Blackest Night #2 Review

Evidently, I was in the clear minority concerning Blackest Night #1. I found the debut issue to this big event to be rather lacking. The pacing was slow and the plot progression was practically non-existent. All in all, I found Blackest Night #1 to be a one-dimensional read that relied more on mindless fighting, death and gore than an actual well crafted story.

Hopefully, Johns can crank up the pacing and deliver plenty of actual plot progression with Blackest Night #2. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Blackest Night #2.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Oclair Albert
Colors: Alex Sinclair

Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the Atom (Ray Palmer) calling back Hawkman. Zombie Hawkman answers the phone. Ray begs for Carter to not hang up on him. Ray talks about how he cannot stop thinking about Jean and what a beautiful and smart woman she was when they first met. (Before she became a murderous bitch who killed one of your best friend’s wife.) Ray says that he always thought he was so lucky to end up with a woman like Jean. Black Lantern Hawkman tells Ray to hop on over via the phone so they can talk in person. Ray answers that he will be right there.

We cut to Gotham City where Commissioner Gordon and Barbara are hanging out on top of the Gotham Police Department HQ. Gordon has the Batsignal on. Gordon says that the night feels so much darker than usual and that he is afraid to cut off the Batsignal. Barbara says that while she was rehabbing from being paralyzed by the Joker that there was a saying posted in her rehab facility. This saying was “No matter how dark the night gets, the sun still rises in the morning.”

Barbara says that she worked hard and always got up early enough to see the sun rise while rehabbing. Barbara says that she loves life. Barbara says that she will stay here through the night with her father to see the sun come up in the morning. Gordon comments how Barbara is an amazing person. Barbara answers “Like father, like daughter.”

Suddenly, Hal Jordan comes crashing down into the Batsignal and breaks it into pieces.

We cut to Amnesty Bay and see Mera and Tempest along with a bunch of Atlantean soldiers arriving on the beach. Mera tells Garth that she will allow him to move Aquaman’s body to Atlantis if it means Atlantis accepting Garth as their new King. Garth swears to be a good King.

They arrive at Aquaman’s grave and see that the grave has been torn open. Mera and Garth wonder which villain would desecrate Aquaman’s grave. Suddenly, Zombie Aquaman appears in front of Mera and Garth.

Black Lantern Aquaman says that he is their King and that he preferred being buried in the mud with the surface people rather than being buried in Atlantis. Zombie Aquaman rants that he was hunted as a child by the Atlanteans due to his father’s heritage. Zombie Aquaman rants that the Atlanteans then begged him to give his blood to help rebuild their empire. And once he did that the Atlanteans hunted him down again. Aquaman says that it is now his time to hunt.

We zip over to Gotham City and see Deadman’s soul curls up in a fetal position. Deadman stammers that he does not want to come back. We then see Deadman’s body getting a black power ring and tearing free from his grave.

We hop over to a graveyard in Washington, DC. We see the graves for Hank Hall (Hawk) and Don Hall (Dove). Two black power rings arrive at the two graves. The black power ring next to Don Hall’s grave says “Don Hall of Earth. Ri– Don Hall of Earth at peace.” The black power ring repeats those same words over and over.

We see the black power ring outside of Hank Hall’s grave telling Hank to rise. Hank rips out of his grave and puts on the black power ring. Hawk says that as always he has to do all the dirty work himself.

We cut back to Amnesty Bay with Mera, Garth and the Altantean soldiers fighting with Zombie Aquaman. Suddenly, Zombie Dolphin and Zombie Tula appear on the scene and attack Garth. Tula blames Garth for letting her drown in toxic waters. Zombie Aquaman gets the upper hand on Mera.

The Atlantean soldiers then rush to Mera’s aide. Aquaman then uses his telepathy to summon a bunch of great white sharks that blast out of the water and tear apart the Atlantean soldiers. (Okay, I have to admit it. That was just bad-ass. You know, I watched all of Shark Week last week. Scary thing is that great white sharks really do rocket out of the water when attacking their prey at the surface of the water. It was some pretty insane looking footage.)

