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Blackest Night #6 was the only book DC released this week if your local comic shop took part in the program to honor the release date. With Blackest Night taking a bit of a break in January this issue sets up some interesting new roles for some of DC’s heroes even if only for a short time.

Black rings have targeted Hal Jordan and Barry Allen not because they are alive, but because they were resurrected from the dead and Nekron wants them to join his new army as he moves forward with his plan to remove all life from the universe and return it to the place of peace it was before the white light invaded. For those who haven’t been following the DC universe, Geoff Johns gives readers a brief synopsis about how many of the characters have died since Barry Allen in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, living up to the statement that this story is fine for someone who doesn’t know the whole history and is able to just accept the fact that they need to know how Batman died to enjoy this story. Everything you need to know is here and if it makes you want to explore further that’s not a bad thing.

Unlike other Black Lanterns, Superman and company are not reanimated corpses but resurrected heroes under Nekron’s control. As such, Hal and Barry are not about to take them out since they’d be killing their fellow heroes. While Sinestro and Larfleeze want the “kill shot” Hal’s not about to do that, much to the frustration of Sinestro. Barry, who has shown so brightly in this event, save both their necks in avoiding the black rings by having Hal latch onto to him and hang on while he runs two seconds into the future to break the rings’ ability to target them both.

Barry Allen really has been a beacon of hope during Blackest Night

Barry has already figured out that Nekron used Batman to elicit an emotional response strong enough for the black rings to be able to latch onto their fellow heroes and so long as both he and Hal keep their composure the rings will be unable to target them. Johns has worked with Grant Morrison on making sure that Bruce Wayne’s skull remained intact so that Dick Grayson could get his hands on it in their journey to discover what exactly happened to Wayne when Darkseid struck him down, so we will see it again. Ivan Reis makes the most out of the single panel that opens the issue in showing the skull resting in a bat-shaped puddle. Hal wonders why Black Lantern Batman combusted rather than stay in the fight, a hint to the larger story that will be taking place in the bat-verse in 2010.

Following on the backup story in last week’s Green Lantern #49, Deadman momentarily inhabits Black Lantern Jean Loring who warns Mera and Ray Palmer of the pending arrival of millions of Black Lanterns from throughout the universe. Mera rips out Loring’s tongue once she evicts Boston Brand and the two heroes start looking for a way out.

Ivan Reis really is doing some amazing work in this book and he treats us to a great two-page spread showing John Stewart being pursued by an absolutely ridiculous number of Black Lanterns and Xanshi itself – the concluding moment from John’s appearance in Green Lantern. For anyone who’s a big fan of Stewarts you have to be happy with that issue of Green Lantern and Geoff Johns has indicated that this event is a turning point for John. In an interview for Newsarama he said, “For years, John Stewart has been defined by Xanshi. It’s time to close that door and push John Stewart to a new place. 2010 is all about the new.” Likewise, he has twittered that John will play a major role in the main Green Lantern title in the “New Guardian” arc that rolls out of Blackest Night.

Ray and Mera emerge from Wonder Woman’s ring and we are shown what will be expanded on in the Blackest Night: Wonder Woman mini – a showdown between Wonder Woman and Mera, who has been to me the surprise character of the story for me. Hal and Barry return to the fray, much to the dismay of Sinestro, and the group realizes that while they have all the colors represented there simply not enough members to take out Nekron. Ganthet sheds his role as a Blue Lantern Guardian and triggers Hal’s ring to duplicate itself (now that’s not a retcon!) and he joins the battle as a Green Lantern.

Ganthet’s last act as a Guardian is to trigger the rest of the rings from the color spectrum to do the same thing – creating deputies for 24 hours – and it’s then that we see something that every fan is either whining about or geeking out about – the next group of lanterns recruited from the DCU. Barry Allen is immediately drafted as a representative of hope. Lafleeze tries to stop his duplicate from leaving because he doesn’t want to share the orange with anyone.

I said during my review of Blackest Night #4 and on one of my appearances on the Raging Bullets podcast that I don’t think Geoff Johns shows us things that don’t play out down the line. We return to Lex Luthor who appeared in that issue in what appeared to be a throw-away moment as the orange ring makes its way past the deluge of Black Lanterns after Lex in time to save him. Likewise, a Sinestro Corp ring finds Jonathon Crane while Ray Palmer joins the Indigo Tribe and Mera rages out to her new red ring.

The Star Sapphire ring seeks out Wonder Woman since, as Carol Ferris puts it, “There is no one on this planet who loves it more than Wonder Woman.” The problem is that she’s already in Nekron’s control and the nature of the Sapphires is that the user has to accept it of their own free will. Diana’slove is able to throw off Nekron’s control and the black ring’s connection is severed in favor of a new violet one.

The issue ends with a beautiful two-page splash of the new corps members. I personally don’t have any issues with this development – we know that it only lasts 24 hours and it makes sense to anyone who’s followed that Green Lantern mythos that these rings can also duplicate themselves in times of need. I hope that this doesn’t become a story crippling crutch in the future and maybe Geoff will kind of outline what constitutes a big enough crisis that would allow for this to happen.

The birth of the Skittles League!

And let me call out to DC Direct – Blackest Night action figure wave for all of these guys….PLEASE!

The Book of the Black entry is another disturbing foray into the sick mind of Black Hand. It’s a twisted tale that adds more flavor to what was once a joke of a villain. Like a lot of villains, he might evoke strong reactions to his world view, but you can’t look away and you want to see more just to try to get into his head and understand how creepy of a place it is. His growth as a character has put him in the big leagues of Green Lantern rogues, and I’d love to see him show up in a Batman story as well.

Ivan Reis is doing the work of his career and I cannot really find fault with anything at all he’s done. The issue’s cover is amazing, even if perhaps outdone by Rodolfo Migliari’s variant Nekron cover.

We are six issues into the Blackest Night event and this issue is a winner, getting ten out of ten lanterns. But I do want to point out some misgivings about the story so far. As I just pointed out, Black Hand has evolved as a villain to a whole other level and we have the return of Nekron in this event, but with two issues left I’m a little dismayed that we haven’t seen either of them really do anything yet beside gather the Black Lanterns.

I’m left with a feeling that while there’s been all this wonderful character-driven build-up, there’s not enough time left to get a satisfactory conclusion that will meet the expectations that have been created since Blackest Night was first teased at the end of the Sinestro Corps War. Geoff Johns said in an interview that there’s “a lot more to explore with Atrocitus, Saint Walker, Indigo and even Sinestro and Carol. No to mention what Hal’s going to have to deal with in a post-Blackest Night universe.”

I hope that Geoff has the last two issues scripted well enough so that people who got into this event as either a gateway to the Green Lantern section of the DCU or as a stand-alone event are not disappointed in the outcome. I have enjoyed everything tremendously so far and I’m looking forward to seeing the resolution to the story. Next issue: Black Hand Unleashed!

 

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