Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 2 Is A Fractured Volume.

The Good: Moments of story/character, Moments of artwork
The Bad: Stories that require a lot of intimate backstory knowledge, Much of the artwork.
The Basics: Despite having some interesting stories that are important to the overall Blackest Night Saga, Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 2 is way too fractured and poorly presented to recommend.

Some of my regular readers who follow my reviews might think that because my Wonder Woman Year is over, I would have no cause to continue reading DC Universe graphic novels. The truth, however, is that I have such a serious backlog of graphic novel reviews from 2010 that I have yet to post or write that I am still continuing to post reviews based on works I did read last year. One of them is Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 2 and because last year was my Wonder Woman Year, this was one of the anthologies I was most excited to be reading. I had seen the Blackest Night action figure series well in advance of the trade anthology books being published, so I had been eagerly awaiting Wonder Woman’s Blackest Night story. That story is contained in Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 2; it is also a great example of how the graphic novel falls down.

Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 2 is broken into three essential parts and, unfortunately, some of that is broken up even more than necessary or alludes to so much outside what is in the text as to make this one of the least approachable, least readable volumes in the Blackest Night Saga. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my article on How To Read Blackest Night (available here!). As that article illustrates, some of the stories contained within Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 2 actually fall within the space of some of the panels within some of the chapters in other Blackest Night books! But, essentially, Volume 2 is the collection which includes the Blackest Night adventures of the Flash, Wonder Woman and the Justice Society Of America. And, alas, it is virtually impossible for me to write about all I read in the volume.

The storyline which contains the Flash is a three-chapter story where the artwork is so bad that it completely distracted me from what the story is supposed to be about. In his chapter, the Flash – who has been abandoned when Hal Jordan is called upon to save the universe by the members of the Indigo Tribe, removing the Green Lantern from Earth – runs to Gorilla City. There, he struggles with the undead gorillas, some of whom were former allies. Meanwhile, Captain Cold stages a jailbreak and in the process discovers undead villains whom he must protect his crew from.

Sadly, the plots of these three stories are vague in my recollection mostly because – and I feel no shame in admitting this – I had no idea what was going on. The story that comprises The Flash contains undead versions of Flash family members (which is pretty common throughout the Blackest Night Saga) and villains whom I had never heard of that seem to have essentially the same powers as Flash. The Reverse Flash comes into play and it seems the whole point of these three stories are to bring the Reverse Flash back into play (he is a relevant character in Brightest Day) and to establish the Blue Lantern version of the Flash. Either way, the artwork, done by Scott Kolins is so distractingly bad that is completely undermines Geoff Johns’ usually coherent prose. Because things like Captain Cold’s raid on the jail are so visually jumbled, it is hard for readers to tell what is going on and the section of the book is almost unreadable.

By contrast, Greg Rucka’s section for Wonder Woman is very easy to understand, save that the story is presented as three abrupt vignettes which do not tie to one another. In the first, Wonder Woman defends Arlington National Cemetary during the Blackest Night. There, she encounters the Black Lantern version of Max Lord and she has to defeat him again, only her prior solution to the Max Lord problem is no longer practical! The second vignette is an abrupt departure, featuring the Black Lantern Wonder Woman (where did she come from?!) who begins going on a murderous rampage and tries to rip apart Mera. But Wonder Woman’s gods are looking down on her and their solution to the problem of a Black Lantern Wonder Woman is actually quite interesting. That leads to the chapter of Wonder Woman’s story where Wonder Woman is given the powers of the Star Sapphire and she must use the power of love to prevent the Red Lantern Mera from killing.

Wonder Woman’s section is annoyingly lacking in cohesion, but the three smaller parts are pretty cool. The irksome aspect is that they do not add up to anything and the reader is simply left feeling like Wonder Woman is being given a token story in the Blackest Night Saga.

The book also contains the three chapters of the Justice Society Of America’s Blackest Night experience. In the story from James Robinson and Tony Bedard, JSA headquarters is attacked by the Black Lantern Lois Lane (from one of the other DC Universes). While under siege, the JSA has to deal with the undead Kal-L and that Black Lantern has to be put down by Power Girl. While Power Girl delays the Black Lanterns, the rest of the Justice Society tries to learn what they can about how to defeat the Black Lanterns and they make a discovery that none of the other heroes have made.

The artwork by three pencillers is some of the best in the Blackest Night Saga. The images have a great sense of flow and the characters look good, even if readers who are unfamiliar with the JSA are likely to not know who it is they are looking at. The character-driven aspects of these stories works well for the readers and the JSA story is surprisingly relevant to the overall Saga.

Unfortunately, it is now quite enough to recommend Volume 2. This book holds up poorly on its own and if there is ever an Absolute Blackest Night one suspects these stories will be chopped to be included in a relevant way into that tome.

For 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
Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps
Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps - Volume 1


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

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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