Blackest Night

Blackest Night turns DC Comics’ top superheroes into undead zombies. Can the Green Lantern and the Flash save the day?

I just can’t fathom why people get so worked up about these big event comics. There’s no doubting that the apocalyptic content – in this case revolving around the zombiefication of major-league DC Comics characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – would make for interesting reading, if it weren’t for the fact that we know it’s going to be OK in the end.

By threatening the A-listers, we’re left with a bunch of B- to Z-listers to sort the situation out. Good for those at DC Comics trying to elevate the likes of Green Lantern and the Flash into characters worthy of movies, but it’s questionable whether it makes the best comics.

In the process Geoff Johns hauls out a seemingly endless list of back catalogue super clones to fill the ranks of the opposing sides. A battle ensues between the living superheroes and their reanimated cousins – a battle that lasts the majority of the book – leaving the reader to keep up with the plot through the conversational chitter-chatter the heroes manage to maintain while smacking each other into the sides of buildings.

Johns flexes his encyclopeadic knowledge of DC Comics characters, and he manages to give them some depth and make them interesting. But it still reads like a bunch of character studies draped across a plot that contains little more structure than brawl in a car park. There are so many characters that we couldn’t care less about, that they smother the key players.

The art, however, is something else. Ivan Reis’s ability to draw the most amazing-looking superheroes is beyond question. The illustrative team seems to have pulled out all the stops, making for a beautifully presented book. But given the plot, it would offer more entertainment as a series of posters.

In the back of the volume there’s an extended commentary and back-slapping session by the creators. At one point, the letterer Nick Napolitano admits his horror at having to put “a huge piece of text on this freakin’ magnificent piece of art,” which sums it all up really. I feel his pain.

DC Comics’ recent big events have a tendency to feel like they’re more about the commerce than the art. While this may be an economic reality, it would be nice to think they could do a better job of disguising the fact.

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