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We reach the half way point this week with issue number 4 of Blackest Night, and like the rest of the event this issue is filled with more death and mayhem – plus great character moments.

If I had to describe this issue and how the event has unraveled, it feels to me like a series of beats – like a heartbeat – and a building feeling of dread. And it seems to culminate in this issue with the arrival of Nekron, the presumed big bad of the event. Unfortunately the fact that Nekron was revealed a couple of months back takes a bit of drama out of the last page splash because it comes as no surprise. I’m not complaining about that – Nekron’s appearance is surprise enough for Barry Allen.

For me Blackest Night is more about how the events impact the inhabitants of the DC Universe than the identity of the villain himself. And maybe that’s why DC chose to prematurely reveal his identity since it isn’t so much about who it is, but the effects of his actions and those that bring about his arrival that are the most important. And my hope for this story goes beyond the plot of the event, but how the plot reveals more about the characters in the story by it affecting them on a deeply personal level.

The main title in the event is heavy on plot and this issue is no exception. Johns does a great job of continuing to include glimpses of the events of the supplemental mini-series so that they seem to be an organic part of the overall story. So we do see some references to Wonder Woman and the Flashes, hinting that the events of those upcoming minis tie in here.

I have to admit that Mera has probably been the biggest surprise for me as a reader. I really don’t care much for anything in the Aquaman vein of things, but his portrayal here and Mera’s handling of it make me feel more of an appreciation for the characters. And I’ll go on record as saying that, while I wouldn’t support an ongoing new Aquaman book, I’d plop down my $3 a month for an Aquawoman title at this point.

And I think that comes down to Geoff Johns’ ability to create great character moments that show you in a few panels the essence of what makes each character special and important to the DCU. While this event is supposed to be Green Lantern centric, key members of the universe have had spotlights shined on them – and in fact there’s no Green Lantern in this issue at all, giving the limelight to Mera, Barry and Ray Palmer. They all get there moments in the sun and they shine brightly here.

Barry Allen is particular rose to the occasion here. His speech to Mera and Ray was heartfelt and direct, and you see the immediate results of his ability to lead and motivate in how Ray responds by getting the trio to the JSA. While Hal Jordan didn’t appear in this issue, Barry’s views on him add more insight to both of them. While Ollie and Hal have a special friendship, I’ve always felt that Barry was really the one who understood Hal the best and Barry’s comments here underscore that for me.

The big bad is coming

Particularly interesting to me was the fact that Jason Rusch could fight for control of Black Lantern Firestorm and hold it at bay even if only for a moment. Speculation in big stories like this are always fun and those few panels make me wonder if we’ll see Deadman and Ralph and Sue Dibney somehow help in the resolution of the story for inside the legion of Black Lanterns.

The issue also continues the trend of bumping off at least one character per issue – this time being Damage from JSA. I thought that Damage has evolved over time and it such a great tragic character and it was a shame to see him bite the big one here. Speculation time again – do all these deaths and the fact that this event is supposed to re-define death in the DCU fit together? I’m thinking that somewhere along the way we’re going to see an opportunity in dealing with Nekron to bring back Damage and other dead characters from throughout the history of the DCU before the abilty to traverse between the realms of the living and the dead is changed. By the end of the event I could see something happening where whatever has made it possible for so many heroes to journey back to the land of the living is affected by the war with Nekron, making it nigh impossible for it to be so easy in the future. Just a hunch, but again it’s fun to speculate.

Another point of interest here was the scene with the Scarecrow and how he could not feel terror at the sight of Black Lantern Azrael and his statement that nothing can scare him except for Batman. I don’t expect to see the return of Bruce Wayne in the pages of this series, so I don’t quite understand the significance of his comment, but I know that Geoff Johns doesn’t through those kinds of lines around lightly so we’ll see where this plays out, if at all. There seems to be several moments like this where you don’t know where they are leading, like the one with the Spectre who hasn’t been seen since he went all Black Lantern-y.

Black Hand’s comments in the Coast City cemetery are really intriguing to me. What exactly is the “Guardians’ ultimate lie” and what is the big mystery behind sector 666? And is this information what will supposedly lead Hal Jordan to go against the Guardians once again? I think big revelations are coming and they are going to be mythos-shattering. And I really hope that Black Hand walking past Martin and Jessica Jordan’s graves weren’t a throwaway image because I really want Hal to have that moment where he gets confronted with his past and how Black Lantern Martin Jordan might get to Hal with the information he’s never had, his father’s last words.

As for the art – it’s Ivan Reis and he has just gotten better and better as the issues fly by. I have to say that even though I like Doug Mahnke’s work on the main Green Lantern title for the most part, I’m really going to miss Ivan when he’s gone from the book. Definitely ten lanterns out of ten.

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