Blackest Night #7 (of 8)
Written by Geoff Johns
Penciled by Ivan Reis
Inked by Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
Colors by Alex Sinclair
Lettered by Nick J. Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Blackest Night might be the most ambitious superhero epic event comics have ever seen.
The way to make a superhero story into a superhero epic is to increase the scale: hero saves fair citizen, good; hero saves city, better; hero saves country, great; hero saves planet, grand; hero saves solar system, legendary; hero saves all life across the universe, mythic.
Issues of scale are inherent to cosmic adventure comics. By removing the adventure from an environment with which the audience has even a hint of familiarity, the burden falls on creators to define the conflict in a way that still achieves resonance. It's one thing to say that the fate of the universe is at hand, but it's another thing to make a convincing case of that to readers.
Geoff Johns long built to this Blackest Night. This is the doomsday event that the Guardians of the Universe have spent eons preparing for. It is the reason for the existence of the Green Lantern Corps. The War of Light was fought by avatars of every major emotion across the spectrum of existence, but the real battle is simply of light, any light that shines, against the darkness of nonexistence, against the black pitch of death.
So the dead have risen, and the warring corps' have set aside their differences for the sake of life itself. Last issue, a new vanguard of emotional soldiers were awarded with rings. Up until now, the various corps were served by newly created interstellar soldiers; original characters that represented the feelings they fought on behalf of. But by granting the powers of Lantern rings to well known DC characters, the war comes home.
The broad strokes of this emotional conflict are grounded by the reader's familiarity with these iconic characters. Rage, love, compassion, hope, greed, fear, will- in a vacuum, these are just ephemeral ideas. But by casting characters like Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Lex Luthor as soldiers in this war, the audience is shown how central this conflict is to the fundamentals of existence. As far as setting scale goes, it's hard to do much better.
Cosmic DC books have a way of consistently returning to the beginnings of the universe. Blackest Night follows suit, unearthing some of the Guardians of the Universe's greatest, most long held secrets. Marking the seeds of existence as the seeds of this conflict is also a powerfully effective tool in giving this story the proper grandeur. This story is about the prospect of the end of all life, so it's fitting that its origins hearken to the origins of life.
The scale of this book speaks for itself, but what of its effectiveness? The ambition is apparent, but delivering on a story about life as the lump sum of all emotional impulses at war with a force that simply wishes to extinguish it is no easy feat. Johns and Reis present a well constructed story about big casts, big splash page fights, and big ideas. They do so in a story that puts DC icons Batman and Superman, and to a lesser extent Wonder Woman, on the back burner, as Green Lantern moves to the head of the class. In this story, Hal Jordan is the most important character in the universe. His strength and his struggles are no less than the crux of this story.
Superhero conflicts can be at their most effective when they transform the metaphor into the literal. This seems to have been Johns' foremost goal with this series. Sure, lots of stories have been told about the struggle of life versus death, but never has that struggle been so painstakingly detailed.
In Blackest Night, life is protected by an allied army of its central components. Each aspect of what makes our existence worthwhile has taken up arms in the name of self-preservation. Superheroes, supervillains, super cats and super dogs are all on the same page here; win this war or die. Cosmic superhero comics have a responsibility to be big stories with big casts and big ideas. Blackest Night rises to the occasion.