Comic Book Review: Blackest Night #5

The Revolution has consistently enjoyed Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps much more than Blackest Night itself. This big event has been plagued with poor plot progression and an incredibly slow pace. Hopefully, Johns can crank up the intensity on this title and finally grab my interest in his story. A word to the wise, readers are highly encouraged to read Green Lantern #48 prior to reading Blackest Night #5. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Blackest Night #5.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Oclair Albert and Joe Prado

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Atrocitus, Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, Indigo-1 and Larfleeze all deciding to join together as the rainbow squad and battle the Black Lanterns. (See the events in Green Lantern #48.) The members says their respective Corps’ Oath and charge up their power rings. We learn that Sayd has offered her services as the Orange Lantern Corps very own Guardian in order to enlist Larfleeze’s help. Hal then asks Ganthet if he knows where the Black Lantern main power battery went.

We cut to Coast City on Earth, which is the new location of the Black Lantern main power battery. Nekron says that Barry’s death was the first and that Barry’s rebirth was the last. Barry Allen starts battling Black Hand. Barry asks Black Hand what is his story.

Barry notices that Black Hand is carrying around Bruce Wayne’s skull. Suddenly, we hear the Black Lantern voice say “Emotional tether manifested.” We then see Wally West streak onto the scene and help Barry against the Black Hand. Wally is sporting his new costume. (See the events in Flash: Rebirth #5.)

Wally fills Barry in on Nekron. Wally says that Kyle Rayner mentioned Nekron and that Nekron used to be able to animate the dead. Wally says that it appears that Nekron got a power upgrade. Barry says that he hopes that Wally brought more heroes with him so that it is more than just the two of them to take on Nekron and Black Hand.

Wally replies that they don’t have a Flash Corps to call on. But, they do have friends. We then see Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Animal Man, Super Boy, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Dove, Donna Troy, Starfire, Fire and Ice all appear on the scene.

We cut to Manhattan where we see Ray Palmer crying over the death of Damage at the hands of Jean Loring. Jean laughs that Damage was misunderstood. That no one believed in Damage until Ray finally did tonight. Jean licks her lips and says that glimmer of hope in Damage tasted so good. (Ah, it is tough to beat that vintage cheesy Black Lantern dialogue.)

Mera then attacks Jean. Jean then grabs both Ray and Mera and we see the three of them shrink down into microscopic size. Jean then takes Ray and Mera inside of Damage’s black power ring.

We slide back to our amassed heroes in Coast City laying waste to the Black Lanterns. Bart Allen fills Barry Allen in on how Dove’s white light power is able to kill the Black Lanterns. However, Bart says that the bad news is that Donna Troy has been infected by the Black Lanterns and that Donna is turning into a Black Lantern.

Barry, Wally and Bart then launch themselves to where the Guardians are being held captive by black goo. The three speedsters free the Guardians from the black goo. Scar then attacks the speedsters. Suddenly, the Rainbow Raiders appear on the scene. Hal, Carol, Sinestro, Atrocitus, Saint Walker, Indigo-1 and Larfleeze all combine their power rings and blast Scar. The multi-colored Lanterns pour on the juice and combine to blow Scar into little bits. And with that, Scar is dead.

The Lanterns then converge on the Black Lantern main power battery. The logic is that they destroy the Black Lantern main power battery and all the Black Lanterns will be destroyed along with it. The Rainbow Lanterns combine their lights to create a white power blast and shoot the Black Lantern main power battery. Carol quips that she thinks she saw this on a Saturday morning cartoon as a kid. Hal agrees. Nekron then states that the Guardians’ lie is about to be exposed.

We then see a black power ring zipping through the air. We see Donna Troy succumbing to the power of the Black Lanterns.

We see Black Hand raising Bruce Wayne’s skull over his head. The black power ring then flies into Bruce’s skull. We then see Bruce’s Skull grow a body. We hear the Black Lantern voice say, “Rise.” We see Black Lantern Batman.

Black Lantern Batman springs to action and starts spitting black power rings into the air. We then hear the Black Lantern voice say “Emotional tether registered.”

Nekron states that many of the assembled heroes have died and then come back to life. Nekron states that the resurrected heroes have failed to understand that they did not escape death. Nekron says that the heroes are still connected to death. And they are still connected to Nekron.

Nekron says that he put himself between the heroes and everlasting death. That Nekron allowed the resurrected heroes to return to life. Nekron says that the resurrected heroes will help Nekron expose the Guardians’ lie and to return the universe to a place of quiet dark order.

