Or – “Ray Palmer, Lightly Braised In A White Wine Sauce, With A Fried Egg On Top, And Spam…”

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Al Pratt:  “Um, excuse me, is this the undertaker’s?”
Black Hand:  “Yup, that’s right, what can I do for you, squire?”
Al Pratt:  “Um, well, I wonder if you can help me. My Atom has just died and I’m not quite sure what I should do.”
Black Hand:  “Ah, well, we can ‘elp you. We deal with stiffs.”
Al Pratt:  “Stiffs?”
Black Hand:  “Yeah… Now there’s three things we can do with your Atom. We can bury him, burn him, or dump him.”
Al Pratt:Dump him?”
Black Hand: “Dump him in the Thames.”
Al Pratt:What?”
Black Hand: “Oh, did you like him?”
Al Pratt: “Yes!”
Black Hand: “Oh well, we won’t dump him, then. Well, what do you think: burn him, or bury him?”
Al Pratt: “Um. Well, I.. I.. I.. I’m not very sure. He’s definitely dead.”
Black Hand: “Let’s ‘ave a look...  Oh, he looks quite young.”
Al Pratt: “Well, from the Silver Age, anyway…”
Black Hand: “SCAR!  I THINK WE’VE GOT AN EATER!”
Scar: “I’ll get the oven on!”
Al Pratt: “Um, er…  excuse me, um, are you…  Are you suggesting we should…  eat my Atom?”
Black Hand: “Yeah. Not raw, not raw. We cook him. He’d be delicious with a few french fries, a bit of stuffing. Delicious!”
Al Pratt: “Actually, I do feel a bit peckish…  No!  NO, I can’t!”
Black Hand: “Look, we’ll eat your Atom. And if you feel guilty afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.”
Al Pratt: “All right…”

(FIN)

Blackest Night #4

BN1.jpgWritten by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert
Variant cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Sketch variant cover by Ivan Reis

Previously, on Blackest Night: It’s been a shocking night for the denizens of the DC Universe, particularly those of a “wearing-tights-and-or-hanging-out-with-tights-wearers” bent.  Renegade Guardian of the Universe Scar and three-time-loser Green Lantern villain Black Hand have begun the process of wearing down the heroes by raising their comrades and lost loved ones from the dead as rotting (but nigh-indestructible) Black Lanterns.  Worse yet, the BLC has enriched their own ranks by killing heroes (Tempest/Aqualad, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Firestorm ((mostly)) and the newest Hawk are among the casualties) and a Black Lantern Justice League has arisen consisting of deceased heroes Aquaman, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, and the aformentioned Hawks, and the (really poorly though through) morgue in the basement of the Hall of Justice has begun vomiting forth dead villains.  Earth’s Green Lantern has headed into space to try and find the source and a cure for the plague, while the death-toll mounts planetside…  I got ten-to-one odds that say Barry Allen is the only one safe in this mess.

While the battle between BLJLA and a rapidly diminishing handful of heroes continues, the undead avatar known as Black Hand convenes with his mysterious master *coughNEKRONcough* about their plot.  “Do you think that because Superman, The Flash and Green Arrow cheated death before, they can cheat it again?”   Well, yeah, I do.  This is comics, after all.  The only people who have to remain dead are Thomas and Martha Wayne…  As Black Lantern power levels reach 93.55%, dead heroes and villains overwhelm the makeshift Justice League led by Flash Barry Allen.  Firestorm tries to transform Barry, but is momentarily overcome by Jason Rusch (whom ‘storm trapped in their power matrix with him last issue) who tells them that there’s a VOICE in the black rings.  A voice that tells him over and over that something is coming.  Seconds before they will be killed and eaten, Ray Palmer manages to shrink himself, Flash and Aquaman’s wife Mera down and transport them through phone lines to safety.  In the chaotic streets of Gotham City, the dea hero known as Azrael carves a path of destruction through the streets, killing innocents until he comes face to face with Johnathan Crane, the villain known as the Scarecrow.  Crane stares the rotting monstrosity right in the face and explains, “I scare people, but nothing can scare me…”  The monster leaves him alone, finding his emotional spectrum to be a deadened gray.  (This may mean something!)  Elsewhere, former President Lex Luthor learns of the crisis, and prepares to face the bodies of those that he had to kill to become who his is today.  It’s a very well-done moment for Lex, especially when he explains to the Calculator how Calc and his Society aren’t his friends or equals. 

