Last night while browsing at the bookstore after an evening of rock climbing and a fantastic meal, I found what I think might be all but one of the Blackest Night comic book trade paperbacks. What I found in the store was that all of the trade paperbacks were listed as Blackest Night, but each had a different Lantern Corps symbol on the spine. Using this as a guessing point, I figured that all the different symbols would be different books. As it turns out, I was right. The one I’m missing appears to be Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps. Based on the list in the back of all of the books, Blackest Night should be read in this order:
Blackest Night (Black Lantern symbol)
Blackest Night: Green Lantern (Green Lantern symbol)
Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps
Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps vol 1 (Sinestro Corps symbol)
Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps vol 2 (Orange Lantern Corps symbol)
Blackest Night: Rise of the Black Lanterns (Indigo Tribe symbol)
Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps (Blue Lantern Symbol)
“Across thousands of worlds, the dead have risen. These Black Lanterns, heroes and villains recruited from beyond the grave, have one purpose: extinguish all light – and life – in the universe. Hal Jordan has overcome death once before. As the greatest Green Lantern to ever wield the emerald ring, it is Hal’s unquestioned duty to lead the living against this overwhelming army of the dead. While Blackest Night consumes Earth’s heroes, the seven Corps empowered by the emotional spectrum must end their war against each other – or bear witness to the end of all creation. Each of these wildly different Corps – fueled by rage, avarice, fear, will, hope, compassion and love – must unite against the Black Lanterns, but only those whose light shines the brightest can lift the shadows cast by Black Hand and his followers. As Earth becomes the ultimate battleground between the living and the dead, there is only one certainty. No one escapes death.”
I am absolutely positive that a lot of the references made throughout this trade paperback would be more emotionally or even intellectually interesting for me if I paid attention to DC Comics at all, which I mostly don’t. To be fair, I’m not paying much attention to the comic book world in general right now because my “real life” is rather busy. I know some of the basics from my minimal exposure to the Green Lantern v3 comics I was reading earlier this year, from a really good friend who shared their love of the Green Lantern universe with me three years ago, and from some of the other media I’ve read and watched over the decades. With that said, I didn’t feel as though my lack of investment or knowledge in the DC Universe negatively impacted my ability to follow along with the storyline. But in order to even remotely pay attention to what was going on, I definitely needed at least the tiny amount of back story I already had.
I guess one of the biggest things that struck me about this trade paperback is how quickly the entire storyline took place. While I do understand that something of this magnitude probably took months when the original comic books were printed back in 2009/2010, all the events in this particular volume feel like they could have taken place on the same day. So while the Black Lantern rings are out finding the flesh of everyone deceased all over the universe, it didn’t seem like it took those rings and their newly undead bearers very long to all travel to Earth. For all I know, this whole storyline did only take place in a matter of days because I would think that heroes would get tired of fighting and wouldn’t be able to fight for the months, years, or decades it might truly take for dead and decomposed flesh to travel across space to get to Earth.
I guess the lesson there as a writer or as a reader is the acknowledgement of the suspension of disbelief. And I think that also might be one of the key factors or differences between comic books/graphic novels and speculative fiction – comic books and graphic novels feel like their fans need chaos and action in every single book, whereas novels have the ability to give their characters time to sleep or have lives which do not revolve around universe-ending events. I almost feel like DC Comics have moved into a realm where everything is chaos and conflict. As entertainment venues are usually a reflection of the culture and society with which they originate, I’m not really sure if this kind of never-ending conflict will have any sort of positive outcome, either in fiction or in the current society and culture.
I think my favorite part of this trade paperback was where new lanterns were identified and how. That doesn’t happen until just over halfway through the book, but by then, you have a good feel for the characters and enough of how they react in situations to understand who they are and what motivates them. I think the two that made me the happiest were when Barry Allen (a Flash) was given a Blue Lantern ring (hope) and Ray Palmer (the Atom, the Mighty Mite) was made a member of the Indigo Tribe (compassion). Maybe towards the beginning of this year, I found a Blue Lantern action figure who just happened to be the Flash and I purchased it because I’ve been very interested and motivated by the story of hope as part of the Lantern Corps. Hope has had a huge impact on my life in the last several years as my life fell apart and then I struggled to rebuild everything. So I was even more excited when I read this series of comics and actually now have the back story for the Blue Lantern Flash. Not only do I have the background, but I also think this was a great choice for a Blue Lantern. I really like the story with Barry Allen, how even from the beginning of this book, he meets Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) at Bruce Wayne’s unmarked grave. The very first discussion they have, Barry Allen talks about how Robin always gave hope to Batman. And during this discussion, Hal Jordan goes straight into talking about their different funerals and he made the entire situation about him, which is one of the many reasons I am not particularly fond of Hal Jordan. Then, as Hal Jordan and Barry Allen battle their first member of the Black Lantern Corps, Barry talks about wanting to save the remains and how he doesn’t feel like the corpse should be desecrated like they were forced to. There are so many example of Barry giving hope to those around him, even in the darkest of situations, that I’m glad he received the Blue Lantern ring during Blackest Night.
Overall, this was a good read and I would probably rate it as a three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and will definitely read it again in the future.