We slide back to Boston Brand’s (Deadman) empty grave. Phantom Stranger, Blue Devil, Spectre and Zatanna have all assembled to investigate what happened to Deadman. Suddenly, a hooded Black Lantern appears and says “Worlds have died. Worlds will rise.” The Black Lantern then pulls back his hood and we see that it is Pariah. (Cool!) Zombie Pariah says that even in death he cannot escape his penance. Suddenly, a black power ring zips onto the scene and calls out for Crispus Allen.

The black power ring slides onto the Spectre’s finger. Black Hand watches the scene and says that the Spectre’s power is ineffective against the power of Black Hand’s master. Black Hand says that the ones who have lived beyond death like Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Spectre had to be removed first in order for the universe to finally achieve silence, darkness and peace. We then see the Spectre transform into a Black Lantern. Zombie Spectre yells “I want Hal Jordan back!”

We shift back to Gotham where Gordon and Barbara help Hal Jordan get to his feet. Hal asks if he can borrow Gordon’s car. We see the Flash (Barry Allen) fighting with Martian Manhunter.

We hop back to Amnesty Bay where Zombie Aquaman is still battling Mera. Garth uses his powers to freeze Dolphins head into ice. Mera then shatters Dolphin’s head. Tula continues fighting with Garth. We then see Zombie Dolphin re-grow her head. Tula then rips out Garth’s heart. Garth dies.

A black power ring then arrives on the scene and slides onto Garth’s finger. Garth becomes a Black Lantern. Zombie Aquaman, Zombie Garth, Zombie Tula and Zombie Dolphin stand together and urge Mera to join them. They say that they are family. Mera then turns tail and runs away.

We zip back to Barry brawling with Zombie Martian Manhunter. Barry reveals that he has been carefully grabbing vials full of certain chemicals and has been breaking them around Zombie J’onn’s feet. Barry asks Zombie J’onn if he knows what all these chemicals have in common.

Hal then arrives on the scene with Gordon’s car. Hal answers “I do. They’re all flammable. Flash Fact.” (I do love Flash Facts.) Hal drops the car on Zombie J’onn and suddenly Zombie J’onn is engulfed in flames. Barry runs around Zombie J’onn in order to make sure that the flames do no spread and Barry also creates one hell of a furnace.

Barry and Hal then stop and wait for the fire to die down. Barry asks if Hal has been able to find any information about the black rings from his fellow Green Lanterns. Hal says that he still cannot contact anyone on Oa. We see a black power ring arriving at Abin Sur’s grave.

Barry says that when the fire dies down that he wants to take J’onn’s remains to Mars for a proper resting place. Barry says that J’onn deserves better than this. That J’onn was the heart of the Justice League.

From the smoke we hear Zombie Martian Manhunter’s voice say “Heart, Barry? I have no heart.” The smoke clears and out steps the Zombie Justice League of America. We see Zombie Martian Manhunter flanked by Zombie Hawkman, Zombie Hawkgirl, Zombie Firestorm, Zombie Elongated Man and Zombie Sue Dibny. Zombie J’onn says “I gave my heart to the League.” Ralph Dibny says “We all did, J’onn. Now it’s your turn to return the favor, fellas.” End of issue.

Commentary

The Good: Unfortunately, Blackest Night #2 was not much of an improvement on the debut issue of this big event. Blackest Night #2 was a slightly above average issue. However, there were certainly aspects of this issue that I found enjoyable. And, to be sure, for some readers, this issue is going to be highly entertaining.

There are two strong points to Blackest Night #2 that power this issue. The first strength of Blackest Night #2 is the excellent action scenes that we get in this issue. Johns loads up this issue with plenty of brawling. The reader gets served up a huge helping of blood and gore. Johns never makes the reader go more than a couple of pages without seeing some fighting.

The big brawl between Garth and Mera battling Zombie Aquaman, Zombie Tula and Zombie Dolphin was the backbone of this issue. It was also a nicely orchestrated fight scene that had some good psychology to it. It was interesting to see the resentment, hurt and betrayal that Aquaman had in his heart for the people of Atlantis. We also got an insight into how Tula blamed Garth for her death.

The second strength of Blackest Night #2 is the “shock” value of seeing the zombie versions of various DC heroes. If you like zombie stories then this will certainly appeal to you. I have to admit that even though I am not a zombie fan and given the fact that I generally find zombie attack stories to be completely boring; I did find Zombie Aquaman to be incredibly bad-ass. The scene where Zombie Aquaman summons the great white sharks to eat the Altantean soldiers was just sick. I loved it.