We hear the Black power rings sliding onto the fingers of Animal Man, Ice, Fire, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Donna Troy, Bart Allen and Superboy. The Black Lantern voice then says, “DIE!” Nekron then tells Black Lantern Batman that he has done his job. Nekron says, “You have served your purpose, ‘Bruce Wayne.’ Back to rest.” And with that, Black Lantern Batman vanishes in a puff of black smoke and we see Bruce’s skull lying on the ground.

We then see our resurrected heroes now as Black Lanterns. The new Black Lanterns assemble by Nekron’s side. Nekron says, “The Light awaits us!” We see a Black Lantern power ring heading for Hal and we see another Black Lantern power ring headed for Barry. The Black Lantern voice says, “DIE!” End of issue.

Comments

The Good: Blackest Night #5 was the best read that we have gotten up to this point. Sure there are still some large defects with this story, but, for the first time, Johns actually showed me some evidence that he might be able to salvage this big event and cap it off with an exciting ending.

Johns serves up some dependable dialogue. It certainly is not anything special, but it gets the job done. The best dialogue is given to Larfleeze who has truly blossomed as wonderful comic relief in Green Lantern #48 and in Blackest Night #5.

What was particularly refreshing about Blackest Night #5 was the amount of humor that Johns placed into this issue. Blackest Night has been largely a lumbering, slow, dark, bloody, violent and humorless event. I greatly appreciate that Johns attempted to liven the story up a bit with a few dashes of humor throughout this issue. This was a wise move. Blackest Night is full of death, death and more death. A bit of humor prevents Blackest Night from becoming more of a heavy handed and overwrought story that hammers the reader like a one-dimensional blunt object.

I thought it was a brilliant move by Johns to quickly and readily have a few of the characters make fun of the color-coded Lantern squad that takes center stage in this issue. The “rainbow” Lantern Corps has been a source of derision and snark by some readers ever since the other colored Lantern Corps were first unveiled. Comparisons to the Power Rangers and other less than kind analogies have been stated over the course of the past year.

Johns wisely has both Carol and Hal make several jokes about the “rainbow” squad of Lanterns that they have assembled in this issue. By recognizing the campy aspect of a rainbow of different colored Lanterns, Johns is able to show the reader that he understands what critics have pointed out. Johns is winking at the reader with this dialogue and reminding the reader that this is a comic book where certain themes are allowed. And by making this recognition and laughing at it, Johns helps to defuse this source of criticism and allow readers to have a chuckle and then easily accept and enjoy this multi-colored selection of Lantern Corps.

The dialogue between Hal and Carol about the rainbow Lantern team that they have assembled lead to a great comment from Carol that she felt like she has seen this before in a Saturday morning cartoon. This has to be a sly reference by Johns about the old Captain Planet cartoon. Captain Planet was a Saturday morning cartoon that ran from 1990-96. Captain Planet’s sidekicks where a group of five teens called the Planeteers. Each teen had a different colored “power” ring that corresponded with various Earth elements. This was a great reference that made me chuckle.

My favorite aspect of Blackest Night #5 was finally getting to see the Rainbow Raiders in action. Johns has been teasing the reader for this moment for the past year. Finally, the reader gets to see the top dogs from each Corps working together (somewhat) as a team. Except for Indigo-1, I find all the members of this team to be interesting.

What really surprised me was how Johns was able to manufacture some incredible chemistry between the various members of the Rainbow Raiders in an incredibly short amount of time. The banter between the various members was well done and entertaining.

I loved the double page splash shot of the members of the Rainbow Raiders all recharging their power rings and reciting their respective Oaths. Was it campy and cheesy? Absolutely. But, that is perfectly okay. This is a comic book and there is a proper time and place for this type of cheese. This moment was well played and I liked it.

I found it interesting that while we do not know exactly what the Indigo Oath says, we do know that it mentions Abin Sur by name. I am curious to learn more about the Indigo Lanterns and their connection with Abin Sur.

Out of all the members of the Rainbow Raiders, Sinestro is still my favorite. Johns continues to reserve his best character work for Sinestro. I appreciate that Sinestro and Abin Sur have been playing such a prominent role in Blackest Night. As this big event continues to progress, it becomes more apparent that Blackest Night is more about Sinestro than it is Hal Jordan.

This leads me to my next point. I would absolutely love it if Johns pulls the swerve and has Sinestro become the White Lantern instead of Hal Jordan. It is not necessary for Hal to become the White Lantern.

