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.
- Cal Cleary