Review: Blackest Night #5 (of 8)

by

Or – “Oh… My…  Stars.

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So, um…  I read this book, and yeah…  Looks like we got us a game.

Blackest Night #5

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Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert
Variant cover by Rodolfo Migliari
Sketch variant cover by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert

Previously, on Blackest Night:  So, the evil plot has been revealed.  Black Hand and Scar have raised the honored dead of the DC Universe in order to emotionally truamatize the heroes, thus powering their Black Lantern power battery.  The death toll has mounted, and now that their power level has reached 100%, the Black Lantern has been activated, allowing their evil other-dimensional “Guardian” to enter our reality.  The problem with that is that their Guardian is Nekron, an old-school Green Lantern baddie whose entry into our reality has always been prophecied as a bad idea.  Not just bad, but ROYALLY bad, BIBLICALLY bad, “Define bad, Egon” kinda bad.  Nekron’s battle plan is sound, as heroes who fall in against the Black Lanterns are raised as Black Lanterns themselves.  The only hope we have is the Rainbow Coalition (Atrocitus of the Red Lantern Corps, Agent Orange, Sinestro, Hal Jordan, Saint Walker of the Blue Lantern Corps, Carol Ferris and Indigo-1) who have banded together their various colors of the wind in order to paint the town red, make the other heroes green with envy, and beat Nekron black and blue.

We open on Ryut, moments after this week’s issue of Green Lantern (a long story which I’ll be getting to later) as the seven Corpsmen realize that the Black Lantern battery has disappeared.  They all bust out their lanterns, and light ‘em up, charging their rings to full power, each reciting his or her own oath.  In a cute moment, Walker, Sinestro, Hal, Atrocitus, Carol and Indigo do their ryming couplets, and we cut to Larfleeze:  “Eh?”  Heh.  Saint Walker and Hal help him to charge his ring (shoving his face in the battery seems to work) while Barry Allen confronts Nekron back on Earth.  Barry is horified to see the perversions of the dead, and leaps into action against Black Hand.  Wally West arrives (in his new JLU-style Flash suit), along with the Titans, a good chunk of the JLA, Superman, Wonder Woman and more.  In Manhattan, Mera and Atom Ray Palmer are overwhelmed by Black Lantern Eclipso/Jean Loring, who grabs them and shrinks them (?) down into the Black Lanter ring that has just animated Damage.  Things go well for the heroes, as they realize that Dove is immune to the BL’s powers, presumably because of her nature as a creation of the Lords of Order.  The Titans also report that one of their number, Troia, has been bitten by a Black Lantern, and is getting sick because of it.  The heroes try to free the Guardians of the Universe (who Nekron has brought with him) but are overpowered by evil Guardian Scar.

Luckily, the Rainbow Coalition makes their dramatic entrance and Roy G. Biv’s her out of existence before  heading for the power battery to combine their spectra into the counter-balancing White Light of Creation (“I think I saw this on a Saturday morning cartoon,” says Carol Ferris) that will kill Nekron.  Nekron and Black Hand pull out their trump card before the Lanterns prevail, though, as Hand powers up the skull he stole from the grounds of Stately Wayne Manor in issue #1, and Nekron growls, “BRUCE WAYNE OF EARTH… RISE.”  Black Lantern Batman hisses and leaps forward, vomiting black rings, each one intoning “Emotional tether registered.”  The horrified heroes are brought to a halt by the sight of their lost friend, and the lord of the dead takes his moment to win back control of the battlefield.  Nekron doesn’t have a face, per se, but I imagine he would be smiling as he says, “Many of you died…  but you came back.  *I* allowed your numerous resurrections.”  The rings fly forth against the heroes, calling out their victims as they strike.  “Buddy Baker of Earth.  Tora Olafsdotter of Earth.  Conner Kent of Earth.  Bart Allen of Earth.  Oliver Queen of Earth.  Diana Prince of Earth.  Kal-El of Krypton…  DIE.”  Flash races around to see what is wrong as his friends collapse, convulsing in pain, while Hal uses his Green light to destroy the Batman abomination.  The story literally takes my breath away as I realize that, in a matter of seconds, most of the heroes fighting AGAINST Nekron have turned to his side, (including SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN) standing ready to serve their new master.  As we fade to black, two more rings slice forward towards Flash and Green Lantern, calling for Hal and Barry to join them…

Oh, deary deary dear.  Can I just say “Holy Carp?”  (You read that right, I didn’t want to be scatalogical.)  I certainly did not see that one coming at all.  I had worried that the gathering of the light-bearers was going too quickly, and their move this issue made me worry that things were going to be anticlimactic.  Since this story is only about sixty percent done, I felt that there was a danger of things being too predictable, but the revelation that the revolving door of death in the DCU was all a part of Nekron’s evil master plan is a pretty clever bit, and turning some of the biggest heroes into Black Lanterns is more than just a little bit shocking.  This issue keeps the Blackest Night streak going, as Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert really sell it all, especially the double-page spread of possessed heroes ready to rend human flesh for Nekron.  My only disappointment here (and it’s a really minor one, given that I suspected this already) is that converting Superman and Wonder Woman is stone-cold proof that being a Black Lantern will wind up being a reversible condition.  Blackest Night #5 one-ups the previous reveal, gives us some real drama with some nice art, and I found myself completely drawn into the story (even the parts with Atrocitus and Larfleeze, who by all rights could undermine a bit of the drama) earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.  I keep referencing the first Crisis in my reviews of this book, but that feeling of real consequences, of real jeopardy and far-reaching effects is exactly what I keep being reminded of here.  Blackest Night manages to be more than just a summer crossover, it really feels like high stakes for the DCU, in which heroes will change, worlds will die, and things may never be the same again.  I truly hope that the ending can deliver on the expectations being set…

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In my very first Blackest Night review, I took a moment to show off my souvenir authentic space-zombie ring, and this issue of Blackest Night came packaged with a Red Lantern ring, completing my set of rainbow Lantern baubles.  My overall assessment of the rings is highly positive, as each one is shinier and more fun that the last.  My daughter was thrilled to complete HER own set, but it’s nice to have a collectible that, first of all, FITS on my rather chunky fingers, and doesn’t make me feel like I’m a nine-year-old giant nerd.  Though I prefer the version of the Green Lantern ring that looks like an actual lantern, these are a nice piece of ephemera, and even managed to help DC sell a couple of struggling titles (REBELS and Doom Patrol come to mind.)  It’s a win-win, as the rings drove business to the store, we sold out of even the most esoteric of titles, and it was a fun little treasure hunt over the course of the last few months.  I’m going to wear my Red Lantern ring to work, allowing my agents to see when I’m powered entirely by rage…

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