Johns has already clearly and unequivocally hammered home the fact that Hal Jordan is THE man and that Hal Jordan is the top Green Lantern. Making Hal also the White Lantern would do nothing additional for his character. However, making Sinestro into the White Lantern would provide the natural evolution of the incredible character work that Johns has been giving us with Sinestro over the past two years.

I liked the little twist that when the Rainbow Raiders combined their energies to blast the Black Lantern main power battery that it simply resulted in powering up Nekron even more. This was a great plot wrinkle. This shows that tapping into the white light is going to take more creativity than simply combining the energies from their power rings into one combined power blast.

Obviously, Dove’s powers that tap into the white light are going to play a role in accessing the white light that is capable of defeating Nekron. I am interested to see how Johns takes a character like Dove, who has no connection with the various Lantern Corps and played no role at all in the build up to Blackest Night, and transforms her into a vital role in this big event.

Of course, the real excitement to Blackest Night #5 occurred in the final thirteen pages. Johns gives us a nice action scene between the Rainbow Raiders and Scar. I liked Scar’s death. This was the first major death that the Black Lantern Corps has suffered. The Black Lanterns have been on a roll up until this issue as it has been our heroes who have been the ones sustaining major casualties up to this point. It was time for the Black Lanterns to suffer a major casualty.

Then we get the showstopper. The appearance of Black Lantern Batman and the shocking plot twist of Nekron “killing” all the heroes who had been resurrected and having them join him as Black Lanterns. In a matter of a few pages, the good guys lost most of their big guns to the Black Lanterns. Superman, Wonder Woman, Superboy, Donna Troy, Bart Allen, Animal Man and Ice all “die” and become Black Lanterns. That was a great shocking plot twist that I am sure most readers simply did not see coming.

I loved Johns’ explanation that all the heroes who have been resurrected since Barry Allen’s death are still attached to death. That Nekron allowed the resurrected heroes to return to life and that he created a connection between him and the resurrected heroes. That the ultimate plan was to allow certain select heroes to return to life with the purpose of being able to take control of them during Bleakest Night and to use the resurrected heroes to battle for Nekron against the Guardians. With this plot development, the reader begins to see Johns’ purpose behind Blackest Night. Johns’ strengths are cleaning up continuity problems and world building. These two talents go hand in hand.

The reader sees that Johns is attempting to use this plot development involving the explanation of Nekron being behind the resurrection of all the heroes who have died and come back since Barry’s death as a neat, clean and easy way to explain all the various resurrections in the DCU that have started since Barry’s death during Crisis on Infinite Earths. This was a solid enough explanation and works with this story.

This explanation helps to make sense of the various resurrections over the past twenty-five years and tie them together in a coherent fashion. This explanation also helps to create a strong continuity bond between the original Crisis on Infinite Earths all the way to Blackest Night. This continues Johns’ concerted effort to make DC’s continuity as streamlined and interconnected as possible.

The use of Black Lantern Batman as the plot device to kill all the resurrected heroes and turn them into Black Lanterns certainly made for a nice visual impact on the reader. And the theme of “Batman” being the only hero in the DCU capable of taking down the big guns in the DCU is a common one. We have seen it played out before in the pages of the JLA and Johns properly uses “Batman” in this issue. Yeah, the use of Black Lantern Batman was totally contrived and not necessary for the plotline. But, it made for a cool moment.

I noticed that Johns made sure that he had Nekron call Black Lantern Batman “Bruce Wayne” with quotation marks. This was a nice hint to the reader that Black Lantern Batman was not really Bruce Wayne. That Bruce is not truly dead included hints to the fact that it is not really Bruce and that Bruce is not truly dead. Instead, Bruce is trapped within the Omega Effect.

I believe that the Black Lantern voice stating “Emotional tether registered” once Black Lantern Batman formed is the clue to what was going on. We know that the Black power rings create an emotional connection between the host corpse and itself. The Black power rings then download the memories and emotions of the corpse. My guess is that the emotional tether that was registered is the one between Barry Allen and the skull that he thought was Bruce Wayne’s. That enabled the power ring to create a Black Lantern Batman.

Johns certainly grabbed my attention with Nekron stating how he is going to expose the Guardians’ lie. This is a plotline that has some legs and I am curious to see where Johns goes with this plotline. Johns has done a fine job over the past two years creating plenty of reader distrust toward the Guardians. Johns has made sure to properly plant the seeds concerning how the Guardians have clearly been less than truthful with even their own Green Lantern Corps.

