Review: Blackest Night #1 *spoilers*

blackest-night-1

Arguably the most anticipated comic book event of the year kicks off with this issue.  Expectations are sky high.  After reading this issue, I think people are going to be disappointed.

This issue is as stale as week-old donuts.  Johns has been building up to Blackest Night since the end of the Sinestro Corp War.  And all of that build-up gets recycled again in this issue.  The first two thirds of the book are yet another reminder of who is dead in the DC Universe.  That’s fine for Blackest Night #0 (which was free) but we should be past that by now.  After endless prologues and teases, there should have been more meat to the first chapter of this story.

I’m actually going to go through this issue page by page to illustrate my point.

Page 1 – Black Hand steals Bruce Wayne’s skull from his grave.

Page 2 – Black Lantern rings are scattered into space.  Black Hand licks the stolen skull.

Page 3 – Coast City.  The anniversary of Superman’s death has become a kind of super-hero Memorial Day.  People gather to remember those who died when Coast City was destroyed.

Page 4 & 5 – Hal, John, Guy and Kyle show up at the memorial.

Page 6 – Hal reflects on people who have died; his father, Abin Sur and the residents of Coast City.  The Lanterns light a memorial torch.

Page 7 – Hal reflects on people close to John and Kyle who have died.  He admits to being a little jealous of Guy because Ice came back to him.

Page 8 – The Lanterns wave to the crowd and fly away.

Page 9 – The Kents pay respect to Jonathan Kent.  Martin Stein, Jason Rusch and his girlfriend pay their respects to Ronnie Raymond.

Page 10 – Bart looks around the Titans memorial.  The Rogues pay respect to the original Capt. Boomerang.  The JLI pays respect to Ted Kord.

Page 11 – Kyle joins the JSA at a cemetray to pay respect to fallen comrades including Jade.

Page 12 – Tempest implores Mera to let him relocate Aquaman’s remains to Atlantis.

Page 13 – Alfred realizes that Bruce’s skull has been stolen.

Page 14 – Barry and Hal continue their conversation from Blackest Night 0.  Hal shows Barry a vault where the JLA stores deceased super villains.

Page 15 – Hal explains the need for the vault.  Barry demands to know who has died while he was gone.

Page 16-17 – Hal creates a construct illustrating which heroes have died since Crisis on Infinite Earths.  (Some are heores Barry has never met.)

Page 18 – Barry reacts to the news.

Page 19 – Hawkman takes a phone call from the Atom.  He’s upset.

Page 20 – Hawkman smashes the phone to keep Ray from visiting him.  Hawkgirl tries to calm him down.  Hawkman is upset because Ray wants to visit his ex-wife’s grave.

Page 21 – Hawkman whines about Hawkgirl not loving him.  Ray sulks on his desk.

Page 22 – Barry and Hal continue their conversation about how things have changed.  They are interupted by a message from Alfred.

Page 23 – The Guardians admit that they have failed.

Page 24-25 – The Guardians witness the War of Lights.

Page 26 – Scar attacks the other Guardians to prevent them calling for help.  She rips out one of their beating hearts.  Black Lantern rings invade Oa.

Page 27 – Scar fights the other Guardians.  The rings fly into the GL crypt to find Black Lanterns.

Page 28-29 – Several Black Lantern rings find bearers.

Page 30-31 – Kyle and Guy are faced with the re-animated dead of the GL Corps.

Page 32 – Martian Manhunter as a Black Lantern confronts Hal and Barry.

Page 33 – Hawkman and Hawkgirl continue arguing.  A Black Lantern steals a mace from the armory.

Page 34 – Hawkgirl tearfully professes her love for Hawkman.

Page 35 – Hawkgirl is critically injured.  Hawkman gets hit by the stolen mace.

Page 36 – The Black Lanterns attacking the Hawks are revealed to be the Dibnys.

Page 37 – Ralph torments Hawkman as he beats him.

Page 38 – More taunting and beating.  Hawkgirl, lying in a pool of blood, confesses her love again before she dies.

