Blackest Night did something remarkable – it managed to take the event comic format (one that was simple and effective to deliver) and ran with it but with a level of skill that broke the mold without us initially noticing. And it all took place before the event even ran.
The brainchild of Geoff Johns, Blackest Night was the culmination of the journey of Hal Jordan following Green Lantern’s return after his penance from the events of Emerald Twilight that would twist him into the villain Parallax and ultimately inhabit the role of the Spectre. It all stemmed around the Green Lantern Oath; a mantra that was key to the character but never before explored in such a way.
“In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power,
Green Lanterns light!”
By simply changing the grammar, the oath (which was commonly used to bring about a charge to a Lantern’s Power Ring or bear a call to arms) became something mythical and prophetic. The Blackest Night was a prophecy within the final pages of the Book of Oa that told of the Guardians ultimate destiny – and would signify their fate.
The series began with the rise of Black Hand, as he stole Batman’s skull and brought about the Black Lantern Corps; resurrected heroes, villains and significant others from DC history brought back by the power of the Black Rings. This also included characters who had died and been brought back to life – owing a debt to Death itself. Unstoppable zombies began to swarm across the entire DC Universe and the Blackest Night begins, heralding the War of Light.
There is only one way to stop the threat of the Black Lanterns and that is to find, protect and defer to the White Lantern Entity, which in turn conscripts and resurrects other DC heroes and villains to its cause, kickstarting Brightest Day.
I’ve really condensed the saga as it’s a work you really need to read to get to grips with the subtleties of the plot and the storytelling. Not only is it a successful amalgamation of superhero, science fiction and horror genres, it’s also an exercise in raising expectations and reinvigorating tried and tested characters.
Really, Johns did nothing new to the core of the characters (yes, the introduction of the Black and White Lanterns fundamentally alters the status quo) but he took apart what makes them who they are, particularly the Green Lantern Corps. What makes Blackest Night so satisfying is that it truly feels like the final season of a magnificent HBO drama – and that’s because that is what it is.
Rather than just being another event that crept out of the blue, Blackest Night was alluded to in the pages of Hal Jordan’s redemption story, Green Lantern Rebirth, and continued throughout the books in the lead up. It was years in the making, retconning more of Abin Sur’s story than Hal’s in Secret Origin but keeping it transparent enough to make you question whether or not it had always been there, and then being subtly dropped in all Green Lantern adventures as our hero discovered his place again in the universe.
Once Blackest Night exploded onto shelves, you truly felt like this was the event you had been waiting your life to read. The foundations had been laid and the sense of creeping tension and foreboding had built within each panel leading up to its arrival. Johns crafted the perfect event as it made the reader feel involved from the start, complicit in the anticipation and execution of a unifying event that would finally make the DC Universe make sense. And all from the lore of a character who everyone thought had had his day.