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.