COMICS BREAK-“Blackest Night”

Introducing the latest member of the Berkeley Place team, CD the comics writer!  A little bio info, and then his first article–on Blackest Night, the D.C. “event” of the year.  Usually events are risky–and usually they are bloated and confusing.  Will BN be another “Crisis” or Skrull Invasion?  Let’s see what Chris thinks . . .

Bio: In what can only be considered a move of baffling misunderstanding on his part, Ekko reached out to me to throw in my occasional two cents regarding what’s hot in the comic book industry these days.  As part of the process, I’ve been asked to put together a brief “bio” to explain to the fine readers of Berkeley Place who the new schmuck is thinking he can write about such things.

I started collecting comics in the early 80s, thanks in large part to winning a cash prize at an Easter Egg Hunt and not having anything better to do with the money at the time.  Of course, comics were about 65 cents at the time, but that’s another story; I’ll tell it during a later post, when I start bitching about walking to school, uphill both ways, in the snow.  Damn kids.

Anyway, I was a pretty avid collector through the early 90s, leaving the game when I left for college.  It didn’t hurt that this was shortly after the X-Men’s Goblin Queen story arc when things started getting crappy writing-wise in all my favorite books.  About five years ago, while waiting for the family dog to finish up at the groomer, I found myself in the comic book store next door.  A scant few years later, I’m spending about $50 a week on the rags and, for a 35-year-old, get far too excited when it’s Free Comic Book Day or complimentary Black Lantern rings are given away as promos.  I also happen to write music reviews for a number of different sites, including and others.  Since I wouldn’t be here today without their help (eternal damnation of my soul?), I need to give some love to my dealer, er, comic book store, of choice:  If you happen to find yourself in Lansdowne, Va., anytime soon, ask for Drew or the heavily bearded Matt (call him “Chops” behind his back; I do), and you’ll be treated to some of the most knowledgeable and good guys I’ve met.  If you’re really lucky, Blair will be there, too.  Not to make anyone jealous, but he’s my bartender of choice.

For the record, I do not look like the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy.  I’m bald.

BLACKEST NIGHT: A Review and a Primer

In the interest of full disclosure, I probably should mention I’m not a huge DC fan.  Quite frankly, their heroes tend to lack depth beyond archetypes, and their insistence on freaky time travel/parallel universes/dimensional weirdness never resonated with me.  Throw into the mix that their last few all-encompassing “DC Universe Events” (Countdown to Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Crisis on Whole Wheat, etc) have been terrible, and it’s clear I’m fully in the Marvel Camp.  The one caveat has been I follow all of the Bat titles, but since the weak handling of “R.I.P.” and “Battle for the Cowl,” those days might be limited, too.  So it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I finally caved into Blair’s advice and started following Green Lantern (Green Lantern Corps. and Green Lantern) a while back at the launch of the “Sinestro Corps Wars” and following into “Prelude to Blackest Night.”  Not only is it easily the best thing going in DC right now, it currently may be one of the best titles out today.  Period.

For a bit of background, the storyline arose out of the “Sinestro Corps War” storyline.  For those of you with only a passing knowledge of GL, Sinestro was Hal Jordan’s (one of many Green Lanterns) arch nemesis on the old Super Friends cartoon.  That’s right, the baddie with the yellow ring.  Following a huge war between the two corps, it became obvious within the story’s universe that the Guardians of OA, keepers of the green rings, were not the stand-up good guys folks had assumed they were.  Previously portrayed as benevolent elders of the universe intent on keeping peace and order, in the aftermath of the destruction wrought to the Corps during a violent and bloody war with the Yellow Rings, the Guardians decided that enforced peace was the obvious route to stability.  The Laws of OA were changed to better fight this new fight—Green Lanterns were now allowed to kill, marriage between Lanterns was banned, etc., all in an effort for the Guardians to further their grasp on the tenuous situation.  A prophecy was coming to pass, one in which all the rings of the spectrum would begin to fight before a cataclysmic battle with the Black Lanterns was to begin.  “Prelude” introduces readers to most of the other colors (each associated with a different emotion) while simultaneously teasing about the disruption of the Green Corps.

Here’s the cheat sheet:










Willpower (is that really an emotion?)





Star Sapphire (why this isn’t violet is beyond me)




During the course of the Yellow conflict, the Green Lanterns seemingly won the day, destroying or capturing the bulk of the Fear Corps.  The cost, however, was further dissent among the troops who clearly saw that the GLs were headed down a potentially dangerous path.  While all this is underway, the new color groups beginning forming and making their presence known.  While it would have been easy for the writers to simply go with a “these colors are good, these colors are evil” scheme, they went to some lengths to give more depth to the situation.  The Greens could not be viewed automatically as the good guys anymore.  Hope works just as strongly for pure desires as impure.  Love does not always conquer all or even make things better, just different.  As all these forces and ideas merge, the prophecy comes to pass and the Black Rings are unleashed upon an unprepared universe.

So what makes the Blackest Night storylines so compelling?  Well, a number of things.  To begin with, the Green Lantern Corps is being shaken to its very foundation.  Heroes are taking a villainous slant, a nice shake-up to the status quo.  You’ve got a variety of either new characters and/or older, lesser characters being rehashed in a new light, which should keep older and newer fans alike buzzing.  And while the series overall is a fairly bloody affair, they’ve actually infused a lot of humor and human interest into the books, as well.  For example, the Orange Ring bearer Larfleeze essentially is an all-powerful spoiled brat and some of his desires are downright funny.  One of the Yellow Ring bearers, Kryb, kills Green Lanterns specifically to steal their children, bringing to the table loss of family, parental strife, nurture vs. nature, etc.  Pretty much the full spectrum of human emotion, which clearly is the point of the metaphor of the rings.  Hell, one normally would have to turn to Russian novelists or soap opera hacks to get this range of feelings.

“Blackest Night” actually launched this month.  Spoiler Alert—the Black Rings seek out the dead, so basically any dead DC character has the very real possibility of seeing a return during this run.  (Bruce Wayne, anyone?)  The series is going full DC Universe, crossing from the two GL titles to damn near every major book in DC (Batman, Superman, Titans, etc.), so they’re clearly hoping this will remove at least some of the bad taste left behind from their disastrous last few All Universe forays.

If you only read one comic book title this year, well, there probably are plenty of better ones out there.  If you want a great read, possibly DC’s best title today, then GL will not disappoint.

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