Saturday, November 28, 2009

Blackest Night: The Undead Battle.. So Far

Marvel Zombies was a heavily promoted event in our comic universe. While the moments within the pages were skillfully worked into the canon of Marvel continuity, it's primarily seen as light, spoofy fun. Now, DC take a turn. Get ready for the Blackest Night!

This event has been going on for some time now, so this article isn’t for those already knee-deep in new comics every week. This is for the rest of you who wouldn’t normally know that dead people across the DC universe are rising from the graves and ripping the hearts out of the ones they loved! Got your attention? We’ll take a look at the comics leading up to complete chaos for the Justice League and nearly everyone they know and identify which books are worth hunting down to complete the big picture and which can be left behind. Ultimately, you can always wait for DC to crank out their trade(s) for the event, allowing you to have it in front of you all at once ... but the waiting ... oh ... the waiting ...

In the Beginning:

May brings Free Comic Book Day. This year it brought Blackest Night with it. It’s an epic tale with Green Lantern and Flash discussing life and loss. If you aren’t well versed in the DC universe, this is an excellent starting point, profiling some major deaths of heroes before showing a character called The Black Hand kicking everything in motion. The book also lays out the different Lantern Corps. Yup, they aren’t just Green anymore!

Each color represents an emotion. The Green represents willpower. The Orange Lanterns (avarice) consist of one Gollum type alien named Larfleeze who creates avatars of other lanterns he has slain and sends them out to kill again, collecting the rings as he goes. The Red Lantern Corps (rage) hold the Guardians of the Green Lantern Corps responsible for the extinction of life at the hands of faulty androids they created. Now they are out for vengeance and spit napalm-like blood from their mouths as a primary weapon! Oh ... and they have a cat named Dex-Starr!! AWESOME. Red rage kitty.

Sinestro, ever the enemy of the Green Lantern Corps, leads the psychotic Yellow Lanterns (fear) against any who would oppose them. The Blue Lanterns (hope) were created by banished Guardians who embraced their emotions. They seem more monks than warriors. The Pink Lanterns (love) also embraced their emotions so completely that all must succumb to love, at any cost. Little is known about the Indigo Tribe (compassion) who arrived just as this crisis reared its decaying head, but they hold great power and seem to know the secrets needed to push back the living dead. Finally, we have the Black Lanterns whose power rose from the corpse of a powerful being called the Anti-Monitor. The mysterious dark power recruits The Black Hand and a Guardian named Scar, then sends out black rings which seek out fallen heroes and loved ones of heroes still living. When these beings elicit a strong enough emotion from their target, they tear the still beating heart from their chest. Shortly after, that person rises to join the Black Lantern ranks. Their ultimate goal is still unknown.

The Comics:

Green Lantern #43 (prologue comic): Most may buy this issue for the cover alone, featuring The Black Hand draped over the headstone of Bruce Wayne; black blood dripping from his lips and dead roses in hand. This issue outlines the life, death, and rebirth of The Black Hand. It’s not essential reading to follow the main storyline but excellent background and a killer read to boot.

Blackest Night #1: As is always the case, the comic bearing the title of the event is ALWAYS essential reading ... no bones about it. I’ll just say that out front for the casual comic fan whose interest is piqued. The Black Hand begins his dark works at a certain grave site in Gotham City. We get quick looks across the DC universe where some are celebrating life and some are mourning death. The Guardians are contemplating a course of action as they watch the various lantern corps in battle with each other when all hell breaks loose. Black rings are reanimating dead heroes by the truckload, and their first attack is so vicious and sudden there are instant casualties.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1-3: These are mainly origin stories for members of each corps. In getting to see how they got their start, we are also introduced to their team, or army, as it were. Great background reference so you know all the players going into the war, but not essential reading. In the third issue,we are given a sketch version of the Free Comic Book Day preview book with notes from the creators.

Blackest Night #2: When a Green Lantern falls from the sky in Gotham City, you know the shit has hit the fan! The Black Lanterns continue their assault over land and sea. Even the mystical realms are not left untouched. More heroes fall. This issue also contains “The Book of the Black: Chapter 1, Verse 1”, a sort of diary written by The Black Hand.

Green Lantern #45: While the Pink Lanterns wage war to convert the Yellow Lanterns to their side and team Green battles the Red Rage, the Black Lantern rings have found them all and prove even the rings themselves can be deadly. All who were slain in battle rise again. This is essential reading as it begins the full-on assault of the Black and, in turn, causes old enemies to band together against a common foe.

Green Lantern Corps #39: This is the start of the main assault against the Green Lantern Corps. It's non-essential to the main story, and the carnage (or lack of) doesn’t start until the last few pages. Some fun bits with Guy Gardner, the “dick” of team Green, and a sequence with Mongul (a hardcore Superman baddie) showing he’s the ultimate evil, but neither has context if you don’t already read the comics, so feel free to pass this one up.

Blackest Night Batman #1: Out of the gate let me just say, if you haven’t picked up on this yet, Bruce Wayne is dead. Dick Grayson (formerly Robin/ Nightwing) has taken on the mantle and is kicking ass in Bruce’s name. Teamed with Robin (who is now Damian, Bruce’s son ... yeah, a LOT has happened!), Batman comes to investigate the theft of Bruce’s skull and the desecration of his parents' graves. While nothing in this issue is essential to following the core story, for Batman fans, it is excellent. You’ve got soul searching between the new Batman and Robin, Deadman is thrown into the fight, and some top-notch Gotham evil is back from the grave.

