In honor of Halloween, Most Heroic will be devoted to horror stories, scary villains, monsters and the heroes who fight them throughout October.
To start Most Heroic’s month of horror, we’ll be examining one of the finest superhero crossover event series in recent memory. It comes from none other than Geoff Johns himself, and it’s one of my favorite limited comic series of all time. Prepare yourself reader, for BLACKEST NIGHT!
Blackest Night was a storyline that came about roughly halfway through Johns’ epic run on Green Lantern, and it had been teased for years. I’ll give a bit of quick backstory. The Green Lantern Corps had a prophecy that their own destruction, which the Guardians of the Universe called, “The Blackest Night.” Their legend foretold that the Corps would eventually fall in a War of Light, where their own group would be joined by six new ones, each armed with their own lantern rings and powered by a different emotion from the emotional spectrum. However, unbeknownst to the Guardians, there was another corps which would rise. They would raise the dead to fill their ranks, and they were powered by the hearts of living beings. The Black Lantern Corps.
At the beginning of the story, Black Hand, one of Hal Jordan’s oldest enemies, becomes the Avatar of the Black Lantern Corps, and he steals the skull from the grave of Bruce Wayne – who was thought to be dead at the time – and with it commands the dead all around the universe to rise from their graves and begin preying on the living. Among the Black Lanterns are several deceased superheroes and super-villains, including Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Firestorm, Doctor Light, Professor Zoom, Jean Loring, Blue Beetle, and literally hundreds of others.
At the end of the story’s first issue, we see something particularly frightening. Both Hawkman and Hawkgirl, two of the DC universe’s oldest and toughest superheroes, are brutally murdered by a pair of Black Lanterns who were only C-List heroes in life. The Black Lanterns rip out their hearts and feast on their dying emotions. This action begins to fuel the power of their rings to 0.01%. And then…both of the Hawks rise as new Black Lanterns.
To see two tough DC stalwarts like the Hawks get killed off so brutally at the start of the series was shocking of its own merit, but it was given a tragic edge by having the two of them die just moments after finally acknowledging their love for one another. Then for the two of them to become new Black Lanterns (with their own powers still intact) who hunt their former friends and allies? Talk about chilling!
It’s eventually revealed that the Black Lanterns are seeking to revive Nekron, the living embodiment of Death itself, and that Nekron has his own plans on how to finally destroy the universe. Since I’ve already said too much about the series, I won’t be spoiling anything else. You should really find out on your own.
Blackest Night is one of my favorite stories in comic books for good reason. Not only does it take a concept that could be really silly in the wrong hands and make it both sinister and terrifying, but Johns does some of his best work in his career, especially regarding the character. Ethan Van Sciver is nothing short of stellar with his artwork, and the coloring staff are perfect.
Even though the series is based on an element of the Green Lantern mythology, Johns does a great job at showing why so many of the other underrated good guys like The Atom, Mera, and Barry Allen are such tremendous heroes. They are faced with the singularly terrifying threat of their undead loved ones and old enemies trying to kill them, but they stand their ground and fight, no matter how scared they are. That’s why I consider it such a heroic story. Johns and company made the good guys look really really awesome while fighting one of the biggest threats they ever faced.
I once said that I can count the times I’ve been scared by a comic book on one hand. Blackest Night is one of those few occasions. It’s also one of the few times I bought the individual issues for the whole series. It’s just that damn good!