Review by Karl Verhoven
In crossover project Blackest Night, dead heroes and villains are returned to life by the demon Neron, their original spirits perverted due to being animated by black rings otherwise similar to those worn by Green Lanterns. Heroes became evil and villains more villainous. This first of two Black Lanterns collections focuses on Batman, Superman and Teen Titans.
In 2009 Bruce Wayne was presumed dead, so Dick Grayson was Batman, while former Robin Tim Drake had been revealed as Red Robin. Peter J. Tomasi and Ardian Syaf ensure they both face a long dark night of the soul as Tomasi merges two stories. One is the zombie villain invasion being held off by a desperate Commissioner Gordon and Barbara Gordon, and other is the mental anguish of the heroes considering the return of their loved ones. On one level it works very well, Tomasi ramping up the horrific mood, Syaf keeping the art suitably dark and revelling in the zombie detail, and Deadman given a good role. Where it falls is Tomasi’s appetite for steering the dialogue into ridiculous and distasteful melodrama: “You’ll never hear her voice again say that simple yet magical word ‘daddy’. Well, except maybe you’ll hear her scream it as we tear her heart out”. Quite.
James Robinson’s take on the Black Lanterns is to have the aspirational smalltown rural purity of Smallville defiled by the presence of the zombie Black Lanterns, which is viable, and Eddy Barrows sure draws an appealing Smallville. Once beyond that idea, though, there’s little novelty on offer. Robinson toys with same family dynamics as the Batman tale, but half-heartedly, and while Barrows is good, it’s the rich colours of Rod Reis that leave the lasting impression.
The Titans story begins with the current membership contemplating those who’ve died, and given the theme it’s inevitable we’ll be seeing them as zombies soon. J. T. Krul tries to tug on the emotional heartstrings, but the effort he puts in is diminished by the lack of any subtlety about Ed Benes’ art. At times he seems more concerned with producing cheesy pin-up objectifications of the women than telling the story. Dove in particular is twisted into some preposterous poses. The strongest sections concern Donna Troy, and Krul works toward a good ending featuring her, but there’s not much else to recommend, with the death of a formerly living Titan coming across as gratuitous and unimaginative.
It’s only the Batman story that has an emotional resonance throughout, and Tomasi’s tongue in cheek plot works if you’re not offended by his dialogue, but on balance it’s not strong enough to recommend the entire collection. Volume Two has the JSA, the Flash and Wonder Woman facing off against Black Lanterns.