Hey there folks, your gracious hosts Troy and Lucas here. You may remember us from such hit films as He-Guy: The 43rd Most Powerful Man in the Universe and Comments Hurt, or Why I Closed My Eyes While Using The Internet For A Month. Well, now we’re back, and we’re ready to tackle DC Comics (anyone ever notice how redundant that is? Detective Comics Comics. It’s even worse when you’re reading an issue of Detective Comics, cause that’s really Detective Comics Comics’ Detective Comics, but I digress) and their latest event, Blackest Night. For those unfamiliar with our column from last year, Damn Dirty Skrulls, we’ll be taking a look at every single tie-in to this event, offering slightly irreverent summaries of the related issues. SPOILERS ARE ON in this column at all times, but it will only ever run after the issues included are released. Without further ado, we’re going to start with a Prologue and a Prelude, then jump into the first two official parts of Blackest Night. This first one is a bit on the long side, as we wanted a nice in-depth look at the beginning.
Green Lantern #43: This is a Prologue issue that shows us how utterly, disgustingly creepy Black Hand is, and introduce some previously untold aspects of the burgeoning Black Lantern Corps. Apparently, all this time, Black Hand hasn’t just been a slightly goofy and off-his-rocker villain. In reality, he’s been sleeping with dead people (actually sleeping, it didn’t get THAT gross), and had a very Dexter-ish childhood.
Of particular interest, William “Black” Hand has heard the call of the Black light since his first encounter with the eventual big wigs of 3 corps. When GL Sinestro (eventual Yellow-wielding Sinestro Corps leader), GL Hal Jordan (2814.1, as he’s called in the ‘hood), and Atrocitus (The Rage of Red will eventually make its way out of his mouth in a vomit of power) fought, Billy grabbed the Cosmic Divining Rod, and quickly grew to hate the light of the Green Lanterns.
After fighting Green Lanterns, Spectre Hal Jordan (wow, he really has it out for this guy, doesn’t he?), and being abducted by aliens, Black Hand’s connection to death and the Black grew much stronger. He has a read through an issue of “Who’s Who in the Dead DCU,” seeing folks like Al Pratt, Ted Kord, J’onn J’onzz, and Maxwell Lord (and several others’ names who don’t rhyme). Bruce Wayne’s name was on the list, even though we saw him in a cave in the Stone Age at the end of Final Crisis, raising some questions about his status. Then, in a twist worthy of M. Night, we find out those who have died and returned are also fair game for the Black to claim. Black Hand needs to pass one last test for Death, though, mercilessly killing his entire family and finally himself. Scar decides to prove that Red Lanterns aren’t the only ones who know how to vomit, and pukes up the first Black Ring. Black Hand is christened the Herald of the Black Corps, akin to Ion of the Green, Parallax of the Yellow, and Predator of the Violet (one of these things is not like the other. Predator/Love? Hmm). With that, the Black Lantern Corps is born, and the Blackest Night begins.
Titans #15: This particular “Prelude” title serves to mostly bring us back up to speed with Tempest. Garth, like many other “middle children” of the DCU (for example, Connor Hawke) has spent the better part of the last few years getting kicked around by life. When Atlantis was obliterated in Infinite Crisis, Tempest, his wife (Dolphin, the heroine, as opposed to an actual marine mammal) and child (Cerdian, occasionally prone to having his gender reassigned by various writers) disappeared. Tempest was later found in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #50, bereft of his powers. After fighting Black Manta and feeling poorly in general, Tempest takes a spaceship that the sorceress Leah pointed out to him and takes off to search for Dolphin and Cerdian. However, Tempest was seen later fighting alongside the heroes of Earth in Final Crisis.
So, we’re not sure where that journey in the spaceship led, but we know where Tempest is by this issue. He’s back in the ocean, aiding in the Atlantean reconstruction effort. Sadly, Tempest now believes that Dolphin and Cerdian actually died when the Spectre destroyed Atlantis, and that their bodies lie with thousands of others buried beneath the wreckage. Man, this is depressing. I’ll be right back; I’m going to get a blanket and throw on “Same Deep Water As You.” Okay. Better. Moving on . . .
