Pioneers of the superhero team-up since the banding together of the uniformly BAMF Justice Society, DC has helped comics fans grow increasingly accustomed to brain-fusingly lateral universal catastrophes, peaking with the heady Wolfman-Pérez 1985 vintage Crisis On Infinite Earths. The Warner Bros subsidiary laid the cinematic smackdown to sequential art for decades before Californian mediavores developed an appetite to do the reverse with Noughties event movies… Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four notwithstanding.
Recent years have seen two more Crises (the oddly counterposed Infinite and Final), several planetary, galaxy and even multiversal spanning conflicts (Rann-Thanagar War, Sinestro Corps War, and the Countdown), and a highly intimate murder-mystery character piece that everyone seems to have forgotten about and that somehow managed to out-Lynch Lynch by hingeing on a woman in a tophat reprogramming a badly-dressed rapist by talking backwards (Identity Crisis).
Prolific scribe Geoff Johns is responsible for repositioning a long time second-tier superhero as a critical component of the DC Comics universe. Author of Green Lantern: Rebirth and the latest volume of ongoing adventures, Johns helped to revitalise the Justice Society alongside Batman Begins and Blade trilogy screenwriter David Goyer. Since then, Johns has turned his hand to Teen Titans, Green Lantern, Superman, the frankly awesome Booster Gold, and is currently resuscitating an iteration of another character he’s worked on before – The Flash.
The eponymous Blackest Night has been part of the oath of the Green Lanterns since the Forties –
“In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power.. Green Lantern’s light!”
Despite sounding like a brand of cigarette, the character managed to thrive comfortably for decades. This Summer’s story centres around an idea developed during Johns’ association with Green Lantern, the phenomenon of an emotional spectrum, seven colourful auras and their associated attributes manifesting as a side-effect of powerful emotions.
Previously there was just one organised group utilising cosmic emo power, the Green Lantern Corps – along with the occasional Weaponeer of Qward and Star Sapphire. Following a prophecy foretelling the arrival of the Blackest Night there are now Lantern Corps of seven deadly hues, channeling willpower (good old green), fear (bananaphone yellow), love (ladies in lavender), rage (leatherface red), greed (clockwork orange), hope (NYPD blue), and compassion (…turbulent indigo). Similar goofy power frameworks have already been incorporated to varying degrees into the backgrounds of Swamp Thing, Aquaman, Firestorm, and Captain Atom. In superhero crossover terms it’s more Age of Aquarius than Age Of Apocalypse, but remains a thought-provoking concept with expansive storytelling potential, one that also provides a handy dose of logic to a narrative about flying spacemen and their magic light-bulbs. A developing aspect of the spectrum, and the underpinning of Blackest Night as an event in the DC Universe, is the appearance of an eighth aura – black, linked to death.
Death is not uncommon even for well-established comic book characters. Post-modern zeitgeist dictated that most people were aware of The Death Of Superman during the 90s and, much more recently, a considerable number will have noted a bat-funeral reported in news sources worldwide.
Two Flashes have died in the finishing line of duty, the second Robin was killed by the Joker, the original Supergirl fell battling the Anti-Monitor in the first Crisis, Green Arrow blew up, Earth-2 Superman passed away during Infinite Crisis, several halves of different Firestorm pairings have been extinguished, super-villains immolated the Martian Manhunter in Final Crisis, and Superboy was claimed by the most devilish foe of all – legal proceedings.
Some übernerds, myself included, could argue that Green Lantern’s noirest nocturnum has already been and gone years ago. The second and most famous Lantern, Hal Jordan, has joined the growing ranks of super-humans who have made the return journey from Davy Jones’ Bed & Breakfast.
Consumed during the Emerald Twilight storyline by an insanity which led to his total annihilation of the organisation that gave the hero his name, the Green Lantern Corps, Jordan was ultimately redeemed and then expunged by the crunch and re-bang of the entire cosmos at Zero Hour and a later plunge into the sun during the Final Night crossover, in order to make way for new blood.
After years of a situation resembling the debate over who the best James Bond is, Jordan returned to life like a burning Timothy Dalton-esque phoenix in the mini-series Rebirth and wasfreed from masquerading as the physical host to the spirit of Ol’ Testament-style divine vengeance, the Spectre. Superman had it easy in comparison.
What bodes for the Green Lantern Corps in ’09 that it hasn’t already bought the 7200 t-shirts of? Some of the dearly departed dukes of do-goodery mentioned above will return imbued with the power of the Black Lantern Corps to haunt their super-friends.
Action figure solicitations and early buzz hint that the Superman of Earth-2, Martian Manhunter, Batman, the original Firestorm, and fiction’s favourite fish-fellow Aquaman, are set to Romero it up alongside Crisis On Infinite Earths‘ villainous Anti-Monitor. Will the respective Lantern colours form a happy rainbow to combat the new threat? What’s certain is that the Black Lanterns’ politics won’t be the same as they were in life come the superhero AGM, otherwise known as the now obligatory crossover. Expect plenty of punching, muchos monologuing, and maybe a bit of biting.
Green Lantern: Blackest Night #1 hits Earth on July 15th.