Friday, 2 April 2010

Blackest Night and Zero Hour: Which Is Best? (Spoilers)

In 1994 DC Comics' big summer crossover event was Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. At the time I was around thirteen and my comic intake consisted of British reprints that were at least two years behind the American books. For the most part Batman Monthly, Adventures of Superman and Exploits of Spider-Man were my only windows into the DC and Marvel Universes. If I was growing up now I'd be treating myself to spoilers galore on the internet, but back in those days glimpses of the American titles on rare trips to Forbidden Planet in Cardiff were the only indications I had of what adventures awaited my heroes. As a result when I bought the Zero Hour trade paperback I had no idea quite how much it would suck.

Parallax clobbers Superman in Zero Hour 3

Before I begin my rant I must say that Zero Hour does have some redeeming features. The Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway art is top notch and the final chapter is very good. While the decision to turn Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan into the evil Parallax was a controversial one, it's difficult to deny that when Superman, Green Arrow and the rest see what's become of their former friend and then engage him in battle at the beginning of time, it really is very entertaining stuff. It's just a shame that everything preceding the final battle is mostly impenetrable. You see, until it reached its final chapter Zero Hour wasn't a story, it was a series of panels showing us what was happening in every DC title that tied into Zero Hour. As a result, instead of a coherent narrative we get the arse end of Flash's battle with Abra Kadabra, followed by Hawkman's battle with some Hawk god, followed by the Legion of Superheroes (accompanied inexplicably by younger versions of themselves) spouting exposition before dying, followed by...well, you get the idea.

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This brings me to DC Comics’ latest big event crossover, Blackest Night. Writer Geoff Johns has done a fantastic job. The book features great characterisation and generously gives underused characters like Atom and Mera some of the best lines. Dead heroes and villains coming back as power ring wielding zombies was a great idea. It's not just fun to read, it's fun to think about and discuss with your friends online and in the comic shop. Will (insert favourite deceased character here) come back? And if so what will (insert loved one of said character here) make of that? Will they come back for good? These are fun conversations to have. The art by Ivan Reis is also amazing. Reis skips from intimate moments to gory zombie action to cosmic space wars and he makes it all look absolutely gorgeous. But that's not what makes Blackest Night one of the best DC Comics crossover events ever.

The multi-coloured Corps prepare to kick undead ass

Like Zero Hour and the other crossover events of my youth, Blackest Night ties into about a million other books. What makes it so brilliant however, and sets it apart from the crossovers of the late 'eighties/early 'nineties, is that despite the tie-ins it still manages to be utterly accessible to the casual reader. Geoff Johns has been laying the foundations for the story since he started Green Lantern: Rebirth in 2004. It has its roots in an old Alan Moore Green Lantern story from 1986 and draws on decades of DC Comics history and character development. It spun off into several miniseries and one shots focusing on individual characters and was tied very closely to the events occurring concurrently in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Despite this, if my thirteen year old self were to pick up Blackest Night he would have no problem figuring out exactly what was going on. Johns has a gift for referencing decades of comics continuity and yet at the same time distilling everything down to what we need to know to enjoy the story. Johns weaves exposition seamlessly into the dialogue, making it sound like poetry on one page and then on the next page, like Hollywood tough guy talk. You're all caught up on decades of DC lore within two pages of his comics, and you don't even realise it.

Flash gives a pep talk in Blackest Night 4
Damn straight!

That's not to say that the tie-ins were pointless. For example, the events unfolding in Green Lantern managed to expand on and enhance the story while saving the big reveals and revelations for the main book. I don't follow Green Lantern Corps due to lack of cash. From what I understand though it featured some dramatic Blackest Night related events, including one character dying and then coming back and another temporarily becoming a Red Lantern. While I feel I would have had further insight into certain characters and events if I had been reading it, I don't feel like I've missed out on some big revelation that I needed to read about in order to properly understand the full story. Okay, I'll admit that most of the other tie-ins were just big zombie punch ups, but since when has that been a bad thing?

There are of course those who haven't enjoyed Blackest Night. To all those critics out there I would urge you to read or even re-read Zero Hour and then give Blackest Night a second chance. It might not seem so bad in comparison. But don't read the 1988 crossover event Millennium. That one really is TOO awful, and it may put you off superheroes for life. At the very least Zero Hour gave us the brilliant Starman. Millennium gave us Extrano, the gay wizard who was given AIDS by a goblin.

The Amazing Extrano!

Of course Blackest Night has given us (among other things) a resurrected Aquaman! Hurray! Let's finish with a look at the King of the Sea being awesome in Blackest Night #8......



2 comments:

  1. Love it! Love the pics, thanks for posting!

    ReplyDelete
  2. No problem, thanks for checking out my blog.

    ReplyDelete

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