I enjoyed the two-page scene involving Jean, Ray and Mera. This is the plotline that intrigues me the most. I am curious to see what Johns are up with this plotline. Johns has made a point of showing in previous issues that Ray Palmer is full of the Indigo light of compassion. Ray was also the first person to finally install some hope in Damage’s character. Since it is Damage’s ring that Jean, Ray and Mera hop into, I have a feeling that Johns is going to make Ray play a pivotal role in defeating the Black Lanterns.

It is possible that Ray’s hope and compassion combined with his knowledge of the inner workings of the Black power ring on a sub-atomic level will allow Ray to bring Damage back to life. It is also possible that Ray will figure up a way that the various characters that were killed and turned into Black Lanterns can also be saved leading to the mass resurrections that I am expecting with the finale to Blackest Night.

Johns ends Blackest Night #5 with a fantastic hook ending. We have the resurrected heroes all now Black Lanterns with Hal and Barry the last two standing and being chased by two Black power rings. This ending also plays into the obvious fact that Blackest Night is the Hal and Barry show. I must admit that Blackest Night has done a better job of re-introducing, and in a much more interesting fashion, Barry Allen into the DCU than Flash: Rebirth has.

Once again, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert and Joe Prado combine to deliver another attractive looking issue. The artwork to Blackest Night continues to be the best aspect of this title. The action scenes are dynamic and eye catching. The dramatic scenes have plenty of emotion.

The Bad: Despite this being the best effort from Johns so far on this big event, Blackest Night #5 still suffers from some of the same reoccurring defects found in the previous issues. The pacing on Blackest Night continues to be slow and plodding. This story is creeping along with no sense of urgency at all.

The plotting continues to be relatively simple. Johns has a bare bones approach to the story and has only installed a handful of plotlines. The result is a story that seems a bit in the shallow side. I am certainly not getting as much depth to Blackest Night as I was expecting during the year long lead-in to this big event.

The first twelve pages of Blackest Night #5 were rather dull. Johns wasted four pages recapping Green Lantern #48. I know this was necessary for readers who skipped Green Lantern #48, but it was dull for me who read Green Lantern #48. Johns then wasted another four pages re-capping that the Black Hand dug up Bruce’s grave, giving a very brief rundown on Nekron and then having our heroes arrive on the scene. Johns then burned another two pages re-capping Blackest Night: Titans concerning Donna Troy and Dove.

Any actual new content to this story does not begin until the reader is halfway through Blackest Night #5. The final thirteen pages finally deliver some actual plot progression to the story. And even those 13 pages, while entertaining, were fairly thin.

Blackest Night is simply too decompressed and the result is that half of these issues feel like filler. The first five issue of Blackest Night could have been easily condensed into three issues and made for a much more exciting, tighter and captivating read. There is simply not enough depth and substance to this story to warrant an eight issue series.

I get the feeling that Johns is simply stalling for time with each issue and then trying to end the issue with a “surprise” and “shocking” ending designed to get the reader to come back for more despite the lack of any serious plot progression. This has been a reoccurring format that we have gotten in each issue of Blackest Night where Johns wastes time and does little to no plot progression for most of the issue before dropping a really exciting final scene on the reader that creates a great final last impression of the issue which makes the reader forget the fact that they only got enough content for maybe half an issue.

While I enjoyed the use of Black Lantern Batman in this issue, it did seem rather forced and contrived. At this point, the incredibly random and cursory use of Black Lantern Batman makes little sense other than it was “cool” and delivered some “shock” value consistent with the prior use of the Black Lantern.

Black Lantern Batman exited as quickly and randomly as he appeared. Black Lantern Batman also did little to nothing other than spit out some black power rings that reclaimed the various resurrected heroes. There really seems no need for Nekron to create Black Lantern Batman for such a mundane purpose. It seems that Nekron could have easily done that task himself.

I am undecided on how I like the prominent role that Dove is suddenly playing in Blackest Night. It seems odd that such a D-list character that played no role at all in the year long build up to Blackest Night would have such an important role in this story. It is possible that Dove is nothing more than a red herring to distract the reader from Johns’ real plan in mind to resolve this big event.

Blackest Night #5 does get robbed of some of its impact on the reader because the reader fully knows that nothing that happened in the second half of this issue is permanent. This issue is reminiscent of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin.

Personally, I enjoyed Infinity Gauntlet, and in particular Infinity Gauntlet #4 where Thanos kills all of the heroes. For those not familiar with the story you can check out a fantastic recap of this issue by Dave over at Dave’s Long Box. Basically, Thanos is Marvel’s imitation of Darkseid. Unlike the Black Lanterns and Nekron who worship Death, Thanos actually is in love with Death and wants to date her.