Page 39 – Hawkman vows to kill the Black Lanterns.  But instead, Ralph rips his heart out.

Page 40 – The Black Lanterns absorb the Hawks essence (or something like that.  Black Hand shows up and gives the Hawks Black Lantern rings.

That’s it.  Pages of rehashed set-up that had already been done in other books and a “shocking” double death for a finale.  It doesn’t help that the last time we saw the Hawks do anything significant was when they “died” at the end of Final Crisis only to have those deaths retconned away so they could do it all over again here.

Also, I hated the way the Black Lanterns were portrayed.  Ralph does everything but say “I’ll swallow your soul.”  It’s one thing to do this sort of story out of continuity like Marvel Zombies.  It’s another thing entirely to see long lost characters treated this way in a story that’s supposed to be cannon.

I can’t help but think back to the Sinestro Corp Special.  That issue had the advantage of lower expectations.  But it far and away exceed them.  Instead of getting a bunch of alien extras following Sinestro into battle, we got Kyle possessed by Parallax, Superboy-Prime escaping his prison and the return of the Anti-Monitor. 

But the expectations for Blackest Night couldn’t be higher.  And all this issue delivers is more recaps and an ending that’s not half as shocking as it thinks it is.

read/RANT

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40 Responses to Review: Blackest Night #1 *spoilers*

  1. Thom Blakley says:

    I must completely disagree. For any superhero/horror comic, one must willingly suspend disbelief. Sorry, but you missed that step completely. I feel the comic lived up to all the hype, and then some. I recommend you read this after getting over your breakup with a lover, or whatever else is going on that is putting your disbelief on hold. OK, that was cruel, and I take that back; reasonable people can disagree. And I definitely disagree with this review.

    • dclebeau says:

      My issue with the book had nothing to do with suspension of disbelief. I objected to the fact that the book was 3/4s a recap of things that had already been recapped recently in BN 0 (which was free) and GL 43. I don’t care for the tone of straight-up horror set in a mainstream super hero universe. And I found the retconning of FC to accomodate this story to be deplorable.

      I’m glad you liked it, but I found the issue to be the single most disappointing comic book I’ve read in recent memory.

      • brucecastle says:

        “But I found the issue to be the single most disappointing comic book I’ve read in recent memory.”

        To be fair, that’s your fault. Why the hell did you buy a comic, thinking it would be good? That was your first step towards disappointment.

  2. Onor says:

    I hated The Blackest Night #1. Okay, the art is OUTSTANDING, thanks to Ivan Reis!

    But Ralph Dibny portrayed as a zombie beating Hawkman to death?

    Former-heroes-now-super-zombies reaping hearts and transforming other heroes into zombies heart-reapers?

    COME ON!!!

    Geof Johns had better ideas!

    And.. why Black Lanterns? WTF power the black rings? Death? Human hearts??

    A long time ago, it was said the Guardians put some amount of his vasts emerald energies in the Great Battery in Oa. That said, we can wonder the main power source to a Green Lantern´s ring. The same can be said about others Corps.

    But Black Lanterns?

    And as all this is happening in the DC Universe… Death itself (Sandman´s sister) gone mad?

  3. brucecastle says:

    Once again, we’re on the same page.

    I was actually thinking of doing a page rundown too, only, I’d, y’know, make it funny. But your boring approach works too. ;)

    A couple of things that I like to say, which isn’t enough to write up my own review:

    1. Why didn’t you mention Reis at all? That’s criminal, sir. I think I hear the review police coming. Even if you hated everything Johns did, Ivan made you love to look at the book.

    2. This is a classic DC nitpick, but Ma Kent saying, “Don’t slouch now, Conner. Jonathan wouldn’t want that.” at the man’s funeral is FUCKING HORRIBLE!!! The dialogue in general was pretty bad, but to hear those awful words from Ma Kent. Grrr….

