November 6, 2012

Getting Graphic: "Green Lantern: Blackest Night" by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern: Blackest Night
written by Geoff Johns
illustrated by Doug Mahnke
DC Comics (2010)
ISBN 9781401227869

The Green Lantern has always been one of those superheroes I considered to be the most cartoonish of the lot. The kind of superhero that strains credulity with everything from his appearance to his speech. I always thought Superman looked silly as heck with his red-and-blue spandex, but at least he was the strongest force in comic books to the point of omnipotence. Green Lantern had strength too, but he got it from a lime-green Coleman's lantern for crying out loud. As a kid, I saw superheroes like Thor with his hammer, Captain America with his shield, Batman with a slew of cool gadgets and a bad-ass car. These were characters that really caught my eye, and then there was Green Lantern with his ... green lantern?

The onset of my bias against the Green Lantern is pretty clear, but I still wanted to give the guy a chance, especially since he recently got his own movie. Good for him. I had never read a Green Lantern comic though, and I had no idea where to start. Then I read about this epic saga that went on in recent years that had Green Lantern joining forces with other superheroes to fight off a new enemy known as the Black Lantern who had an army of undead superheroes. Zombie superheroes? All right, you've got my attention.

Here's the problem: this graphic novel is not for newcomers to the series. Green Lantern: Blackest Night isn't even the first book in the series. Apparently there's one that precedes it simply titled Blackest Night. Serves me right for not doing my homework on the books before putting a search through my library's inventory for "green lantern blackest night." I was pretty much doomed to failure from the get-go. So, as soon as I opened the book, I was already lost. I've missed out on the beginning issues of the saga, and it turns out that a lot of stuff is omitted, too. The book is compiled from Green Lantern issues 43 through to 52, but between issues I'm left to think the saga is occurring in other DC titles, because huge swaths of plot are distilled to a couple of paragraphs before jumping back into the story. It was terribly frustrating to read this book with only a vicarious understanding of the Green Lantern's history, trying to read the tea leaves as it were in finding out what kind of backstory he has with heroes and villains that crop up through the course of the book, only to hit road blocks by reading interludes like:

"Black Hand digs up Bruce Wayne's skull under his unseen master's orders."


"Now the Flash, Mera, Wonder Woman, the Atom, Scarecrow, Lex Luthor, and Ganthet have been recruited to fight for the fate of the universe."

Wait--what? Bruce Wayne's dead? Lex Luthor is a deputized Lantern? What the aitch is going on? These are plot points that would have been great to actually see depicted on the page, not alluded to in one-sentence asides.

If this Blackest Night series is as disjointed as I'm led to believe from how this book played out, then I really don't see myself reading another book in the saga. I can play catch-up with the DC universe up to a point, but if getting the full story requires a scavenger hunt for god knows how many books in order to appreciate the full scope of the Blackest Night storyline, then count me out. This is one of the reasons why I never got that involved with comic books as a kid.

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