Johns cranks out some solid dialogue. Johns demonstrates a good feel for the main characters in this story. Hal and Barry’s dialogue was well done. Aquaman’s ranting added a nice amount of tension and drama to the story. Johns also pulls off some solid character work in this issue, mostly with Ray Palmer and Jim and Barbara Gordon.

The one page scene with the Gordon’s and the two page scene with Ray Palmer demonstrate that a writer does not need to deliver long drawn out scenes in order to conduct some nice character work. In both scenes, Johns demonstrates a nice feel for each of these characters. Johns is able to effectively convey the character’s personality and feelings to the reader in a concise and condensed manner.

I liked how Johns had Ray still torn up over Jean. It is quite understandable that Ray would miss Jean despite her villainous actions during Identity Crisis. The fact is that Ray has lost Jean twice. Ray lost Jean on New Earth. Then Ray lost Jean a second time on the Earth that he relocated to during Countdown. Having to lose your soulmate twice in one lifetime is certainly more than your average person could bear. It is tough for a person to let go of someone that they feel they are destined to be with.

Having said that, I hope that Johns uses Blackest Night to put a bow on Ray’s grief over Jean. Identity Crisis was five years ago and it is about time for the dangling plotline concerning Ray’s coming to grips with what Jean did to be resolved. Ray’s character needs to finally evolve and get past this stage that he has been stuck in for almost five years now. I hope that Johns has more in store for Ray other than being mopey and then getting slaughtered off and becoming a Black Lantern.

The one page scene with Jim Gordon and Barbara Gordon might have been short, but it was well done. Johns presented the reader with a sweet father/daughter moment. In a story as almost cartoonishly dark and dreary as Blackest Night, it is important for Johns to inject a little bit of light and positive feelings into the story whenever possible. This scene achieved that goal while also showing the reader the mental toughness of Barbara Gordon that makes her so invaluable as Oracle.

While very little actually happened in this issue, Johns did give the reader a few crumbs of information about the Black Lantern Corps. We saw that Don Hall was immune to the effects of the black power ring. The black power ring registered after several attempts raise Dove from the dead that Don Hall was at peace.

This was an interesting new wrinkle that seems to indicate that the black power ring only has control over people who died traumatically or with unfinished business and, therefore, are not at peace. This is consistent with the characters that we have seen come back to life as Black Lanterns in Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Ralph and Sue Dibny, Aquaman, Tula and Dolphin. It certainly played into the feelings of resentment and betrayal that Zombie Aquaman and Zombie Martian Manhunter displayed in this issue.

The reader also learns that the Black Hand’s master is powerful enough to control even the Spectre. That is some serious firepower. Johns is really building up the mysterious master of the Black Lantern Corps. I am curious to learn the identity of this character. It should be interesting to see if Johns can deliver the pay-off with this reveal or if it will be anti-climactic.

The reader also learns that the Black Hand specifically targeted people who have lived beyond death to be dealt with first. This is why Hal Jordan is going to play such a central role in this story. Hal was dead and even played the role of the Spectre. Of all the characters who have cheated death, Hal is one of the biggest offenders. First, he was simply dead. Then, he played the role of the Spectre. I would imagine that we will see most of the characters who have been resurrected to be the first ones to fall to the Black Lanterns.

Being a fan of DC continuity I loved that Johns worked Pariah into this story. Pariah certainly is cursed in death as he was in life. This was a cool touch that helped to serve as a tether between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Blackest Night. I appreciate it when writers try and continue certain thematic elements between current big events and big events from the past.

One interesting line that we got from Pariah was when he mentioned that worlds have died and worlds will rise. I am curious to see if this means that the Multiverse will be continuing to expand past the current 52 Earths. I was not expecting Blackest Night to tie into any of the Crisis events, but perhaps Johns has something larger in store for us.

The most enjoyable aspect of Blackest Night #2 is the drop dead gorgeous artwork that Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert delivered in this issue. Regardless of any defects in the story, this was simply a wonderful book to look at. Reis packed so much detail into each panel. Reis was also able to breathe life into Johns’ story by conveying the emotions of the various characters to the reader. The facial expressions of each character were well done. The fight scenes were dramatic and impressive. Reis created quite a dynamic looking issue that captures the reader’s attention.

