Monday, November 9, 2009

Blackest Night - An Opinion

Let me start out by informing the reader that this piece won't include a bunch of sales numbers or anything like that. This is simply my opinion of Blackest Night and how indicative I feel it is of the state of the industry as a whole.

Let's start out with my opinion distilled to its simplest form. I do not like Blackest Night.

Okay, now that's out of the way, let's discuss why.

I liked Final Crisis. Retcon. I LOVED Final Crisis. Despite the artistic inconsistencies, I felt like Final Crisis was some of Morrison's finest work and one of the best superhero stories ever told. It wasn't just an event book, it was a story about how superheroes affect the world around them and about the importance those mythical beings have to the fabric of reality itself. Final Crisis was about ultimate evil and the sacrifices and the strength necessary to stand up in the face of it. A story about how much the symbols of Superman and Batman mean to the world, Final Crisis succeeds at tearing the whole DCU apart and then watching as it uses the hope and the power generated by those two epic figures (and many slightly less epic figures) to stich itself back together. Final Crisis is important because it teaches us that hope will triumph in the face of ultimate despair.

At least, that's what it was supposed to teach us. Apparently Geoff Johns skipped class that day.

Maybe I'm the one who is wrong. Maybe I completely missed the point. Maybe Final Crisis was nothing but a big event book and it's sole purpose was to set up the next big event book, which is of course Johns' Blackest Night. Maybe I'm just naive? I choose to believe otherwise, choose to believe that when Grant Morrison tells a Superman story, it's because he has something very important to say. The important thing he was saying with Final Crisis was simple; hope wins out.

Unless your book is immediately followed by what more and more looks like a cash-grab meant to capitalize on the current zombie craze. Sure, they tell us that Blackest Night isn't the response to the success of Marvel Zombies and sure they say Black Lanterns aren't zombies, but call a spade a spade and a call an undead flesh eater a freaking zombie. Let's pretend for a moment though that this isn't a trend-motivated event book and instead that Geoff Johns' now storied Green Lantern arc has been leading to this all along. It's still the wrong choice, by Johns, by editorial, by the company itself. Following Final Crisis, which in my opinion is all about the restoration of hope to the world and the triumph of will and dedication over fear and hatred, with a book that's nothing more than a formulaic gore fest full of undead symbols of hope is a terrible idea.

Let's look at the current climate of the world. The recession is eating jobs away like rust on metal, the houses of congress are screaming bloody murder at each other, hateful ideologues spread mendacity amongst the masses, children are dying from a growing pandemic and war tears families apart abroad and at home. Things are bad right now, nobody disputes that. Now, is it the job of DC Comics to offer an escape from that? Certainly not. They're a business and they're free to do whatever they feel like is in the best interest of their bottom line. But for a company that is ostensibly concerned with finding and keeping new readers, a project like Blackest Night, which is largely referential and has no great jump-on point, seems foolish. Not to mention the fact that at the same time as undead superheroes are savaging living superheroes all over the pages of major DC books, Superman has left the planet (sort of) and Batman is dead (sort of).

Personally, I feel like DC should have followed Final Crisis with something more classic, something that really captures the hope and the perseverance represented in characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash. Morrison already gave us a vision of a world driven mad with fear, terror and indifference and he already gave us the solution; superheroes being superheroes. Not, point of fact, superheroes being zombies. Do you think the casual reader just picking up an issue of Batman cares that the first Robin is now Batman, do you think a reader picking up a copy of Blackest Night understands the significance of Barry Allen being back from the grave or cares one iota about the fact that Ralph Dibny is now a black lantern? Do you think he even cares what a black lantern is? Of course not.

The argument against this is that new readers don't read comics, but basing editorial decisions on that assumption eventually leads to an unsustainable business-model. I mean, I'm a lifelong comic fan and I could give a damn what happens to Ralph Dibny. I could give a damn that there even is a Ralph Dibny. If I feel that way, how are they ever supposed to get somebody interested in Blackest Night if they've only got rough ideas about who and what superheroes are supposed to be. Wouldn't it be better to present titles filled with more familiar iterations of these classic characters? I'm not saying we shouldn't tell stories that reflect our modern world, but one of the things DC is so great at is giving us these paragons of decency that we can lean on, characters we can believe in despite how dark things get. The world may be shit out here, but in Metropolis we know Superman is keeping things safe, bright and full of hope.

What's my solution? Wednesday Comics. Could anyone argue that the version of Barry Allen presented by Karl Kerschl and Brendan Fletcher isn't more heroic, more groundbreaking and more universal than the versions currently being written by Johns? Would anyone argue that Brian Azzarello's version of Bruce Wayne does less service to the Batman mythos than leaving him trapped at the beginning of time, out of the story completely? Is there a casual fan that wouldn't immediately feel more kinship with Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones space aged, neon and cocktails Hal Jordan than Johns brooding, reckless and violent version? Why are these great creative teams telling great stories relegated to out of continuity titles while Geoff Johns runs the entire company into a lonely corner full of fanboy masturbation? Why is the vision of superheroes created by creators such as Darwyn Cooke and Paul Pope relegated to an occasional title here or there while Geoff Johns throws blood, anger and needless referential storytelling over half the titles in the DCU?

Right now, don't we need Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne? Don't we need a little hope?

p.s. Yes, Darwyn Cooke and Paul Pope are Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne in this analogy.


  1. Now, if only people would stop buying this garbage!

  2. But I can't! It references so many obscure characters that make me feel like I'm the know.


    well, shit.