    3. Wasn’t that neck bite crazy? “Hey Johns, you aren’t writing a zombie comic, are you?”

    4. We saw, not one, but two damn hearts getting ripped out. And it looks like this is the Black Lantern’s thing. So, in issue seven, are we going to see twenty hearts get ripped out?

    5. Zombie Ch’p was cool.

    6. “It doesn’t help that the last time we saw the Hawks do anything significant was when they “died” at the end of Final Crisis only to have those deaths retconned away so they could do it all over again here.”

    Ok, I have to keep it in control or else my heart will fail, but I HATED that. Thanks for putting it in your review.

    • dclebeau says:

      Wow! We’re on the same page again! I think I may pass out!

      I fought the urge to put snarky comments in my page-by-page rundown. I wanted it to be as objective as possible. I just wanted to illustrate how little actually happened. People on the forums are going nuts for this book, I don’t get it.

      The Ivan Reis art is beautiful as always. I thought about adding a paragraph praising his art. But it’s expected at this point. Johns collaborates with great artists. His books always look good. GL 43 may have been the most stunning book I’ve read all year.

      Yeah, the Ma Kent line was annoying. It’s like the Gonzo lines in the Agent Orange story ;)

      After GL 43 and BN 1, I think this is more of a zombie comic than a super hero comic. And that’s a big part of my problem with it. It’s like sticking aliens in an Indiana Jones movie. It just doesn’t fit. You can do zombies in a super hero story. But you have to maintain the tone of the super hero genre. FC: Submit did a great job of this (though technically they weren’t zombies). Either that or take it to an alternate universe like the Marvel Zombie books did.

      The Hawks’ death scene was infuriating. They retconned Fincal Crisis and derailed months of Justice League stories for this?!?

  4. brucecastle says:

    I don’t think Johns’ books always look good. Agent Orange didn’t. You yourself said as much, I believe.

    Also, it’s nice to put something positive in your review, especially when it’s deserved. It makes your opinion look more credible. If you do nothing but attack, people won’t take your argument seriously.

    I think zombies in superhero comics can be fine. But, not for an event.

    Zombies aren’t that interesting, and this is coming from someone who loves Night, Dawn, Shaun, Walking Dead, etc.

    Oh, and I would say something like “maybe if we read it again we’ll like it better,” but I did that with GL #43 and it didn’t help.

    Let’s hope it gets better.

    • dclebeau says:

      Ack! I’d blocked out the mishmash of art on Agent Orange!

      Okay, I’ll say it now since I skipped it in the main review: The art in this book was good. But I’d rather read other GL issues drawn by Reis. :)

      You can do zombies in a super-hero story. You can do super heroes in a zombie story. But you shouldn’t take books set in an established super-hero universe and suddenly start telling straight-up horror stories. WTF is DC thinking?

      (Then again, everyone else seems to think this is cool. So, maybe this is the direction super hero comics are going. If so, color me sad.)

      • brucecastle says:

        But, this is arguably Reis’ best issue. And, um, did I mention zombie Ch’p was cool?

        I don’t know, I think I’d be happy if an army of pirate-clowns invaded the DCU.

  5. Victor says:

    While everyone is entitled to their opinions, there is no denying that the craftsmanship in both art and writing for this issue is superb. Events must be recapped in order to establish a point of departure for those that are picking up Blackest Night without having read all of the prologue tie-ins. Deal with it.

    • dclebeau says:

      I agree that the art was supurb. I deny the craftsmanship in the writing. You’re going to have to back that up. Having the first 3/4s of the first issue as a recap after two years of build-up and recaps in both Blackest Night 0 (which was free) and last week’s GL is just over-kill. If nothing else, it makes for a snooze of a first issue for readers who’ve been following the build-up for two years.

      What exactly did you like about the writing?

  6. brucecastle says:

    Sigh.

    Superb craftsmanship in writing? That’s easily deniable. The dialogue was predictable at best and awful at worst. The substance was sacrificed for flash, which is especially troubling since this comic is dealing with the serious and personal subject of death.