The Bad: Blackest Night #2 had plenty of defects. This issue lacked depth and substance. Blackest Night has certainly not lived up to the high expectations that I had for this big event. The Sinestro War was absolutely brilliant. The build-up up Blackest Night was also quite intriguing. Johns continually delivered such a deep and textured tale that fleshed out the religious and mythical aspects of the Green Lantern mythos. There was so much for the reader to digest and enjoy.

I was expecting so much more from Blackest Night than what we have received over the first two issues. I was expecting a grand space opera full of mystery, intrigue, mythical themes, drama and a full scale universe spanning war. I was expecting something like War of Kings only even better.

Instead, all we have gotten is a basic “zombie attacks!” story. So far, Blackest Night has simply been a DC Zombies title. I have found this to be quite disappointing.

Up to this point, Blackest Night feels like a bait and switch as all we have gotten is a shallow DC Zombie story. Blackest Night merely relies on a combination of “shock” moments of seeing DC heroes turned into zombies, violence and gore as the basis for this big event.

I would have much rather had Johns deliver a more substantive and textured story like what we have been getting on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps during the Sinestro War and during the build-up to Blackest Night.

The “shock” ending of Blackest Night #2 only bolsters my view of this big event. The big hook ending is the “Zombie Justice League.” This ending did little for me and just proved my point that Johns is delivering a rather thin zombie attacks story.

So far, Blackest Night has been one-dimensional. There is nothing particularly creative in giving the reader the Zombie Justice League. There is very little content in Blackest Night #2 that actually engages the reader’s mind. At this point, Blackest Night is more like a fluff horror/action blockbuster movie than the substantive and intelligent big event that I was expecting.

However, the biggest flaw to Blackest Night is the awful pacing and plotting. This story is moving at a snail’s pace. Blackest Night lacks focus and direction. It feels as if Johns is just meandering around at a lazy pace and simply trying to waste time and burn up panel space in an effort to stretch this story over eight issues.

There as a total lack of plot progression in Blackest Night #2. All we have gotten is a bunch of black rings zipping around the place, zombies coming out of the ground and some mindless fighting.  That’s about it so far over the course of the two issues. 

Despite all the fighting and “shocking” zombie reveals, nothing actually happens at all in Blackest Night #2. I finished this issue and felt much like I do after I eat cotton candy. Yeah, it is sweet and yummy, but it is not filling and your appetite has not been sated.

At this point, we have two issues down in an eight issue mini-series and I feel like Johns has done absolutely nothing at all. Blackest Night #1 and Blackest Night #2 could have easily been combined into one issue and it would have made for a much more satisfying beginning to this big event.

I understand that Johns writes with the trade format in mind almost exclusively, but this is a bit ridiculous. This is a reoccurring problem that has reared its ugly head both on Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, the Magog/Kingdome Come story arcs on Justice Society of America and on Flash: Rebirth. Blackest Night and Flash: Rebirth are startlingly similar in how little has actually happened on each title.

Johns’ format is the same on Blackest Night and Flash: Rebirth. That format is to wander around and waste time for most of the issue with some neat fight scenes designed to distract the reader from the lack of plot progression. Then the issue ends with a “shocking” ending that is designed to trick the reader into thinking something actually happened in this issue and to get them excited to come back for more of the same format with the next issue.

With two issues already in the can, Johns still has not bothered to touch on any of the ground that was covered and hinted at over on Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps. With only six issues left, Johns is going to be hard pressed to properly address the multiple plotlines concerning all of the various colored Corps that we have been dealing with on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps over the past two years.

It is strange how unrelated Blackest Night feels compared to the build-up on both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps that we have gotten since the end of the Sinestro War. Blackest Night feels more like an Earth based DCU event starring Hal Jordan and Barry Allen than the cosmic space opera involving the different Corps that I thought we would be getting.

Overall: Blackest Night #6 was a slightly above average read. I am sure that the majority of readers will probably enjoy Blackest Night #2 more than I did. I would certainly recommend Blackest Night #2 to readers who love zombie stories. This title is tailor made for you guys. I would also recommend Blackest Night #2 to readers who enjoy mindless fighting, violence and gore. I would also recommend Blackest Night #2 to readers who are just looking for the comic book equivalent of a summer blockbuster fluff movie.

