“In brightest day, in blackest night….”
-From the Green Lantern Oath
To me Crisis on Infinite Earths is the greatest event comic in the history of comic books. I loved it when it was originally released and I still love it today. It was groundbreaking at the time as well as controversial amongst fans, especially the old school vs. the new school. I was firmly entrenched in the new school at the time but since then I have turned to the old school as I love the Pre-Crisis Multiverse and am enjoying as DC tries to reestablish it yet again. For the longest time DC left Crisis on Infinite Earths alone. They did not put it into trade; they did not resurrect the fallen characters, and they let the new earth develop at its own pace. Then a new regime took over DC and suddenly they returned to the Crisis and began mining the event for stories, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis, or using the name as a drawing point, such as Identity Crisis. But none of them captured what Crisis on Infinite Earths was or the gravitas it brought to the comic medium. I didn’t hate these events but none of them held any weight with me and I was tired of DC trying to recapture the Crisis and using the name in a manner to insinuate that these were part of the ‘planned’ story. Then the unexpected happened. DC developed an event on the scale of Crisis on Infinite Earths without tying it to their benchmark event when they launched Blackest Night in 2009.
Blackest Night was a wonderful event comic and it pulled me in just as Crisis had. It didn’t hurt that it had a fantastic writer in Geoff Johns and a fabulous artist with Ivan Reis. I had a feeling that Blackest Night was going to be good as it grew out of Johns epic run on Green Lantern where he returned the Green Lantern Corps to the excellence it deserved and was a must read every month. Not only did Johns reestablish the Green Lantern mythos he created new ones as he pushed the concept of there being other corps, each with its own colors, that comprised the emotional spectrum. This led to the epic the Sinestro Corps War where the various emotional corps aligned themselves to deal with Sinestro and his Yellow Corps of Fear. It was an excellent story that I believed was going to be the grandest story of Johns time on Green Lantern but I couldn’t be more wrong as the Sinestro Corps War led to the Blackest Night, which wasn’t just a Green Lantern Event but a now classic DC Universe event and maybe Geoff Johns at his finest.
Blackest Night has its roots in a classic Alan Moore Green Lantern tale Tygers from Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 published in 1986. Tygers is a flashback tale of Abin Sur, the GL of sector 2814 prior to Hal Jordan. While on the planet of Ysmault, Sur is granted the answers to three questions and his final question is “What is the most terrible catastrophe that the Green Lantern Corps has yet to face?” The answer is the Final catastrophe, which will become known as Blackest Night. For 23 years that future event was a mystery, a mystery that Geoff Johns decided to answer. Some people have a problem, Alan Moore chief among them, of his past work continually being mined for modern tales. I’ll be honest I am hesitant of what the Watchmen and DC Universe crossover will be but Moore is a bit of a curmudgeon and is almost to protective of his work-for-hire past. It was an interesting idea, obscure, but still interesting and I’m glad Johns expanded upon it.
Just like Crisis on Infinite Earths exemplified the art of the legendary George Perez Blackest Night was the time for Ivan Reis to put his breathtaking artwork on display for the readers, and it was extraordinary to say the least. Ivan Reis had been a comic book artist for many years prior to Blackest Night but Blackest Night made him a superstar artist. His attention to detail was amazing, especially when drawing hundreds of characters and making sure that each was rendered accurately. Unlike Johns previous line wide event, Infinite Crisis, DC had used the wonderful Phil Jimenez to capture the look and feel of Crisis on Infinite Earths since Perez heavily influences Jimenez. Reis on the other hand is realistic and detailed but with a different style, which set Blackest Night apart from the DC Crisis events, but it has no less gravitas then those stories.
The buildup to Blackest Night was primarily in the Green Lantern books, Green Lantern and the Green Lantern Corps. The build up to Blackest Night began after the Sinestro Corps War in two arenas. First in space as members of the Green Lantern Corps discover the Black Lantern Central Battery in space sector 666. Upon touching the battery it begins to send out thousands of black rings that will be used to raise the dead, not just on Earth but across the universe. These Black Lanterns will then serve the will of Nekron, from yet another classic Green Lantern Tale (Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #2) and was for all intent and purpose the a version of Death. We will later find out that Nekron will fulfill his destiny buy using his avatars of death to fill the Black Lantern Central Battery and destroy the universe. Yet the build up doesn’t just take place in space as Johns is sure to stay grounded on Earth as well. As the universe is preparing for the coming cataclysm on Earth the classic Green Lantern villain Black Hand, acting as Nekron’s first avatar, has dug up Bruce Wayne’s skull (Remember, ‘Batman’ died in Final Crisis at the hands of Darkseid) and it becomes his totem as the Black Lantern Central Battery begins to charge and the black rings begin raising the dead.
I loved how Blackest Night kicked off with a #0, which was for long time DC fans was a real treat as it was a reunion of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. Through much of the Silver Age and Bronze Age Barry and Hal were the best of friends and often had crossovers with one another but both had died. Barry died at the hands of the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earth’s #8 while Hal had turned into the villain Parallax and then sacrificed himself at the end of the Final Night to reignite the Sun. Yet death is never permanent in Comics, and one of the core concepts of the Blackest Night, and Geoff Johns had brought both Hal and Barry back in Green Lantern Rebirth and Flash Rebirth respectively. The two meet over Bruce’s grave and both reminisce over their interactions with Batman, going back to the early days of the Justice League as well as the concept of death in the DC Universe and how some heroes come back while others do not, which will play a huge roll going forward as the event really got under way with the first issue and eventually be linked to the Blackest Night event and Nekron.
Geoff Johns crafted a masterpiece when he crafted Blackest Night, which isn’t surprising since I personally think that he is currently the strongest writer DC has working for them and his historical knowledge of the DC Universe is deep and apparent throughout the event. I can only imagine how difficult it is to orchestrate an event of Blackest Night’s magnitude and to keep every plot thread and character arc on track. Yet Johns accomplishes this and every issue of the series was a treat. Every issue had high action, depth of character moments, a nod to DC’s history as well as pushing forward the modern legacy characters, and multiple cliffhangers. What begins as a Green Lantern & Flash centric story quickly expands to include heroes from every corner of the DCU, such as Mera, the Silver Age Atom to Wonder Woman and ultimately a collection of DC old and new. Even the villains align with the heroes as Lex Luthor, Scarecrow, and Sinestro end up aiding Green Lantern as do members of every emotional spectrum as each chooses an avatar among the gathered heroes and villains to end the threat of Nekron and the Black Lanterns. The ramp up to the conclusion was one of the most tense in comics events and the conclusion was completely satisfying.
I find myself revisiting Blackest Night quite often. It is a series I can read over and over and it always puts a smile on my face. I don’t even need to read it, I sometimes just flip through the issues, taking in the artwork and intricate detail that Reis put into each issue to make sure the costumes of each hero and villain were rendered properly and lined up with continuity, whether it was current or from the Silver Age. I have always had a fondness for Event comics but this fondness is challenged as of late. Whether it is the constant barrage, the never ending building to the next event, or simply the quality with constant art shifts or delays I’m finding it harder and harder to get excited or not even having the desire to read them. Sometimes I’d rather go back to past events when the creative team was consistent as well as stellar, the book hit the shelves on time, and the ramifications actually were universe shattering. If you find yourself with a similar dilemma and have never read Blackest Night, or even if you have and want to walk down memory lane, do yourself a favor and find a copy as you will not be disappointed.