Just like in Infinity Gauntlet #4, the reader knows that all of the heroes who are killed and turned into Black Lanterns at the end of Blackest Night #5 will all be brought back to normal by the end of this story. Johns pulls off the ending to Blackest Night #5 to create a bit of artificial drama. The reader knows full well that everything is going to be made right at the end of the story. Therefore, there is no real reason for the reader to be worried about the fate of the resurrected heroes.

However, to be fair, the important aspect of Blackest Night is not going to be the event itself but the impact it has on the DCU once this big event has concluded. Blackest Night is much like Infinite Crisis in that sense. The story in 52, the creation of New Earth, the return of the Multiverse and all the subsequent stories that spun out of Infinite Crisis were all much more interesting than the relatively shallow brawlfest that Infinite Crisis itself delivered. Much Like Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night is more of a seed than the actual beautiful plant that we will be hopefully enjoy once this big event is complete.

Overall: Blackest Night #5 was by far and away the best issue that we have gotten up to this point. The ending to this issue was good enough that, despite my disappointment with this slow and bloated big event, I actually think that Johns is going to pull of the impossible and deliver three fantastic issues to end Blackest Night. I have renewed confidence that the final three issues of Blackest Night are going to be quite exciting reads.
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Rokk

7 Comments

  1. Saiyan5nine.tails December 1, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Slow you say? I'll admit, the first few pages were used to sort out Green Lantern #48 and BN: Titans, but the last few were anything but slow! The White Light doesn't work; BN Batman is created, and Superman and Wonder Woman are among the new converted Black Lanterns! This had mondo HUGE plot progression! My jaw dropped from what happened.

    I think I can offer an explanation for Black Lantern Batman: Darkseid said that the Omega Sanction was "the life that is death". So maybe (if it is the real "Bruce Wayne") this Bats still possesses residual effects of the Omega Sanction. So, the new Black Lanterns are effectively "life that is death" Black Lanterns (not undead, but Half-Live). They sure look different from other Black Lanterns (my theory).

    I do agree: not having some of the minis or collecting Green Lantern does offer a problem for understanding things. As to Dove, I think Johns is trying to do the same thing he is doing with Mera and Ray: make her more significant later on.

    Anyway, I'm excited about the next issue.

  2. Saiyan5nine.tails December 1, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Besides, we shouldn't be concerned about what happens to those who have been turned into "living" Black Lanterns; we should be excited about how this will impact those who witnessed it. Case in point: Connor, Bart and Donna will have effects on the Titans; Donna, Connor and Diana on Wonder Girl; Oliver on Black Canary; not sure about Animal Man; Ice will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on Fire; Bart will have a heavy effect on the Flashes, and Superman will undoubtedly have an effect on everyone, since the "Greatest Hero of all Time" has just been turned into Nekron's puppet. What matters isn't knowing this will be reversed by the end of the series (it's too soon to think about it), what matters is what effect it has emotionally (as it is central to the story). I am wondering who among the heroes there will have their hearts torn out next(my vote goest to Fire by Ice}.

  3. I'm really digging Ray Palmer and Mera in this book. I love random superhero duos, and the Atom and Mera are about as random as they come. Let's just hope this doesn't devolve into yet another Ray crying over Jean snoozefest.

    I will agree that there isn't some huge sense of urgency in these books, but that's really DC's fault. The pacing is a problem, but the fact that they've released covers of upcoming comics clearly showing characters alive or dead is just boneheaded. You'd think that after shooting their wad way too early by letting the Nekron reveal out of the bag that they would just black out all BN related covers.

    Still, this is a great series. I'm glad that the Rainbow Raiders have finally shown up, since this is supposed to the war of lights.

  4. Hey, do you know the name of this template you got for your blog? Is v cool. Very in-depth reviews, better than anything I've ever done.

  5. Best line of the issue: Larfleeze – "Eh?"

  6. Man, they sure love to make Superman somebody's puppet, all the time.. Dude is the First, the Greatest and DC loves to play him like this…

    Great review, as usual…

  7. The reason Nekron had to use "Batman" was because he was the only one that would bring out the necessary emotion in the heroes so that he could turn them into black lanterns. Everyone had strong feeling concerning Bruce, and seeing him as a Black Lantern caused that emotional charge so Nekron could reclaim those fallen heores.

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