However, if you are a reader who demands a focused story that moves with a purpose and has some depth and substance to it then I would recommend you avoid Blackest Night #2. Readers who were expecting Blackest Night to be more of a continuation of what we have gotten on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps might also be disappointed with this issue.

Johns simply does not deliver enough content for me to say that this issue was worth the cover price. At this point, I am inclined to say that the wisest path might be to simply wait for Blackest Night to come out in trade format.

There is no doubt that Blackest Night has plenty of potential to be an incredible big event.  Hopefully, Johns will sharpen his focus and start pushing the story forward with more of a purpose with the remainder of this big event.
______________________________________________________________
Rokk

5 Comments

  1. The Good:
    -John's has got the physical threat down.
    Solid action sequences with
    Awesome Aquaman Action.
    -That's one way to end the terrible situation the Hawks were trapped in.
    -Incredible storytelling potential.

    The Bad:
    -The moral threat, the Horror of returning dead needs to be better established.
    -Every other DC event is getting in the way of it. Worse, none of them come close to the dramatic potential of the Blackest Night. An Undead Batman coming to get them all, by itself, should be enough to scare everyone out of their routines. Even without that this threat is a monstrous trial for every hero in the DCU, making everything else seem like small potatoes.
    -The size of the event threatens to capsize it. BK really should have either been cut into two parts, or the ring war should have been postponed (or finished first, or better yet forgotten, since I still don't like the other carbon copy corps. I will accept only one other: Sinestro's)
    -And, and… and…
    **At this point Captain Qwert Jr curls into a little ball and drifts into the imaginary reality where the Big Two hire wise editors who can guide clever writers and talented illustrators into making coherent, entertaining multi-issue cross-title stories **

  2. I love ya' Rokk, and I love the Revolution, but once again I have to say, you're way too harsh.

    Think about this logically; if Black power rings started bringing people back from the dead and those people started attacking, everyone would be surprised and overwhelmed by their zombie friends attacking them.

    But Johns has explained that this story is going to be about emotion. Ganthet and Sayd told Hal in Sinestro Corps Wart that the Corps of various colors would have to unite. Obviously, right now the Earth heroes are getting the focus in the story, but sooner or later, they're going to move the story into space and the GL Corps will have to team up with the other colored corps to take down the Black Lanterns.

    Until that awesome-sauce happens though, we just have to take this story as it is: the nightmare of dead people on Earh coming back to life and tormenting the living emotionally and physically.

    Can't you just accept this story as it is? If this was the fifth issue, I'd agree with everything you're saying, but it's only Issue two. The good guys are still in "Oh Shit" panic mode. Remember Infinite Crisis? The heroes were overwhelmed and confused, but eventually they'll regroup and emotion will win.

    So stop cheesing off dude.

    Also, did you notice how Garth's heart wasn't ripped out by Tula until he said "hope"? She even said, "That's what I was waiting for." I think there's more to this whole ripping people's hearts out thing. Also, you've barely mentioned the fact that Black Lanterns can see people's emotions on the color spectrum. I think this is uber important (just a feeling) and should be noted.

  3. opps! I was a bit rushed so I forgot to put this in the good list

    -"vuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuuvuu"

  4. I am enjoying the heck out of this event so far, but you're making some logical points. I wonder if it would have been beneficial to follow the old style of events, where there isn't a standalone series, but it was wrapped into existing titles?

    One of my favorite crossovers was The Janus Directive, and that was completely contained in various series. Marvel had a couple of summers where the action was entirely contained in Annuals, some of which were outstanding (and jump-started the careers of some great artists).

    I suppose that those days are long gone, though…having bought Blackest Night #2 and Blackest Night: Batman #1 this past week was an extra $7 for DC that wouldn't have happened if the story was contained in Green Lantern Corps #39…which, incidentally, featured the strongest character development of the three, though I enjoyed them all.

  5. Something occurred to me while reading you review. You mentioned the part about Don Hall $ the black rings apparently having no power over people who are at peace. Well how do you think Johns plans to explain Earth 2 Superman? I'm pretty sure at the end of Infinite Crisis he was at peace & felt he had done good. I know I'm getting ahead of myself but that's something of a possible plot hole… discuss amongst yourself.

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