Home > Weekend Asides > Weekend Aside: Blackest Night Thoughts

Weekend Aside: Blackest Night Thoughts

I swear, this is only a somewhat transparent grab for page hits on a slow day. But feel free to skip this one, it’s more of a mini-rant on my part. But let’s put it this way: this is completely unnecessary reading if you’re here for the DCAU stuff, even moreso than the usual weekend asides. And, frankly, if you liked Blackest Night, you may not want to click past this, as I don’t have much in the way of kind words for it.

Okay, first of all, Chris Sims managed to sum up a lot of this using crayons, so go read his 60-second recap first (I kind of annoyed him a while back by joking that ComicsAlliance having a “Girls Week” was as redundant as Canada throwing “Hockey Week” a while ago, but Chris is the best comics writer on the internet.)

But… this series just fell flat for me on almost every level.

The most obvious point for me first: I like my art simple and clean, with a minimum of extraneous flourishes and with clear panel layouts (the upcoming Weekend Aside will deal with this concept in detail. I know at least part of this is a bit of old-codger-ism on my part; I grew up in the pre-Photoshop era of comics, before computer colouring and the related advancements, so my vision of what a comic book “should” look like is very different from someone who grew up after that time. And I’m obviously a fan of the Timm style of very minimal figures.

But to my eye, the page layouts and such in all of these issues by Ivan Reis were just too muddled to be readable. I understand that the art is one of the things people like about the new era Green Lantern and this is just in that style, but it’s a mess to me. Worse, it reminds me of all the style-over-substance Image books drawn by guys who thought that throwing out a bunch of flourishes would make them the next Jim Lee.

Here, we not only get loads of characters to convey an “epic” feel, but also loads of photoshop effects jammed atop them. I still don’t understand why DC mandated that all GL’s have to have some sort of ring projection of their symbol floating above the actual symbol on their costume, but these stories took that sort of visual masturbation and ran with it.

Secondly: Hal Jordan is possibly the dullest lead character in comics history (he makes Captain America look full of personality), and basing a storyline around him never really works out. Johns seems to subconsciously know this, as the main Blackest Night book seemed to push Hal into the background quite a bit. Which is fine by me, but Johns has an affection for characters that are just as dull, if not moreso, than Hal, specifically Barry Allen. And those characters who I do tend to like have been either rendered personality-less or, in Atom’s case, turned into borderline parodies of their former selves.

Thankfully, Johns seems to be mostly ignoring some of the more recent stuff that’s gone wrong with Ray (he doesn’t torture anyone), but he still displays a very superficial handling of the characters that’s out of keeping for a writer who, at one point, was doing very good work that balanced big plots with quieter character work on books like JSA and Flash. Wonder Woman gets it especially bad.

Thirdly, while it’s certainly possible to do one of these events with a focus on characters – I thought Johns mostly pulled off the trick with Infinite Crisis, even if that was ultimately a disappointment – this certainly wasn’t it. I’m still not sure who or what the heck Nekron was supposed to be; Johns sure didn’t bother explaining it during the course of the series (as far as I can tell his only post-Crisis appearance prior to the series was in an annual during Kyle’s time that well, no one read because DC had trained everyone to ignore their themed annuals by that point). To its credit, at least the main plot seemed semi-coherent without reading the tie-ins, but the entire climax and explanation of Nekron’s plan was horribly lacking (I think he was basically trying to kill God with the belief that would wipe out every living thing). It felt as though Johns knew that any pause for explanation of what was going on would lose the reader, so he just chopped out all the exposition.

And, lastly, this is just another backwards step in DC’s overall direction. When they got their… stuff.. together in the early 90s, it was by basing their line around a stable of very talented writers, under tight editorial control, and by focusing around fresh ideas, even when those alienated some of their more hardcore fans (Kyle as GL being the standard-bearer in that regard). Now, the nostalgia craze that began when Johns seemingly consciously ignored all the character-focused storytelling that was building up to Infinite Crisis in favour of telling a limp sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths has reached new heights. Sims jokes about Jason Rusch (Firestorm) being replaced by Ronnie Raymond – again, for seemingly no good reason other than Johns grew up reading about Ronnie – but it’s continued on with Hawkman (since he came up with the new version of the Hawks, Johns is now overwriting his own work!).

It’s no surprise that the freshest books in DC’s lineup are the Batbooks, as they’re the ones least tinged by the nostalgia movement. Sure, Bruce Wayne will inevitably be back under the cowl, but Bruce Wayne was a featured character in one of the biggest movies ever a couple of years ago so, let’s face it, Batman is bigger than comics.

But.. resetting FIRESTORM? People missed Ronnie Raymond that much? I know… this is where you throw my twin mantras of “there are no bad characters, only bad stories” and “every character is someone’s favourite” back in my face. But comics should always at least provide the illusion of forward momentum, but DC is doing stuff like that all the time now.

And that’s not even getting into the more deep-analysis complaints about the books, like the besmirching of Wonder Woman to turn her into a member of the Star Sapphires, the entire concept of the colours and emotions not standing up to any sort of close scrutiny, or the stupidity with the entire concept of this story happening well before it needed to (the Indigo and Violet Corps were barely introduced before this started).

Lastly: the zombies thing is so 2007. Get over it.

It’s just not the sort of stories I want to see out of DC, but since they’ve chased away just about all of my favourite writers (Waid, David, Dixon, Brubaker, and now Greg Rucka’s taking a leave of absence from mainstream stuff…) that fuelled the 1995 – 2005 renaissance, I suppose I should just be happy that Morrison and Simone are sticking around and hope that Johns and James Robinson claw their way out of their respective funks. But it’s very apparent that DC saw the negative reaction to the dense, complex storytelling of Final Crisis and decided to go for a cheap and easy popcorn book this time around. The end result was pretty awful.

All that said: hey, the Suicide Squad “resurrection” was flipping awesome.

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Categories: Weekend Asides
  1. Ray
    April 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

    On the nose! I’ve read some Geoff Johns that I loved (Sinestro Corps War), but overall, the recent stuff just leaves me cold. And come on – the magical resurrections of all of these characters?? Just awful.

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