Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Supplemental, But Meaningful, Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps - Volume 1 Enhances The Story!

The Good: Decent artwork, Good character works, Generally good stories.
The Bad: Very self-referential, Moments of predictability
The Basics: With a whole ton of supplemental Blackest Night books on the market, Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 actually adds something to the experience of reading the saga.

Because some crossover events are so huge – in the realm of comic books, anyway – the full story may often not be told in a single volume or linear narrative. In the case of the Blackest Night Saga, DC Comics had a fundamental problem; they were attempting to do a massive crossover, but the primary focus of the event was on the Green Lantern Corps and the newly-resurrected Flash, Barry Allen. This meant that, unlike many, many other crossover events like the Crisis storylines, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were only peripheral characters. While Wonder Woman is frequently marginalized in such events, the fact that Superman would not save the day and save the universe from the events of Blackest Night made the whole series that much more intriguing. But, at the same time, it is impossible to invest in the idea that the whole of the DC Universe could be shaken by the Blackest Night if the recognizable characters did not have relevant arcs within the story. Whether the writers of the series succeeded or not, they made the attempt to fill in the gaps in the story with Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1.

Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 tells the stories of Batman, Superman and Donna Troy during the Blackest Night. These stories are hardly indispensable to the Blackest Night Saga, but they are intriguing and well-presented. For how they fit into the larger story, I recommend checking out my guide on how to read Blackest Night (available here!). What all three stories do fairly successfully is explore the natures and characters of those who have died in the DC Universe and how their resurrections as malevolent entities shakes those left behind.

In the three-part Batman story, Dick Grayson – the new Batman – and Damian – the new Robin – are patrolling Gotham City when they learn of the desecration of the cemetery. Arriving there, they discover Bruce Wayne’s grave has been unearthed and that his skull is missing. Their ability to investigate is almost immediately compromised, though, when Grayson’s parents are resurrected as Black Lanterns. While Commissioner Gordon evacuates the police station, which is overrun by Black Lanterns, Grayson enters the carnival world his parents were killed in and attempts to learn about the nature of the Black Lanterns.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Ma Kent is tending to Superboy, who has been on leave. They are visited by Clark Kent and the Black Lantern forms of Kal-L (Superman Prime) and the alternate Lois Lane. As the Kents are tormented by the undead heroes, Superman and Superboy try desperately to learn the vulnerabilities of the enemy, even as they are hunted by the Black Rings which will make them into reanimated corpses.

Finally, the Teen Titans are featured and they are tormented by fallen members and family whom they must thwart. The only vignette of note in this section comes in the form of Donna Troy. Donna Troy has wrestled with the death of her husband and child and when they are resurrected as Black Lanterns, she is put in an untenable situation which might well be her undoing!

Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 is exactly what it is, a supplemental book to the larger Blackest Night Saga. While the Blackest Night main story focuses on a scheme to potentially end the universe itself, Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 is far more intimate and Earth-bound. As such, the plots are almost inconsequential to the character elements. In that regard, while the Teen Titans overall story in the volume is easy to disregard, it is impossible to not empathize with Donna Troy. Donna knowingly puts herself in the path of two Black Lanterns to try to learn the truth of what their powers and purposes are. As a result, she is put in the classic dilemma that we never truly get to encounter in real life: what would we do if our deceased loved ones appeared and wanted to converse? Donna Troy’s reactions are essentially, wonderfully, human and even readers who are not familiar with her story will find it both accessible and compelling.

Similarly, Dick Grayson’s arc in the Batman section of the book is interesting and asks deeper questions. Instead of being plot-driven, his story is engaging and moves along based upon the strength of the protagonist and that character’s decisions. Ironically, the Superman story is the least interesting as it quickly degenerates into a very obvious battle sequence that lacks any subtlety or character development. There is irony to this in that the resolution with the Black Lantern Kal-L actually leads to one of the important plot development points that does change the direction of the Blackest Night Saga.

What writers James Robinson, Peter J. Tomasi, and J.T. Krul all have going for them is a good sense of dialogue and voice. Krul, especially, seems to have a great sense of emotion to the dialogue he writes in the Teen Titans section of the book. Robinson, for his part, has a knack for banter in the Batman section and that is a fast read, if nothing else.

The artwork in Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 is good, but none of it stood out as exceptional. The characters represented are recognizable and in the Superman section there is an excellent sense of movement that utilizes the medium well. As well, in the Donna Troy story, there are panels that have still stuck with me, despite having read the book last over a month ago.

The hardcover Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 is enhanced by a full cover gallery of all of the issues which comprise this anthology. That, along with files on the various characters, make the book both accessible to newbies and removes the pressure to collect the individual books for fans. Because all three stories are serialized, there is a pleasant benefit to being able to sit and read the book with the full stories as opposed to having to wait for the various parts.

Ultimately, Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps – Volume 1 is a decent addition to the Blackest Night Saga and it asks some of the questions about life and death that one would hope a significant work would. But, it is still just a supplement and readers are much less likely to fall in love with it outside the context of the magnificent Blackest Night Saga.

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


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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