Blackest Night Superman #1: The horror comes home to tranquil Smallville! Superman and Superboy are confronted by two characters: one who could break their spirit and another who could break their spines. Again, not essential at all to the core story, but the writing is solid and enjoyable, even for someone like me who isn’t very well read on the tales of Krypton’s favorite son.

Blackest Night Titans #1: That’s Teen Titans to us old schoolers or cartoon fans. Speaking of which, if you watched enough of the cartoon, you’ll find those storylines tie directly into the Titan’s involvement with the Black Lantern invasion. The cover alone will sell it for you, with Beast Boy making out with the rotting, reanimated corpse of Terra. This comic plays out more like a deliciously creepy little ghost story and, while still non-essential to following the core story, is a great time and delivers on a little bloodshed as well!

Blackest Night #3: Back into the core book. This one is worth it just to watch undead Elongated Man mess with the heads of nearly everyone around him. It’s a full-on assault on the Justice League’s home base, which just so happens to have a secure crypt vault below it. The world is going to hell and the heroes are just starting to get their bearing, which isn’t saying much as they have no idea how to stop this horrific evil. This issue also contains the Book of the Black, Chapter 1, Verse 2.

Green Lantern #46: Yes, you need to get this book as the forces of light begin to join to take on the Black ... and that’s literally. Sinestro takes a break from the universe shattering event to go toe-to-toe with Mongul in a fight that will have your inner geek grinning from ear to ear. BRUTAL STUFF. Nothing like watching two superpowered baddies pummel each other senseless.

Green Lantern Corps #40: While not an essential book, the battle gets bloody and even darkly humorous in spots as the Black Lanterns attack the Corps mentally and physically. Some awesome horror visuals in this issue that starts out emo and then goes completely insane. You may not be familiar with the Corps, but you’ll love watching them die!

Blackest Night Batman #2: We begin to realize that with every victim gutted, power levels of an unseen force are rising. Gotham’s baddest undead are taking civilian lives by the dozen, and Jim and Barbara Gordon are caught in the middle of it. Luckily, Batman and company are arming up for battle, and the new man in black doesn’t play nice. This one is nonstop action, and while not essential to the bigger picture, how can you pass it up?

Blackest Night Superman #2: Everything in Smallville was sunshine and lollipops ... until Earth 2 Superman’s corpse got up and started beating the crap out of Superman and Superboy! Hell, even Krypto, the super dog, got his ass handed to him. Meanwhile down on the street, Psycho Pirate has risen and is messing with the minds of the populace who are compelled to beat each other down or rip their own faces off. Even Ma Kent is running from Lois Lane’s corpse. Wait ... WHEN THE HELL DID LOIS LANE DIE??!! I’m way behind. Another non-essential, but almost worth it just to see Ma Kent get pissed off.

Blackest Night Titans #2: The Black Lanterns prove they are the ultimate evil as they continue to torment the Titans while ripping into them with clawed fingers and monstrous teeth. The creepy little ghost story is on its way to being a full-blown bloodbath! Another non-essential, but if you dig the characters, you’ll love watching them twist in the wind and attempt to face an unstoppable evil.

Blackest Night #4: This is a MUST BUY!! High points of super heroism stand in contrast to completely sick panels of all-out gore as heroes are forced to crack pseudo-zombie skulls and hold nothing back. Chaos reins supreme when just about every dead villain and hero has risen and sets out for human heart-kebob …and just when it seems like it couldn’t get any more horrific, the mastermind behind this cataclysm steps forward to swallow the earth. This issue also contains The Book of the Black, Chapter 1, Verse 3.

Green Lantern #47: Open the book, turn to Page 2, and witness the freakiest undead aliens you’ll ever see ... in your life. The Lanterns are beginning to join forces and seem to have found a way to kill a Black Lantern completely, but it could be too little, too late. Deep moments between Green Lantern and Sinestro please the geek in me while more heart ripping causes the horror psycho in me to stand up and clap.

Green Lantern Corps #41: While this is the least essential title of the bunch, this one bears a cover featuring a baby Black Lantern holding a human heart. Priceless. Inside, Black Lanterns are blown to holy hell, turned to pulp, and ripped apart as the Corps fight for their lives. You don’t need it ... but you want it!

Blackest Night Batman #3: The story moves away from the wholesale carnage of the last issue and on to a more tragic note as team Bat face their undead parents. Luckily, The Demon has their back! Again, non-essential, but not to be missed.

Blackest Night Superman #3: Above Krypton (yes, Krypton is back ... and again ... I’ve missed a lot!), Supergirl is blasting her father in the face with heat vision. Back in Smallville, Lois Lane is running through a field of wheat ... on fire. Norman Rockwell, it ain't. Another non-essential, but you’ll be passing up a battle that will make you laugh out loud one minute and drop your jaw the next.

Blackest Night Titans #3: Undead baby. Dinosaur VS. Zombie Super Hero. If these two things don’t get your attention, nothing in this event will. This episode is as vicious as it is heartbreaking and ends with a ray of hope for the good guys. Non essential but so good, you really need to see it for yourself!

Batman, Superman, and Titans were all 3-issue runs. and as their stories wrap up, those characters will join the fight in the main book. The stage is set. The Black Lantern battery is at 100%. A new evil has risen. What will happen next is anyone’s guess!

Blackest Night is a horror/comic fan’s dream come true with moments that would make David Cronenberg grin and Rob Zombie fall out of his chair. Get the issues now or wait for the trades, but don’t miss the carnage!

For more, visit DC Comics Blackest Night section online.

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