Each week, I’ll be blogging my comics reviews. So first up, a triple bill of Blackest Night, Batman #696 and the first issue of Doomwar.
Doomwar: I tend to buy Marvel in collected editions rather than weekly issues, but decided to make an exception for this. I slightly wish I hadn’t, as it’s a really slow start. Not much war, and the little of Dr Doom we get has turned him from noble villain to out-and-out psychopath. Basically, Dr Doom has taken over Wakanda by stealth, and has Storm imprisoned while he tries to get his metal mitts on their vibranium. T’Challa, the former Black Panther and Storm’s husband, pleads with Cyclops to intervene, but he’s unwilling to drag the newly constituted Utopia into a war… only to turn a blind eye when the X-Men up and off to do a little regime change-back in Wakanda. But basically, it’s all set up and no revelation. The cover, with T’Challa, Black Panther, Deadpool (!!!), Wolverine and the Thing’s shoulder all surrounded by Doom-masks has very little connection to the story thus far. I had hoped this would do for the current Afghan / Iraq conflicts what Mark Millar did with Civil War and post 9/11 paranoia… we’ll see.
Batman #696: I’m restricting Bat-purchases to the main title and Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin – not because I didn’t like Streets of Gotham, Outsiders, Gotham City Sirens etc – actually scratch Gotham City Sirens which was rubbish – but just because you have to draw the line somewhere, or you end up buying Booster Gold for no good reason. 696 feels like a holding issue. Dick Grayson, the new Batman, has been brainwashed by the Penguin and Mad Hatter to take out Black Mask. If this issue isn’t just indulging in misdirection that Jeremiah Arkham is the new Black Mask, then I really hope there’s a stunning pay-off. Tony Daniel is doing a good job in making me like the new Robin – Damian Wayne – especially with his exasperation at Grayson’s screw-ups. Although I’ve enjoyed the Black Mask plot, and gas-mask-False-Face-Batman is a great visual, this is a recitative not an aria.
Blackest Night Flash #3 / Green Lantern Corps #45 / Green Lantern #51 – which might all be called Blackest Night Six and a Bit. The Flash redeems Kid Flash and Captain Cold demonstrates why he’s so cool. Guy Gardner finishes his arc as a Red Lantern in a slightly too deus ex machina liking for me (I preferred Mogo when he didn’t socialise). Hal Jordan, as Parallax, goes faces to faces with the Black Lantern Spectre.
Geoff Johns, the mastermind behind Blackest Night, is my favourite comics writer at the moment. The way in which he’s seeded plots from Green Lantern: Rebirth onwards has been exceptional. The fact he’s turned the DC triumvirate (that is such a solecism, given the next three names) of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman into a pentarchy with Green Lantern and the Flash has been supremely skilful. He’s always great with the Flash’s Rogues, and the final issue of the Flash tie-in is as chilling and blisteringly fast as anyone could wish. Too many of the Blackest Night tie-ins have slavishly followed a formula – dead hero/villain comes back, dead hero/villain goes away – with only a few stretching the concept. Blackest Night: Flash #3 is great because Len Snart and Barry Allan are great characters: complex, struggling, honourable, desperate. Green Lantern Corps was the most disappointing of the three BN comics this week. After Kyle Rayner’s quickest ever dirt nap, we get Guy Gardner’s predictable time-out with the other team. I wish Guy, during his green versus red self-conflict, had realised that poor old Tora is now marching with the zombie brigade. But it’s all worth it for Green Lantern #51. The art is fantastic and grotesque: Black Lantern Spectre getting an eye put out and his face pulled off; Parallax/Hal in all his toothy and sarky glory; Red Lantern Spectre dropping a hint for the next plot arc… that’s not to mention the great Larfleeze / Lex Luthor exchange on the opening pages.