Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unfortunately Mixed, Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns Is Part Indispensible, Part Worthless.

The Good: In general, the artwork, Some intriguing character twists and good vignettes
The Bad: Some terrible artwork, Some of the stories are utterly pointless
The Basics: As the Blackest Night exploitation, er, compilations, continue, Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns is a volume that has one or two worthwhile stories, but is otherwise exploiting the readers of the comic books.

For those who might not yet have discovered the reviews and articles I have written, I have become enchanted by the DC crossover event, Blackest Night. I spent days reading all of the hardcover volumes that have been released illustrating arguably the darkest period in the entire DC Universe and I wrote a guide on how to read the various books together (please check that article out by clicking here!). I have since gone back and reviewed the volumes Blackest Night (click here for that review!) and Blackest Night: Green Lantern (that review is here!). Today, I turn my attention back to Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns, one of the volumes that is hardly as integral as the main storylines and is an annoyance because some of the chapters are useful while others are simple obscure comics glomming onto the crossover.

Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns is a great example of what happens when everyone tries to get in on a good idea and the idea doesn’t fit their medium. There are nine stories in Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns and only two of them are essential to the Blackest Night storyline. To be fair, though, four of them are good and interesting reads. That still leaves three that are completely worthless and I write that knowing how terrible it is to read that anything one writes is without merit. Unfortunately, the chapters featuring Starman, The Question and Jonah Hex are incongruent with the rest of the Blackest Night Saga and one is left with the feeling that writers Dan Didio, Dennis O’Neill and James Robinson were either tasked with writing crossovers for the event or they tried to boost their comics’ sales by getting the Blackest Night imprint on their books.

Let’s start with the essentials. In the first chapter of the book, the Atom/Hawkman Blackest Night comic, features the story by Geoff Johns about how The Atom flees from his former friend, Hawkman, and becomes inducted into the Indigo Tribe. With the power of compassion, the Atom tries to thwart the power of the Black Lanterns and buy time for other heroes to strike at the heart of the enemy. This story has decent character development, good artwork by Ryan Sook and Fernando Pasarin and fits the overall Saga. Also worthwhile is “Deadman Walking,” the episode that features the Phantom Stranger. Peter J. Tomasi wrote the story of how the Phantom Stranger encountered the Black Lantern Spectre and how he works to save the illusive Deadman from the Black Lantern rings. This story, also featuring artwork with a good sense of movement and scope fits the storyline well and frees up Deadman to do some important work later in the Saga.

Some of the less necessary stories in Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns still fit the overall story of Blackest Night. Those stories, while not integral to the main plot of the Saga still work and flesh out the characters involved in the crossover. The Green Arrow story presented in Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns, written by J.T. Krul is a great example of that. Green Arrow, turned into a Black Lantern because of his previous death and resurrection, begins hunting Black Canary and his children. While he fights for control, Black Canary must work to thwart her turned lover and there is an epic, tragic feel to the chapter. Similarly, “Night And The City” with Catwoman resonates on the character level. With astonishingly good artwork, the Tony Bedard story has Catwoman taking on Black Mask. Her fight with that villain leads her to her sister, who had been tortured and Selina Kyle works to rescue Magdalene. While Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy battle Black Lanterns, they search for Selina. The story is tangential to the Blackest Night, but it sets up a dark twist in a character that actually made me want to read more!

Far less integral to the storyline, but also worthwhile, were “Rest In Peace” and “What Did Black Lantern Superboy Do?” “Rest In Peace” is from the Power Of Shazam comic and it tells the story of Amon Tomaz (Osiris) as he is resurrected in the Middle East. Amon Tomaz does not understand what has happened to him and how or why he is resurrected as a Black Lantern. He encounters Sobek, the lizard who killed him and despite some mediocre artwork, Amon Tomaz illustrates real character and power in overcoming the power of the Black Rings! “What Did Black Lantern Superboy Do?” is far less interesting on the character level, though it does integrate with other chapters fairly well. Turned into a Black Lantern, Superboy beats the living pulp out of Wonder Girl and that’s pretty much all the story Tony Bedard has to work with for that chapter.

But the book then includes three stories that do not even have the tangential merit of the others. “And The South Shall Rise Again” is a Jonah Hex addition to the Blackest Night Saga that seems entirely exploitative. Dan Didio crafts a pointless story wherein the Ray brings a Black Ring to resurrect Jonah Hex and Quentin Turnbull and the one-shot flops because it lacks consequence or real character development. One has the feeling the editors at DC said, “Hey, we need to promote that Jonah Hex movie coming out next summer, so let’s put him in Blackest Night!” The artwork is utterly terrible and that problem follows through in the Starman and The Question chapters as well. The Question’s “One More Question” has the dead incarnation of The Question risen just to be killed again and the Dennis O’Neill story is unimpressive in every way. I’d write something about the Starman chapter, but I didn’t understand it at all. All I know is it was incomprehensible and featured lousy artwork.

In the final analysis, Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns is a chapter of the Blackest Night Saga that readers can easily pass by. I’d recommend reading the few worthwhile chapters at the book store, but not wasting the money on the rest of it. There are far too many good graphic novels to buy without spending money on the wholly mediocre ones, like this one.

For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my takes on:
Identity Crisis
Amazons Attack!


For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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