Friday, December 3, 2010

Vignettes In Color Rings: Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps Is A Good Primer, But Little Else!

The Good: Primes readers for Blackest Night's players very well, Fast read
The Bad: Short, Lots of filler, Stories do not truly add up to much.
The Basics: Good for those unfamiliar with the Green Lantern Universe to understand the fundamental issues behind the players in Blackest Night, Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps otherwise flops.

Frequently what happens with me is that I will encounter something I am interested in and not have a chance to review it right as I experience it. So, as is customary in my trade, I take notes and often construct a review based on my memory and notes I took while reading the book, hearing the album or watching the movie. Sometimes, my notes say a lot more than I actually have written on the page. I mention this at the outset of my review of Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps because my top note on the book was "UTTERLY UNNECESSARY!" And the caps and underlining were all part of my notes, too!

For those who have not been following my many reviews on the subject, despite this being my Wonder Woman Year, I've made a significant divergence for the Blackest Night Saga, going so far as to write a guide on how to read the Blackest Night Saga (which is available by clicking here!). The idea of the graphic novel series captivated me right away; the dead heroes and villains in the DC Universe are raised by a malevolent force to lay waste to the DC Universe. Sounds cool and it was executed surprisingly well in general. Blackest Night: Tales From The Corps is intended to be for readers like me who were not fans of, or well-versed in the universe of, Green Lantern. The Blackest Night Saga is a Green Lantern-dominated crossover event and for those who do not understand the principles of the Green Lantern Universe, it can be somewhat confusing.

The Green Lantern Corps is a group of interstellar police agents who use willpower to bring order to the galaxy. They all tap into a Green Lantern battery which charges each Lantern's green ring. The ring focuses each Green Lantern's willpower and allows them to create any tool they need using the force of their own will. Throughout the galaxy, there are other ringbearers who use similar mechanisms. There are Yellow Lanterns (the Sinestro Corps) whose power is derived from fear (I have some real problems with that), the Red Lanterns whose power comes from rage, the Blue Lanterns who have undying hope, the Indigo Lanterns (Indigo Tribe) who emerge in Blackest Night with the power of compassion, the Star Sapphires who use love to control their space and a single Orange Lantern, Agent Orange (Larfleeze) who is motivated entirely by avarice (greed) and was the subject of Green Lantern: Agent Orange (reviewed here!) right before Blackest Night began. With the emergence of the Black Rings of death, that is the Green Lantern concept in a single paragraph. Now you don't have to read Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps!

Sadly, that last sentence is actually quite true. The whole purpose of Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps is to give readers a primer and prepare them for the conflicts that come in Blackest Night by illustrating the disparate elements in the Green Lantern Universe. But ultimately, the point of the book is to impart the information above to readers who have not read the volumes that lead into the Blackest Night Saga. But the entire book boils down to being that primer, a group of short story works that illustrate how each Corps works so readers might be impressed as they start to work with one another as the Blackest Night progresses.

Knowing that I cannot get away with that being all I write, the stories within Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps are simple and are as follows:

For the Green Lanterns, there are two stories. Peter J. Tomasi wrote the story of Kilowog's journey to become a Green Lantern. Kilowog is the Green Lantern drill sergeant who is important enough to be in the forthcoming Green Lantern film and because he wrestles with his undead mentor during the Blackest Night, the basic story of how he became a Green Lantern is told. Unfortunately, Chris Samnee gives the tale an almost animated look and it appears fairly silly at points. Added to the fact that Kilowog's story is not exactly an epic hero's tale makes it somewhat blah (yes, that's a professional opinion). The other Green Lantern story is Arisia's story, wherein the interstellar nymph is raised with her Lantern father and she prepares to take his place. Mike Mayhew wrote a completely unmemorable story, but it is presented with painting-quality panels that make it exceptionally beautiful and easy-to-follow. If only the story were one readers would care about, the artwork would be a real boon!

The Red Lanterns are given a very dark story from Geoff Johns. Bleez is introduced as a peaceful, nymph-like creature who lives a life of privilege and wants for nothing. But when her people are attacked and her wings are torn off, Bleez turns into a Red Lantern, getting a ring and laying waste to her enemies. Eddy Burrows does great pencilwork which shows a clear love for the female form and Jose's inks flesh the story out with colors that are vibrant and exciting. This might be the high point of the unnecessary tome.

It is followed by "Blume Godhead," by Peter J. Tomasi and Tomasi is given the unenviable task of writing the backstory for Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern. Unfortunately, the greed thing is a tough story to flesh out and Larfleeze's tale of coming by the Orange Lantern battery and getting it is exceptionally limited and not terribly illuminating. Tom Mandrake's artwork is sloppy, almost sketch quality and that, too, detracts from the story.

The Sinestro Corps is highlighted by Tomasi and Samnee, who again does artwork that has an animated look to it. For their story, ironically, Sinestro is not featured. Instead, the story of Debstam IV is relayed and Mongul is explored some. But because both Mongul and his father are named Mongul, it is not entirely clear which is the one who actually comes up in Blackest Night. In other words, if Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps is supposed to prepare readers for the Saga, this story only confuses newbies and, because of the animated nature of this story, makes Mongul far less impressive (and thus, Sinestro's victory over him, similarly unimpressive).

Geoff Johns returns to present Saint Walker's story. The Blue Lantern is introduced with a story of faith that has an almost biblical look and feel to it. Walker is motivated by hope and when Larfleeze's orange apparitions descend upon him and his people, he must repel them with the power of his hope and faith. Jerry Ordway does a decent job of making the panels distinctive in their looks and feel, but the story has very little emotional resonance because faith is such a narrow emotion in some ways. It is an absolute and Saint Walker's sense of hope is almost blind, which makes it hard to have a story with real depth or conflict. Even so, his chapter is not bad.

What is far more limited is the Tales Of The Indigo Tribe chapter by Geoff Johns and Rags Morales. With exceptionally beautiful artwork, Johns has the Indigo Tribe witness a crash on their remote world of a Green Lantern and a Yellow Lantern. As the two Lanterns duke it out and try to survive, the Indigo Tribe members watch and empathize. At least the chapter looks amazing!

This is followed by the Star Sapphires story "Lost Love." Geoff Johns has a vignette wherein Carol Ferris is once again called to Zamaron to be a Star Sapphire. This sets up the essential conflict for Hal Jordan in Blackest Night surrounding Ferris, so it is useful. Genetta, however, presents fair artwork with entirely overbearing colors that make the story somewhat metaphorically browbeating. Still, this story does what it ought to to prepare readers for Blackest Night.

The main group of stories is concluded with the Birth Of Nekron, which is pretty impressive and useful to readers of the Blackest Night Saga. Geoff Johns introduces the essential villain of the book and Jerry Ordway's artwork fleshes it out. It is an origin story and it is worthwhile, though technically it is written to be presented in the middle of the Blackest Night narrative.

These stories are followed by pages of notes on the three issues that made up Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps. The notes are not particularly illuminating, though they are very thorough. Beyond that, there is a story of Superboy which - even as one who has read the whole Crisis Crossover - I did not understand.

At the end of the day, my initial assessment holds: Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps is something of a primer, but because each volume of the Blackest Night Saga references the colors, what they mean and how the story began, none of these are absolutely indispensable. So, if you read them, you'll have a greater understanding. But if you're short on time and looking for the essentials, this volume does not contain them.

For the other volumes in the Blackest Night Saga, please check out my reviews of:
Blackest Night
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps
Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns


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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