All seems lost for our heroes, but Barry Allen stands up and gives an old-school Flash Fact peptalk, telling Mera and Atom that as of right now, it’s time for them to step up, run in, kick ass and take charge.  The speech sounds for all the world like Hal Jordan, and Barry even admits that he’s acting like Hal (though he says he’ll deny it to Jordan’s face.)  It’s the first moment since his resurrection when I feel that maybe there’s unseen potential in a revived second Flash.  Mera and Atom round up the troops while Flash makes the rounds of the cities of the DCU, giving us cameos of Wonder Woman, the Teen Titans, Black Canary and Green Arrow and the JSA as they deal with their various zombie friends and lovers.  Black Hand, for his part, makes his way to Coast City, where he says the key to power is located…  The art in every Black Hand sequence is truly disturbing, by the way, major kudos to Ivan Reis (who, I think, also directed Ghostbusters.  Rendezvousing with the Justice Society, the Atom is forced to fight his predecessor, Al Pratt, alongside Al’s son, Damage and his adoptive son, Atom-Smasher.  There’s some lovely history as the three heirs to Pratt interact for the first time, but it all ends badly as Damage has his heart ripped out… by JEAN LORING, Ray’s ex-wife.  “This will be TWICE I’ve turned your little world inside out,” croaks his dead bride, as Ray looks on in horror.  The death brings Black Lantern power to 100%, and a racing Barry Allen makes it to Coast City just in time to wait Black Hand’s family mortuary explode from the inside…  A Lantern arises, and Black Hand intones, “NEKRON.  ARISE.”  a shadowy figure appears from within the Black Lantern, and Nekron in turn commands, “Coast City.  ARISE.”  Thousands of corpses claw their way out of the grave as Barry watches horrified.  “Barry Allen,” says Nekkie, “you owe me your life.  You ALL do…”

It’s been public for some time now that the big bad behind all of this was, indeed, the Lord of the Dead his own bad self, Nekron.  For those of you NOT conversant in his history, it has always been said that if he enters our reality, bad things are going to happen.  We’re talking ‘Don’t cross the streams’ bad here, “Zombie Apocalypse” bad, maybe even “Jim Carrey Is Ebenezer Scrooge” bad.  (Okay, maybe not that bad, but lord, it ain’t good.)  Even knowing who was behind it all didn’t lessen the goosebumps and enjoyment that I felt as Nekron showed up in this issue, thanks partly to some very suspenseful dialogue and pacing, and partly to a beautiful redesign of the character by Reis and company.  Having his Black Lantern as part of a Grim Reaper scythe is truly inspired, and even if you don’t know who he is (as most of today’s readers seem not to) you can tell that he’s bad news.  The horror of previous issues isn’t as oppressive this time around, but there’s still some gruesome moments herein, especially Ronnie and Jason’s battle for control of Firestorm, and the seeming end of Grant Emerson.  The art feels a bit different here, and is credited to Reis and Oclair Albert, but it doesn’t suffer for having more than one artist.  Overall, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid on this issue, cheering for Barry, rooting for Mera, hissing at Black Hand, and even wondering who will be the one who weilds the rainbow powers to bring this crossover to an end sometime in the winter of 2014.  (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit…  I never rooted for Mera.)  Geoff Johns is doing some of his best plotting here, with a global stage and hundreds of characters weaving in and out, and I have to say that it’s working in ways that giant crossovers haven’t since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths set the standard for such cluster-schmozz crossovers back in the day.  Blackest Night #4 does the trick, and I’m still happy, as the issue earns 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s tough to do “Big Story” well, and it’s even tougher to do “Big Story” while doing the  invidual characters justice, but Geoff Johns and his amazing friends effectively pull it off.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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7 Comments

  1. Brian McQueary
    October 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    I couldn’t agree me. I’m having a blast with this book!