    As for the recaps being necessary, a lot of this information was already discussed in both Blackest Night #0 and Green Lantern #43. But, if the idea was to recap in Blackest Night #1, why the additional recaps in the two preceding issues? Also, there are better ways of bringing new readers up to speed than endless exposition. Go read Batman and Robin #1.

    And, finally, even if the recaps are necessary and all that, why does that make this a good comic?

  7. brucecastle says:

    Oops! Didn’t mean to double-team you, Victor.

  8. John says:

    Eh, the Green Lantern reviews you post here are always so samey. I recall a quote I read from someone regarding Blackest Night #1 elsewhere:

    “Despite my overwhelming desire not to like this book, it was pretty good.”

    And that’s what I get from all your reviews from the past several months – an overwhelming desire not to like this book.

    To me, this is the kinda review where it seems like you’ve been rehearsing it in your head for ages, that you decided how negative you were going to be way back when you announced you were sick of the Blackest Night hype. As a result, the book had to be bad as a matter of principle, to prove right your earlier assertion of hype-overkill.

    Crapping all over Green Lantern and Geoff Johns was easier during the Agent Orange arc. That had plenty of flaws for you to gorge on, like a Black Lantern hungrily gorging on hearts, and you did so with great relish. These were probably your strongest reviews, as you made some valid criticisms.

    But things kinda fell apart with your review of Green Lantern #43, which was near universally acclaimed as a damn good issue. Reading the tenuous cartwheels you were going through trying to paint it as a bad book just created this picture of desperation, of “Oh no, I’m supposed to expose the crapness of Green Lantern, that’s my thing, but boy, Johns is making it tough for me this month!” And I got the same sense here with Blackest Night #1.

    It’s like your emotionally invested in the whole thing being a failure, and so your reviews are more like framing devices to illustrate the conclusion you’ve already come to, rather than being objective or reliable in any way.

    • dclebeau says:

      Truth is, I really wanted to like BN #1. I was seriously disappointed in it. I had hoped for more.

      I still have higher hopes for the rest of the series now that all the recapping is out of the way.

      However, there is the distinct possibility that this story just won’t be to my taste. That was the case with GL 43. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with GL 43. It just didn’t suit me personally. That’s what I was going for in that review.

      (Incidentally, there was really only one review of GL that I went after with great relish. And that was mostly me being impish. If I use the word “rant” in the title of the article, I’m only 1/2 serious.)

      Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll strive to be more objective with other BN issues.

  9. Dude, you are fucking famous! This post is on the WordPress hot list at #62!

    p.s. did you see the Michael Jackson Upper Deck cards?

    Talk about ZOMBIES: http://fullbodytransplant.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/upper-deck-announces-michael-jackson-tribute-cards/

    Yikes.

    • dclebeau says:

      Those MJ cards are really… something. Darn shame they can’t keep putting out Vs!

      The real life Wacky Racers was pure awesome though!

  10. Clegane, Sandor says:

    I’m with John, most of these “rants” come down to a variation on “Despite my overwhelming desire not to like this book, it was pretty good.”

    It seems like you pick on Johns’ books because you don’t like the basic direction he takes. But rather than critiquing the direction (which is difficult, because it always comes down to personal taste), you’re left with leftovers: Ragging on the execution of a direction you don’t want to enjoy.

    And because of your bias against, you’re not really going to be fair-minded about the material, for good or bad. I’d suggest avoiding Johns work, and save yourself the money and aggravation. Though for the record, I though BN # 1 was pretty mediocre. Most of Johns recent output strikes me that way, unlike say 2 years ago.

    • dclebeau says:

      Well, Clegane, I agree with you. 2 years ago, I was a Johns fan through and through. Lately, his work seems pretty mediocre. I expected more than that. That’s all I’m saying… *shrug*

  11. Jim says:

    Can anyone tell me the names if they can make them out of the dead villains at the far end and near Barry’s head and hand when Hal shows Barry a vault where the JLA stores deceased super villains.

