Sunday, May 8, 2011

31 Days of Comics #8

Green Lantern: Blackest Night
By Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke

One of the dubious side-effects of reading most of my superhero comics through the local libraries is that when the big event comics start filtering through, I end up reading a whole bunch of the tie-in comics without actually getting to the main event.

I still haven’t read World War Hulk, but I have read the regular Hulk, X-Men and Warbound tie-ins. The comics that crossed over from the Siege storyline are starting to filter through on my local library’s shelves, but there is no sign of the actual Siege comic.

So any time I try to get through one of these tie-in books, I hope that it will be able to stand on its own, and that it will be an actual story that doesn’t rely too much on plot elements happening in other books.

This very rarely happens, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse case of getting it all wrong than this Green Lantern book.

I’ve been halfheartedly following Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, and it’s been a little disappointing to see the good stuff in that series buried beneath ever-escalating wars, which usually consist of a bunch of weird aliens shooting different coloured beams at each other in the vacuum of space.

Apart from these confusing clashes, Green Lantern has been relatively simple superheroics, but I couldn’t follow this Blackest Night book at all. Characters come and go, and show up wearing different costumes or zombified without explanation. The introduction of the big bad behind all these resurrection shenanigans – which was obviously a big reveal in the main series – is here treated as almost an afterthought.

There is little sense of any climax, everything just rushes along at the same pace for hundreds and hundreds of pages until it comes to an abrupt stop, there are huge amounts of clunky dialogue (and the apparent desire to get the word ‘severed’ on every single damn page), any character development is staggeringly superficial and for a storyline with the simplest of concepts – DC heroes versus their zombified friends and enemies – it’s ridiculously convoluted.

All this sound and fury means nothing, and it’s even more frustrating when there are brief moments where Johns tones down the gory melodrama, and there are signs of real charm and interest. But it’s massively outnumbered by gratuitous splash pages featuring unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things.

At least there is the always reliable Doug Mahnke on art, and he really was born to draw ugly aliens beating up uglier aliens. It’s also notable that he drew every single page of this book, although it is sad that this kind of timely professionalism is a rarity in comic art these days, and the idea of one artist actually completing a whole story shouldn’t be such a novelty.

To be fair, much of the confusion I felt with this book was only heightened by the fact that I just started skimming through it around the 200-page mark, but it really shouldn’t be that much work to keep track of what’s going on in a Green Lantern comic. It might make a lot more sense when I do finally get around to reading that main storyline, but it won't make this terrible comic any better.

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