Spin-off minis to Major Crossover Events are interesting things. They are often posited as being important to the main story in some way, though the best crossovers know better than to make them vital or trivial and offend fans. On the one hand, you can have the debacle that was the Final Crisis spin-offs – decent minis that had absolutely nothing to do with the main title or, even worse, which actively contradicted the main title. On the other hand, you have Secret Invasion, which didn’t even make sense without the vastly more important spin-off titles (most notably Incredible Hercules and Captain Britain and MI:13, which featured the most vital blows against the Skrull threat). Which type is this? Spoilers ahead.
Blackest Night: Batman #1 seems to be leaning towards the Secret Invasion way of doing things. As we saw in Blackest Night #1, Black Hand has Bruce Wayne’s skull, though no one really knows why. And as Blackest Night #2 revealed, there’s actually a whole lot no one knows. The Black Lantern Rings have caught everyone off-guard, and while everyone knows by now what they do, no one knows how or why.
This issue changes that. Tomasi keeps the story moving ahead at a quick pace as he smartly focuses on Boston Brand, better known as Deadman, who we saw tormented briefly in Blackest Night #2. Here we see why – though Brand’s soul free-floats through the ether, allowing him to possess anyone with whom he comes in contact, his body has been snatched up by a Black Lantern Ring. When Brand enters the body to try and force it back into the ground, he knows everything it knows… and that means he knows that Black Hand has the skull, that a Guardian has betrayed the others, even that there’s a power battery. And when he finds Dick Grayson and Damian, they know it to. Batman & Robin now know more about what’s happening than any other hero in the DC Universe. Let’s just hope they remember that they know Oracle, and Oracle knows everyone.
Despite all that masterplotting, however, the issue is all set-up. Tomasi and Syaf fails to deliver the shocks where he needs to as we see some of the dead Batman family begin to rise, and they seem to introduce far more threats than a three-issue mini demands. Syaf and his art team do well matching the bleak tone of Tomasi’s story, but is a bleak tone and some set-up enough to fill a full third of a mini satisfactorily?
Only time will tell. As a single issue, however, this one manages to stay just ahead of mediocre thanks to decent art and reasonably well-handled drama. There’s a lot in it that has the potential to change the game for the Blackest Night mini, but little that suggests that Blackest Night: Batman will be compelling on its own.
– Cal Cleary