  12. [...] Review: Blackest Night #1 *spoilers* Arguably the most anticipated comic book event of the year kicks off with this issue.  Expectations are sky high.  [...] [...]

  13. Still rising…

    You are now #49!

    (and our MJ cards are #98. See you at the top.)

  14. JB says:

    I completely agree. I didn’t really like BN 1. The recaps and the tone of the book. It just didn’t feel right to me. I especially didn’t like the ripped out hearts and licking the skull. I’ve read and watched plenty of gory stuff, but it just didn’t feel right in this comic book. There were definitely some good moments like some of the dialogue between Hal and Barry and I also thought the Atom scene was interesting. But overall, I wasn’t that impressed. I couldn’t really get into it.

    I’m also definitely less into Geoff Johns than before. GL is still pretty good, but not amazing. And I’m not really into Flash Rebirth which makes me mad because I’ve always loved Barry and Wally. I did love Rogues’ Revenge though, but I always love the Rogues. They’re getting a mini right? With Capt Boomerang? I hope that’s good.

  15. JB says:

    Also, I want to add that I really wanted to like this book. GL and GLC have been very good the last couple years, and I loved Sinestro Corps Wars. I really wanted to like this too. But issue 1 didn’t impress me.

  16. brucecastle says:

    Are the Rogues getting a mini?

    Hell, I would probably buy an ongoing with ‘em.

  17. I Actually Like Stryfe says:

    Hi, I’m new here.

    Gotta say, I’m starting to see your points about Johns. His reliance on gore and shock value are starting to resemble the way X-Force is written: Violence that is embraced/praised because of the writer’s adherence to continuity.

    • dclebeau says:

      Welcome to the party.

      It’s not that Johns is a bad writer. I’m just starting to think we’ve seen all his tricks. It’s fine if that’s what you’re into. But for me, it’s starting to wear thin.

      Oh, and Johns hardly sticks to continuity. He completely upends continuity and rewrites it as he sees fit. He’s even retconned himself. I find it amazing that he gets credit for sticking to continuity. He’s the biggest retcon-whore out there.

  18. I Actually Like Stryfe says:

    “I’m just starting to think we’ve seen all his tricks. It’s fine if that’s what you’re into. But for me, it’s starting to wear thin.”

    Which is exactly how I felt about Ennis by the end of the 90s.

  19. brucecastle says:

    End of the 90′s? That was, what, Preacher and Hitman?

    Oh, you’re missing out, sir.

    Hey, every writer has their tricks. Some just get stale quicker than others.

  20. I Actually Like Stryfe says:

    I stopped after a few rounds of Punisher. Which after “Welcome Back Frank” were hit or miss.

  21. brucecastle says:

    What about his war stories? That’s what Ennis is most proud of.

  22. PaulWall says:

    I think DC just showed Marvel how to do GOOD zombie hero stories even if I’m don’t like the genres mixed together. The only thing that could ruin this story is a crap ending, G-d forbid all the dead are wonderfully brought back to life. Personally, I think the Anti-Monitor is the power source for these guys and I thought if it was horrifying to have the Dibnys show up like that to kill the Hawks, Ralph’s was such a sweetheart.

  23. brucecastle says:

    Well, the Anti-Monitor is a puppet, right? Wasn’t he taken by the Black Lanterns at the end of the SCW?

    And you didn’t like Marvel Zombies? The first one was good and fun.

  24. [...] week, I was one of the few people to post a negative review of Blackest Night #1.  The fan response was so overwhelmingly positive that I have gone back and re-read BN #1 several [...]

  25. [...] Last month, I was in the minority when I was bitterly disappointed by the first issue of Blackest Night.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.  The style of the book certainly isn’t suited to my tastes.  And the first issue included way too many recaps for my liking.  Going into this issue, my expectations were greatly lowered. [...]

  26. [...] was right there with Lebeau on the first issue, and you can find a bigger, better review of this issue from him. Johns definitely decreased the [...]

  27. I Like Stryfe says:

    Is this 616?

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