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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blackest Night #1 - Sept. 2009

Comics Weekend "Blackest Night" by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Oclair Albert.

Considering we talked about two Silver Age Aquaman stories drawn by Ramona Fradon for the last Comics Weekend, I'd say this book is about as far away from the tone of those stories as humanly possible, as this grim first page will attest:
Black Hand starts reanimating people, ending the conversation he's having with the skull of Bruce Wayne by licking it. Fun!

Cut to Coast City, where a celebration is taking place, attended by the Green Lanterns--Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Rainer, and Guy Gardner. The celebration is to honor all the fallen superheroes and to celebrate the rebuilt Coast City.

But while the Lanterns are enjoying the moment, there are others who are not celebrating. In Smallville, Clark Kent is mourning the loss of his father. In Pittsburgh, Professor Martin Stein is mourning Ronnie Raymond.

In Chicago, Blue Beetle's formers JLA teammates lay a rose on his grave, and we see that the rose, once placed on the tomb, immediately starts to die.

In Amnesty Bay, Aquaman's former queen, Mera, and his former sidekick, Garth, squabble over where Arthur should be buried:
Later, in the HQ of the Justice League of America, Hal Jordan and the recently-returned Barry Allen talk, with Hal catching Barry up on all that has happened while he was "away."

After some insisting from Barry, Hal shows him just how many heroes have been lost over the years:
Barry is particularly disturbed at the fate of his friends, Ralph and Sue Dibny (me, too).

Later, in St. Roch, we see Hawkman and Hawkwoman argue after Carter refuses to let his old friend, Ray Palmer, come visit the grave of his wife, Jean Loring, who of course caused so much destruction and death.

Far away, on the planet Oa, we see things really start going to hell, when one of the Guardians, who is part of the Black Hand, attack one of his fellow Oans by biting into his neck, zombie style!

This act sets off all the "Black Lantern" rings out there in space, and they hurtle great distances to arrive at various heroes' graves, like Aquaman's:
This causes all of them to rise from their graves, as zombies, and begin their gruesome march towards their former fellow heroes.

The zombie Martian Manhunter attacks Flash and Green Lantern, the zombie Ralph and Sue attack Hawkman and Hawkwoman, stabbing Kendra through the chest and ripping out Carter's heart for good measure.

As the Hawks' bodies wither away to empty husks, we see Black Hand, standing over them, claiming that they "Won't escape death this time."

Needless to say, to be continued!

I'm going to refrain from doing any sort of commentary about this issue, or the series in general, because I simply can't relate to what I'm reading.

As I've stated here many times before, I hate this level of violence and gore in superhero comics, but judging how these things seem to sell (I mean, there's a reason why Marvel put out approximately 12,000 Marvel Zombies spin-off books), I can see that I'm clearly in the minority of the comic book-buying public on this, so I don't see any need to belabor the point.

That said, Blackest Night will end up being an important series in the history of Aquaman, so I feel required to follow how it all plays out. Maybe, just maybe, if Aquaman ends up back as the Classic Aquaman we all know and love, with Mera at his side (beautifully drawn here by Reis and Albert), it'll be worth sitting through all the flesh chomping.


wich2 said...

Hear hear, brother Rob.

Of course it's true that Old School Comics could tend to be too childish, and too light - and too Light.

But much of the crap of the last few years does NOT rectify that with a proper balance; too Wrongs still don't add up to a Right.

Gore, Bestiality, Sexual Abuse, etc., are_not_in_themselves more "Adult" than themes of the classic era; in fact, used in the hamfisted and juvenile way they usually are, it actually can result in LESS "Mature" comics.


-Craig W.

Oscar Olalde said...

What can I say, I do LOVE this Blackest Night event, but I can see where you are coming from, and most likely you won't be liking the first and last pages of Titans #15 issue (another Blackest Nighttie-in).

Anyways this rated for mature (not that kids suddenly got dumb and don't have many ways around that), so at least you can brace yourself properly before sinking into the gore.

This is DC's deux ex-machina event of the year, so hopefully Aquaman will come out in a better light.

Neal Snow said...

I gave up on DC when they stuffed Kyle Rayner's girlfriend in the refrigerator.

I doubt I'm missing anything I would care for.

David Cutler said...

@Neal Show--the guard has changed numerous times, since then... DC isn't an entity in and of itself, and a company/universe shouldn't be put to task for a bad story over a decade old.

I hated identity crisis and what happened to Sue and Ralph, but despite all the maudlin poetry and purple prose, I really enjoyed Blackest Night. Johns' appreciation and knowledge of Aquaman lore shone through for me, and despite the darkness and brutal violence near the end there, it had some element of... fun to it, I guess?

For years I've wanted Arthur back and without that stupid water hand, and maybe when this is all done we can finally have it. I have no real attachment to continuity, so my ideal situation would be a complete restart with a younger Arthur Curry (20s not teens), but this works well enough for me.

Russell said...

