Or – “Corpses, Corpses, Everywhere, And Not A Brain To Think…”
I had intended to review an entirely different book today, but upon visiting the comic store, I realized I had missed the latest issue of DC’s most impressive summer crossover in years.Â A space story that’s also a horror story that’s also a superhero story that’s also a story about loss and death, the first two issues of Blackest Night were both shocking and entertaining, and took full advantage of our emotional attachment toÂ DC’sÂ characters (mostly by brutally killing them.)Â Issue #3 promises more skull-faces, more monstrous perversions of lost friends, and even a little bit in the way of explanations, along with a much-anticipated debut.Â What are you waiting for?Â Push the button, Frank!
Previously, on Blackest Night:Â The DC Universe is under siege from beeeeeyond the graaaaave.Â Friends, family, and fallen heroes are rising from the dead wearing ebony power rings, from the dead seas of Ysmault to the Lantern tombs of Oa.Â Across the galaxy, Korugar, Zamaron, and even Earth is caught unawares as those they have lost have returned to eat their hearts.Â It’s a pretty icky scene…Â The various heroes have been caught mostly flat-footed, and several (Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Tempest ((the former Aqualad,)) and others) have already been themselves killed and raised as Black Lanterns.Â Still, the specific focus seems to be keeping those with the requisite power offguard, as seen by the raising of the parents of Tim Drake, Clark Kent, Dick Grayson and others.Â Even the Justice League is not immune, as a host of their fallen members, led by the Martian Manhunter, has arrived to deal with Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, both of whom only recently left the ranks of the dead themselves.Â The power of the Black Lanterns is nothing compared to their ruthlessness and savagery, and the seven-on-two attack leaves the living Leaguers in the lurch.Â Also among the unasked questions:Â What happened to the original Atom?
There’s some nice setup at the beginning of this issue, as Jason Rusch and Gehenna have an awkward discussion about future, family, marriage and kids.Â Talk like that during a zombie movie is never a good sign, folks…Â The sudden beep of their JLA communicator ends the discussion, as the duo is forced to merge into Firestorm.Â At the same time, in Gotham City, the Flash and Green Lantern are quickly overwhelmed by the Black Lantern Justice League, including Ronnie Raymond, the original Firestorm.Â Ronnie’s callous disregard for life and his unpleasant words about former partner Professor Stein give Flash the first clue that things arent’ what they seem.Â He tries to rip the ring from Ronnie’s hand, but finds that it has grown tendrils into his dessicated flesh…Â It’s a well-handled sequence, resurrecting the ‘Flash as Firestorm’s teacher’ subplot from 30 year old JLA issues.Â Hal and Barry are seconds from destruction when, out of Hawkman’s ring comes a red-and-blue savior in the form of Ray Palmer, The Atom!Â As the fight gets slightly less lopsided, Firestorm arrives at JLA headquarters, to an emergency signal using Aquaman’s inactive code.Â The viewscreens show the dead rising around the globe, with Black Adam (Correction: Osiris), The Spectre, squadrons of dead Rogues and Titans, and even the Unknown Soldier walking again.Â Turns out the signal was triggered by Mera, who only narrowly escaped death at her husband’s hands last time.Â An ominous panel reminds us of the morgue in the Hall of Justice basement, filled with the bodies of villains who’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.
Flash, Atom and Green Lantern continue a losing battle, until out of the sky comes an unlikely savior: The Indigo Tribe!Â It takes only seconds for them to sing a few choruses of ‘Closer To Fine’ attack the dead by somehow channeling the power of the Green Lanterns.Â Ralph and Sue Dibny’s Black Lantern bodies are annihilated by their attack, and the tribe then teleports the Leaguers to JLA headquarters, bringing the A and B plots together.Â The leader of the tribe (she allows them to call her Indigo-1, as they have given up singular identities) explains the truth about what has happened, explaining the emotional spectrum and it’s current wielders, and FINALLY explaining that, yes, the Black Lanterns are specifically targeting the heroes of Earth to take them out of action.Â Indigo-1 tells Hal that he is key to the defeat of the darkness, as he is tied to Atrocitus, to Sinestro, to Larfleeze, and even to Star Sapphire Carol Ferris.Â Hal tries to leap into action without thinking, but Barry insists that they slow down and formulate a real plan.Â I love this interaction, showing the deep friendship between the heroes without even trying.Â It’s one of the few moments that have made me think that Barry’s resurrection might beÂ a good thing…Â The BLJLA suddenly busts in, and Jason quickly counteracts Dead Ronnie’s transmutation powers.Â Ronnie separates Jason and Gehenna, then absorbs Jason into his own Firestorm matrix, forcing the new kid to watch powerlesslyas Ronnie tortures Gehenna.Â Jason tries to tell her that he loves her, but she can’t hear him, as Firestorm turns her body to sodium chloride and rips out her heart.Â Ronnie laughs as Jason rages at him from inside the matrix, as dozens of rings crash through the ceiling, and the morgue drawers begin to open…
I’ve never been a fan of the big giant crossover, but once again, I am surprised at how well this one sticks together.Â The official debut of the last colorÂ of the emotional spectrum comes at the perfect dramatic moment, and their revelations about the weaknesses and the origins of the Black Lanterns are obviously at the heart of the Blackest Night saga.Â The characterization throughout this issue is note-perfect, including a creepy turn by the Hawks and the Dibnys, whose corrupt Black Lantern essences make every word out of their mouth a skin-crawling moment of disgust.Â Hal Jordan is forced to play it safe, Barry Allen is forced to slow it down, and Jason Rusch gets a character-defining moment that makes me look forward to a real showdown between him and Ronnie Raymond.Â Even the seemingly-silly concept of theÂ super-morgue in the basement of the Hall of Justice delivers a moment of true horror, as the bodies of Max Lord, Alexander Luthor, Killer Frost, Copperhead and others lurch and shamble forth to further screw up the JLA’s afternoon.Â This is the best issue yet, reminding me of how strong, how GAME-CHANGING, crossovers used to be back in the era of Crisis of Infinite Earths.Â Blackest Night #3 is the real deal, the full monty, the total package, the main event, as well as many other cliches, and earns a very impressiveÂ 5 out of 5 stars.Â There’s obviously more to come, as next issue promises to show us what happens when the rings hit 100% power, and I’m definitely onboard for the revelations to come.Â In twelve words or less: Gardner Fox meets George Romero, and the reading public is the winner.