Review: Blackest Night #3

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Blackest Night, the summer’s mega-event at DC, bears all the signs of  a true, unapologetic Geoff Johns book.  If you’re a fan of Johns’ work, then Blackest Night has it all – exciting, well-constructed action set-pieces, the surprisingly organic nods to continuity stemming from twenty different sources, and the dark, violent plot.  If you aren’t, however, the book is similarly filled with all the pitfalls of his work: an obsession with minutiae and origins, needless slaughter, extreme focus on the Silver Age heroes of his work, and the ability to, in a room full of characters, only kill the legacies and women.

Blackest Night #3 moves the plot ahead a good deal through the use of a massive exposition drop that kills any and all momentum the book had built up partway through the issue.  Despite the well-conceived set-up in Blackest Night: Batman #1 that suggested that Oracle, Batman and Robin would be the ones to fill Hal in on the nature of the threat, this issue sees an Indigo Lantern pop in in the middle of the fight with zombie Justice League, single-handedly turn the tide of the fight, unite the good guys at the Hall of Justice for no reason, and then explain the entire conflict just in time for another fight to break out.

This is not to say that the book is bad, exactly.  Ivan Reis does a fine job on art, managing to blend high-powered fights with a bleak, horror-movie tone in a way the writing just isn’t managing to do yet.  Despite the relentless darkness, though, Reis manages to keep his figures distinct and physically emotive, demonstrating a definite improvement over previous works.

Blackest Night #3 suffers a little from being a middle child, as Johns rushes to fill everyone in on all the back story.  The book has its first truly chilling moment in the final pages of the issue, but it’s undermined by all the previous not-really-shocking moments and the fact that you can see it coming from page 1.  The action is well-done, as previous collaboration between Johns and Reis pay off most in these energetic, surprisingly low-scale fights.  Blackest Night still has a lot of potential to go either way, ultimately: this issue featured both the best and the worst of the series, side by side.

Grade: C

- Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Blackest Night: Batman #1

Blackest Night: Superman #1

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12 Responses to Review: Blackest Night #3

  1. David says:

    AWESOME issue! There was only one real problem I had with it, but I think I understand why Johns wrote it this way.

    My beef, is about Ronnie Raymond. Johns wrote him basically as a twisted version of how Ronnie was when he first started out. Immature, and blanking on formulas. While that may be true of Ronnie when he first MET Professor Stein… and when Hal and Barry knew him… Ronnie had grown up a lot since then.

    In Obsidian Age, Ronnie was to be valedictorian at his college. And he was quick on his feet enough to realize that he could convert the entire top layer of the Earth’s crust into water during the water crisis. AND he figured out, how to free Aquaman. Something Manitou Raven AND Zatanna couldn’t see.

    My theory is that the ring chose to portray Ronnie the way Hal and Barry remembered him best, during his early days. Ray was hiding in the ring at first, and truthfully, next to Professor Stein, Ray knew Ronnie probably the best before he died.

    As for the rest… great writing. I LOVED the examinations of how the Black rings work. The idea of an advanced technorganic computer driving the bodies like a symbiote…. awesome. Microwormholes IN the rings? Construction like black matter bone? Huh… makes me wonder what the DNA profile of a Black ring must be like…..

    Sorry to see Gen go… she’ll be missed. But I think I see how Ronnie will be brought back. Jason has power over organic matter… and he’s IN Ronnie’s head…..

  2. I Like Stryfe says:

    Bring on the Braverman already, Johns.

    I’ve always liked the character and never expected to see him again in any form. Maybe he’s the one guy who will benefit from a Johns retcon in Superman:Secret origin?

    • dclebeau says:

      I gotta admit, I never liked Braverman as a character. But I always thought he had potential. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone do something with him. As a fanboy, I was pleased to see him included.

  3. dclebeau says:

    7S, I am so glad you wrote this up. One, it’s a better piece than I would have written. And two, you were more even-handed. I had a hard time getting past Johns’ horrific dialogue. (“When he uses his ring it makes me hot!” Groan!) The exposition dump is pretty inexcusable. And the rest of the issue was more or less a retread of things we’ve already seen.

    I can’t say this is bad. If it was the first time I’d ever read Johns’ work, I’d probably be on the bandwagon. But having read a lot of Geoff Johns’ comics, Blackest Night is just tired.

  4. Craig says:

    7S, I think you may have missed a few points which in turn affects a few comments in your review:

    1) The Indigo Lanterns didn’t just “happen” to show up. They specifically were looking for Hal. Hal could have been on Mars, and that’s where they would have gone. Sure, maybe the timing was fortuitous, but isn’t that always the way in comics/cartoons? Or perhaps, they were watching Hal from afar and were able teleport to him when they saw he was in grave danger- they clearly have the ability to teleport as they did it more than once in the story. Can they teleport over cosmic distances? I don’t know. But if they can, it’s not hard to assume they were watching Hal from afar- afterall, they knew much about him (and Ray as well), such as his connections with each of the other Corps, which was why they came to him in the first place. They think he is uniquely suited to bring the 7 Corps together, through his relationship/connections with each of them either through their leaders (Sinestro, Atrocitus, Larfleeze, Ganthet, Indigo-1) or through their most powerful members (Carol Ferris or Saint Walker), and therefore he would have the best chance of uniting them so that they can bring the 7 fractured lights together to form the prime, blinding White Light that first cast off the Darkness (hence why it’s they that are technically the invaders, not the BLs). So, the IL showing up was no mere coincidence.

    2) The BL Justice League did not just “show up” at the Hall of Justice. Like a bright beacon, they honed in on the very emotional conversation/argument between Barry and Hal. It’s not a coincidence that they showed up right at the end of it. So, one might not care for that scene, but it did serve another purpose, as it allowed the “sharks” to sense the “splashing in the water”, to use Mera’s spot on analogy.

    I felt compelled to point these out.

  5. seventhsoldier says:

    On point #1, I meant more as a storytelling device. There were a hundred ways to organically introduce the Black Lanterns weaknesses and origins without resorting to “Alien shows up out of nowhere to tell us.” Obviously, there was an in-story reason… but it was still a clumsy storytelling method.

    For #2, I just don’t buy. First off, I have no idea why the Indigo Lanterns took them there. They don’t care about the place. They wanted somewhere to talk, and there were a thousand places more private. And second, unless the zombie JLA fight took place about 20 yards from the Hall of Justice, there were probably a million stronger emotions between the scene of the fight and the Hall.

    That said… I want to thank the commenters for being civil about their disagreement. Last time I posted a negative review of a Johns comic, I was insulted repeatedly and told to die in a fire, so this is a breath of fresh air for me.

    • dclebeau says:

      lol – no kidding!

      What book was that? I don’t remember. I just know that if I ever post a review in which I suggest one of Johns’s books is anything less than a masterpiece I can expect half the responses to be personal attacks that ignore any points I made in the article. Usually “You’re crazy” or something along those lines.

  6. dclebeau says:

    This reviewer actually quoted your review:

    http://groovyageofhorror.blogspot.com/2009/09/blackest-night-3.html

    I found his review to be worth reading, so I figured I’d post a link.

  7. [...] Soldier has already written and excellent review of this issue for read/RANT right here.  His review is far more fair and objective than I am capable of being.  So, I’m going to [...]

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