At any rate, Tempest is set upon by his vaguely zombieish sorcerer uncle (if you remember him from the Phil Jimenez Tempest mini from years ago, do a shot) Slizzath. The ‘Zath essentially confirms the fate of Tempest’s family and goads Garth into attacking him, apparently to further his own goals. Later, after a heart-to-heart with his pal Dick Grayson (the current Batman), Tempest returns to Atlantis and takes Aquaman’s throne. We’ll be seeing Garth again in a few minutes…
Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1: Before we get down and dirty, it’s story time. Origins are the order of the day in this bad boy, as we learn Saint Walker of the Blue Lanterns, Mongul 2 of the Sinestro Corps, and kinda learn Indigo of…the Indigo Tribe’s origins.
Saint Walker’s transformation into a bearer of light is appropriately a religious one. His world in peril, Walker and his family travel up a mountain to fulfill the prophecy and find the Messiah. Along the way, his family all die, mostly from his own neglect, only for him to see his reflection and realize he was the Messiah all along. His sun turned blue, he got his ring, and instantly got over his dead family. His origin was bookended by a fight against the Orange Lanterns, which he appeared to be losing at the end.
Mongul 2 was a bit of a bratty kid. He believed his father, Mongul 1 (appropriate name, eh?) was a hero, and the JLA and others were all villains. He beats up and kills some defenseless aliens, his dad wipes them out, and he makes their skeletons worship him. That’s that, now finally onto the mysterious Indigo Tribe.
Nok. Nok Klok Lok? Klek Klek Nee Nok. Nok Lok. Nek. Then they steal Green Lantern 3544’s power, synching with “will” and, well, letting him die. Klak Nok. Then they synch with a Sinestro Corp’s Fear and scare him away. Lek Lokok Nak. Nok Nek Nek Klak? Klek? Nok. Suffice to say, we’ll see much more insane levels of power and completely incomprehensible “Nok”s and “Klek”s throughout Blackest Night.
Blackest Night #1: Here it is, campers! The Main Event. Officially announced in ’07, built toward since ’04, and in Geoff John’s head for Lord knows how long, Blackest Night probably arrives as the most hotly anticipated crossover event this year. We’re just gonna have to take this one page at a time.
Page 1: Black Hand perches over the desecrated Wayne gravesite. He’s communicating across space with the Black Battery, housed in Space Sector 666, which is powered internally by the body of the Anti-Monitor. You have to wonder . . . with a Space Sector named 666, does that just make it more attractive to evil? I mean, if it were Space Sector 8675309, would Tommy Tutone raise an intergalactic army to annex it?
Page 2: The Black Battery releases an armada of black rings, which we are later told sound like swarming flies (nice touch). Black Hand licks Bruce Wayne’s skull. Yes, he does.
Page 3: Great idea here. Turns out that the day that Superman fell fighting Doomsday (they both got better) has turned into an annual day of remembrance for super-heroes that died in battle and the innocents that also die in such conflicts. This makes complete and total sense. One city where this is a HUGE deal is the rebuilt Coast City, nicknamed “The City Without Fear” after their brave stand at the end of the Sinestro Corps War. It’s also the home of Hal Jordan’s extended family. And speaking of Hal . . .
Page 4-5: Green Lanterns Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner fly over for the Coast City ceremony; they’re accompanied by a fighter wing led by GL series regular Cowgirl. Here’s another great idea: Johns quickly and elegantly introduces all four Lanterns, via Hal’s narration, and gives us at least one line each on what makes them tick. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re a new reader, that kind of touch means everything.
Page 6: Hal ruminates on the death that surrounds him. His father, Abin Sur, the first Coast City . . . basically, Hal Jordan is a f@#$ing jinx.
Page 7: Hal also recalls what a phenomenally bad idea it is for a woman to get involved with him, Kyle, John, or Guy. Katma Tui, Alex, Jade, Ice and Donna Troy (for a time, Kyle’s girlfriend) ALL died. And while Ice and Donna did come back, that’s not exactly something you brag about on a first date. “Well, my last three girlfriends died horribly, but one’s okay now!”
Page 8: The Coast City party breaks up, and the individual GLs fly off to visit other memorials/events/people.