As soon as Hawkman and Hawkgirl were "killed" I realized that DC is going to "kill" as many of their characters as they want before the deus ex machina ending that will restore Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and maybe just maybe a few of the other "dead" heroes, like Aquaman. I just don't know who/what is going to be the deus ex machina yet...maybe the Spectre? The Guardians? Whatever.

Ed McKeogh said...

(1) Why does it matter where the grave site is located? There's no body. Right? Dweller in the Depths dissolved into water and dispersed; the best of what was Orin reanimated his dead nephew's body, who is the current Aquaman/Arthur Joseph Curry. Right? So how can there be a zombie Aquaman at all?

(2) The fact that the series carries a "mature reader" label makes it unlikely, IMO, that it's gonna be a reboot. If young readers can't follow it, then they have no investment in who gets brought "back from the dead."

From every review I've seen so far, it's sloppy, disappointing storytelling. At least Marvel was smart enough to make it's zombie comics "funny." If DC's gonna be so earnest and bleak about it, you gotta wonder who it thinks its audience really is.

David Cutler said...

@Ed--not sure where this mature readers thing is coming from... my copy has no such notice on the cover unless I am entirely missing (or there's a difference in the Canadian and American versions). Also, I'm not aware of any comic shops that prevent the sale of, say, vertigo comics (which actually have mature reader labels) to young readers.

I think there's a huge divide between what kids (not 3-7, but 8-12) actually enjoy in comics and what some adults think they should enjoy. Were I 9 again, a comic about an army of zombie super people trying to rid the universe of chaos by bringing death to everyone would have been the coolest thing I could have ever imagined.

Your first point, though... yeah, I hadn't thought of that. I've noticed a zombie superman in a lot of the preview art, too...

LissBirds said...

That said, Blackest Night will end up being an important series in the history of Aquaman, so I feel required to follow how it all plays out.

I agree with you. I was reading Blackest Night and was icked out by a quite a bit of what was going on. Like you, I'm sticking through this to see what happens to my favorite Martian. I hope at the end of this J'onn and Aquaman are both restored to way we know and love them.

Diabolu Frank said...

Waiting for the trade... or more likely these days, waiting to pass on the trade in favor of more promising material. That line about Aquaman's father confuses me, though. The reference to Mercy Reef is straight-up Post-Crisis, but is the "father" his elderly namesake or the actual Pre-Crisis babydaddy?

wich2 said...

"Were I 9 again, a comic about an army of zombie super people trying to rid the universe of chaos by bringing death to everyone"

David, to a point, I understand that basic draw; I was a Monster Kid (loved the Universal movies, etc., at that age.)

But zombies as heroes? And heroes who seek to bring death, rather than save life? And comics with the some of the down-and-dirty events mentioned in this thread - and more, which we all know?


The growth of what is basically torture porn, in movies OR comics, is a very problematic thing, socialogically...


Unknown said...

Zombie Superman in the art is Kal-L, the Earth 2 Superman who was killed in Infinite Crisis.

Wings1295 said...

UGH... I just don't want to read anything this dark when I am looking for my favorite DC heroes.

Guess it's off to the kid comic bin for me.

Adama said...

I liked it. I have no problem with gore in a book about zombies.

And if I were still 9, I would still think a story about dead heroes rising from the grave to slay the living would be awesome.

Maybe I'm just desensitized ::shrug::

Luke said...

I knew you would not care for this, rob. Hopefully the ramifications and end results of it will produce some comics which you enjoy more, either with or without Arthur as Aquaman. Heh, maybe Arthur can be Aquaman and Garth will stay King. That would be something.

I'm a horror hound, so the gore is no what all to me. And the Hawks, to boot.

rob! said...


To be clear, I have no problem with zombies, zombie movies, zombie musicals, zombie comics, etc.

I'm just uneasy about zombies--and the violence that's part and parcel with any good zombie story--in superhero comics.

What can I say? I like my superhero comics dramatic but overall lighthearted fun, and seeing Hawkman get his heart ripped out, or Black Hand licking the slime off a skull, doesn't mean fun to me. I think if DC wants these characters to be globally-recognized trademarks, sold to a family audience all over the world, they have a responsibility to make those superhero comics appropriate for a younger age group.

But like I said, I know I've long since lost that argument. DC, Marvel, etc wouldn't do these types of stories if they didn't sell, so I'm clearly in the vast minority on this.

And...in the end, if Arthur Curry is back as Classic Aquaman, then it'll have been worth it, I guess.

wich2 said...

Rob (and gang)-

Again, ditto.

As I said above, I've always loved Monsters; and I obviously wouldn't be here if I didn't love Heroes. The issue is the postmodern concept that There's_Really_No_Such_Thing_As_Either.

When the Bad Guys - Zombies, Vampires, and various other parasitic shambling undead - are glamorized, fetishized, and romanticized; and the Good Guys - formerly Heroes and Heroines - are seen as out of step, square, and dysfunctional, "bottom rail's on top now, massa."

This is especially true in a field that must remain welcoming to children, and which is so much dead pulp without an essential wonder that is in a sense childlike.

As a wise old teacher used to say, "you can't have a great society, without great men and women."

-Craig W.