Jordan sets out to achieve a potential endgame that could secure a victory for the good guys. You get plenty of glimpses at the humanity of many of these primary characters as they’re thrown into brutal fight after fight against long lost allies and enemies. All this, plus we finally get the reveal of who the primary antagonist of this story is.
Why You Should Read It: A little bit of superhero, a little bit of horror, and a whole lot of awesome, Blackest Night is exactly what anyone who wants to read a good self-contained story should read. What’s even more brilliant about Blackest Night is that it actually isn’t even self-contained as there are about 40+ issues of Green Lantern that serve as a prelude to this event by Geoff Johns that are also fantastic. It’s the type of story that either payoffs for long time readers, satisfies new comers, or gets people interested in exploring more of the DC Universe or characters like the Green Lantern.