Page 9: Other memorials and cemetery visits abound. In Smallville, Clark, Martha and Conner Kent visit Pa Kent’s grave. This has me curious: we’ve seen that both Conner and Bart are back in this time after being resurrected in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, but they didn’t come back with Superman, or else they would have been in the end of Final Crisis. When/how did they get back? I suppose we’ll see that in L3W #5, which my four-year-old says he’ll mail me from college. (And no, that’s not a cheap joke. A cheap joke would have been saying that my two-year-old will mail it from college.)
Also on this page: Jason Rusch, Gehenna, and Professor Stein (when did they find him again?) visit the grave of half of the original Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond. Gehenna notices that the rain is killing the plant life, which, quite frankly, isn’t that abnormal in Pittsburgh.
Page 10: Quick glimpses of memorials for the Teen Titans (at Titans Tower), Central City (Avernus, the “hidden graveyard of the Rogues”) and Ted Kord (Chicago, stop one of the epic JLI Funeral Tour, which includes off-panel stops in Russia, the exploded remains of New Genesis, a two-day layover on Mars, and a barbecue at Keith Giffen’s house). Bart wishes that all the dead Titans could come back (okay, so this whole thing is Bart’s fault!) and Black Canary speaks some truth.
Page 11: At Valhalla Cemetery in Metropolis, the majority of the DCU’s living heroes have now gathered to pay respects to the many heroes resting there. Damage has some real emotional issues left over from when his then-team, the previous incarnation of the Freedom Fighters, were killed during the outset of Infinite Crisis. He mentions that his injuries at the time included a “crushed naval cavity”, which is particularly bad when suffered along with a “broken army” and a “constricted air force way”.
Page 12: Tempest (see! Said he’d be back) and Mera visit the grave of King Arthur of Atlantis, aka Aquaman. The first Aquaman, not the guy that looked like Sawyer from Lost. Garth doesn’t like the idea of Arthur being buried on land as opposed to under the waves. Mera notes that it was Arthur’s wish to be buried at Amnesty Bay (presumably alongside the pilot for “Mercy Reef”). Nevertheless, Tempest keeps bugging her, though he does stop his argument short of breaking into “Under the Sea”.
Page 13: Alfred finds the desecrated Wayne gravesite. He’s properly horrified, largely because everything Alfred does is proper.
Page 14: MEANWHILE, AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE . . . Hal and Barry are three stories below the JLA meeting room in a burial vault for super-villains. Nice touch that Barry lingers for a second at the tag for Psycho-Pirate, given his presence at Barry’s “death”. I am curious about one villain, though: Dr. Light. Who had the unfortunate f@#%ing job of scraping up the waxy build-up that he was melted into by the Spectre? I can totally see John Stewart making Jason Rusch do it as a “character building exercise.” “Young man, if you want to be in the League, you occasionally have to scrape up villains with a putty knife. It’s what we do here.”
Page 15: Hal reveals the reason that the vault is there is because Batman (Dick) discovered a ring that was “harvesting” super-villain body parts for nefarious use. Sounds sensible. And moving the bodies is a good idea. Still, Barry being a scientist, I wonder why he didn’t say, “Y’know, we could’ve just cremated everybody. We’ve got guys with fire powers. John’s always making Jason do the s#!+ work, right?” However, Barry doesn’t go there. He asks Hal who all died while he was gone. Hooooo boy . . .
Page 16-Page 17: First off, can we just note that Ivan Reis kicks ass? In this two-page spread, Hal’s ring manifests NEARLY FIFTY dead heroes. Granted, Hal cheats a little by not showing the nearly two dozen that died and came back, but still, you have to admire Hal’s otherwise thorough display. He worked in Celsius, Skyman, Kole, Aztek, Pantha and Bushido!
Page 18: Barry’s particularly disturbed by seeing Ronnie Raymond (whom he mentored when Firestorm joined the JLA) and his good friends Ralph and Sue. Not as disturbed as Hawkman’s gonna be in a minute, but disturbed. Barry asks Hal the how and why, and Hal thinks, “I don’t even know where to start.”
Page 19: Hawkman is a terrible friend. Ray Palmer called him up to ask him to go with him to visit the grave of his ex-wife Jean Loring (whom, you may recall, killed Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis, became Eclipso, forced Mary Marvel to dress like a tramp, then died). Hawkman won’t hear of it going so far as to . . .