    • Brian McQueary
      October 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm — Reply

      I mean I couldn’t agree more! ugh!

  2. Greg A
    October 29, 2009 at 7:56 am — Reply

    I really wish I could be as enthusiastic about Darknest Night; however, there is just something about it that isn’t clicking for me. It has the zombies. It has the space opera. It has the DC heroes fighting insurmountable odds.

    And yet….

    Maybe if it wasn’t eight issues long (included the month-off in January). Maybe if I didn’t feel compelled to pick up Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corp to get a bigger picture. Maybe if this wasn’t the fourth or fifth major event coming out of the DC universe in the past five years. I dunno.

    I think the major thing throwing me out of the story was the Hal Jordan worship. “He (Hal) let the rest of the world fit around him.” and “we need to act a little more like Hal” felt wrong especially coming from Barry. I get it, Hal Jordan is awesome. How about showing us he’s awesome rather than telling us.

    Perhaps DC could retitle the Mark Waid Flash/Green Lantern mini-series from 2001 as Flash & Green Lantern: Bromance. It’s not like Marvel is using that title anymore.

    This turned out a little more negative that I anticipated, so I’ll end with a more positive note. I would definitely pick up a Geoff Johns title consisting of a team made up of Mera, Ray Palmer and Barry Allen.

  3. October 29, 2009 at 10:52 am — Reply

    Maybe if it wasn’t eight issues long (included the month-off in January). Maybe if I didn’t feel compelled to pick up Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corp to get a bigger picture. Maybe if this wasn’t the fourth or fifth major event coming out of the DC universe in the past five years. I dunno.

    These are all valid points… Event fatigue is a very real problem with comics these days. We leap from big thing to big thing. Hell, World War Hulk is barely two years old and it feels like a distant memory.

    As for the Jordan/Allen worship, it’s much more muted this issue than in previous, for me. I was more bothered by it in the caption boxes, which might as well have said “Barry Allen is my daddy and I love him, mwah mwah mwah.”

    For me, they weren’t deal breakers this time. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

    • October 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm — Reply

      > “Event fatigue is a very real problem with comics these days. We leap from big thing to big thing.”

      Though I thought DC’s “First Crisis” was pretty good (as pointed out in the final Ambush Bug issue). =)

  4. Katzedecimal
    October 29, 2009 at 11:27 am — Reply

    It only took DC five event comics to finally get it RIGHT. I am enjoying the heck out of Blackest Night. It’s doing something a little different with the tired ‘zombies’ refrain, a little different, a little unexpected and a lot more interesting. It’s drawn some thought-provoking parallels between emotional motivation and the imposition of control. It’s got rainbow lanterns and Sailor Oa! And as a cherry, it’s making sense! (After the trainwreck of WTFery that was Final Crisis, this is a feature worth remarking on :-P )

    The Bal worship is making me cackle like a mad thing because it is sooooooooooooooooo obvious. DC’s second most-slashable couple is back, yaoistas everywhere are celebrating, and a whole new generation of yaoistas are seeing what the fuss was all about. One would almost think Geoff Johns was aware that he had female readers or something! The bromance is SO obvious that I will laugh until milk comes out my nose if Barry Allen winds up wearing a blue ring, since Johns seems to be buttering him up as the hopemeister to Hal’s willmeister. Seriously, when Sinestro and Star Sapphire were having that slapfest over who loves Hal the most? – I was fully expecting Johns to throw Barry in there and watch the hair-pulling start. Blackest Night has been entertaining on multiple levels, that previous DC events didn’t begin to reach.

  5. October 29, 2009 at 10:05 pm — Reply

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Coast City basically nuked by Mongul to create a new WarWorld? What I mean is there probably weren’t a lot of actual bodies, unless the Black Rings can reassemble them. [quibbles, I know]

    So what have we learned so far? 1)The Black Lanterns can’t just tear through the Red Lanterns. 2) The Black Rings can’t touch the peaceful dead, or those who can’t feel anything. 3) As Dove and Superboy showed, apparently the BLs can be ‘overloaded’ with emotion.

    My biggest worry is that Mogo and Xanshi are going to tumble and I don’t see Mogo floating away after that one.

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