Page 22: Break the freaking phone so that Ray can’t jump through it to talk to him face to face. That’s how they did it in Ancient Egypt! Hawkgirl tried to calm him down, but at least he admits that he’s troubled. That’s the first step in getting help, you know. LIKE WHEN YOUR FRIEND CALLS AND ASK YOU TO VISIT HIS EX-WIFE’S GRAVE WITH HIM.
Page 23: And . . . once again it’s all about Hawkman loving Hawkgirl. While the Atom sits on his desk (that’s “on”, not “at”; he’s small), Hawkman gives Kendra the “destiny/love” speech again.
Page 24: Hal’s been filling Barry in on Sue and Ralph, which leads Barry to ask about Carol. Hal notes that Carol is safe, despite the fact that she’s a) presently a Star Sapphire and b) fighting the Sinestro Corps in space. Didn’t you read pages six and seven, Hal? No one you’ve ever met is safe! That guy you gave a quarter for a phone call outside 54 in 1978 is going to die! The conversation ends with Alfred calling about the Wayne gravesite.
Page 25: The Guardians are all like, “Oh, s#!+.”
Page 26-27: The War of Light is on, Guy and Kyle see the black rings swarming toward Oa, and Scar notes that the Guardians call to summon the Corps won’t get made because . . .
Page 28: Holy Crap! She’s going to bite your throat out! Wait . . . Guardians bleed yellow? Is that because they’re afraid? And his heart is green . . . okay, willpower, I get that. Then what’s pur--- never mind.
Page 29: This is probably the point when the GLs over Oa realize that it has really, really, hit the fan.
Page 30-31: As Hal and Barry investigate Bruce’s grave (which, when you think of it, is absolutely logical, given that Hal is a space-cop and Barry is a forensic scientist; nice work, Geoff and the gang!), Scar vomits black tar to imprison the Guardians and the black rings seek out a huge number of the dead.
Page 32-33: My bad. THIS is the point when the GLs over Oa realize that it has really, really, REALLY hit the fan. Dead GLs freaking abound. There’s Bzzzd, there’s Ch’p, there’s Arkkis Chummuck, who comes from a culture that eats their defeated foes anyway! Kyle, Guy, dudes, RUN.
Page 34: Zombie Black Lantern J’onn J’onnz is here. Yikes.
Page 35-36: Hawkman’s going to go out, but Hawkgirl tries to talk him about Ray. AND their relationship. They’re either talking extremely loudly or they’re extremely self-involved, because they don’t hear . . .
Page 37: That which is going to punch a spear through Hawkgirl’s back! As Kendra collapses, Hawkman takes a mace to the face.
Page 38: It’s Zombie Black Lantern Ralph and Sue! Zombie Ralph notes that he smells a mystery; Carter’s too stiff to retort with, “Yeah, well I smell a rotting corpse.” (Hey, I didn’t say it was a great joke; Carter’s too stiff to have a great one on deck.)
Page 39: Hawkman fights back as Zombie Ralph talks smack.
Page 40: ZR beats Hakwman down, mocking Carter and Kendra’s relationship when weighed against his and Sue’s. Kendra, for her part, tries to get an “I love you” out to Carter with her dying breath.
Page 41: And, just to make a point, Zombie Ralph and Sue rip the hearts out of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Ouch. And Ewww. And, I really need to make sure that my kids don’t get a hold of this one. They love the Hawks, and I can’t afford that much therapy.
Page 42: Black Hand arrives, still holding Bruce Wayne’s skull, and he bids the Hawks to rise.
Things look bleak for the home team, kids! Lingering questions after this issue:
1) Why did Scar trap the Guardians instead of killing the rest of them outright? Are their powers needed for another nefarious level of the plan, or was Scar just not hungry after her first bite? (Yes, that is a terrible pun.)
2) Scar’s a little on the nose as a name, right? Why aren't the other Guardians named after their distinguishing characteristics? "Hey, Widow's Peak, Big Nose over here is wondering what you and Bug Eye want for lunch - he's hitting the deli in half an hour."
3) How the hell are the heroes of the DCU gonna get out of this one?