This year’s Free Comic Book Day offering from DC Comics is actually a preliminary chapter to Blackest Night, the summer event that grew out of Geoff Johns’ work on Green Lantern from Rebirth until now. Should you track down a participating local comic shop to get your copy today, May 2?

General Information

Title: Blackest Night #0

Author: Geoff Johns

Illustrator(s): Iven Reis (pencils), Oclair Albert and Rob Hunter (inks), Alex Sinclair (colours)

Cover Date: June 2009

Cover Price: $0.00 (Free Comic Book Day offering)

Premise

Hal Jordan and Barry Allen have had very different experiences in their own deaths. They compare notes over the unmarked grave of Batman, talking about the flexible nature of death in their world, unaware that they aer being watched by William Hand, better known as Green Lantern adversary Black Hand. After the original story pages are complete, we get rosters of the different Lantern Corps, including our first look at the indigo Lanterns.

High Point

While the “Speak for yourself” conversation was great, another excellent conversation really sets up the event, while revealing something of the impact this story will have on the characters:
Flash (Barry Allen): That’s my point. Death isn’t necessarily the end. Not in this line of work. You. Me. Clark. Ollie.
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan): My father. Your mother. They never came back. No matter how hard we wanted them to.
Flash (Barry Allen): But something’s pired the door open. There’s a bigger force at work, that much I believe. And if there’s an escape, you can bet Batman’s already planning it. Batman always had a plan.

Low Point

It feels too short. There are 12 new pages of story content before the rosters, and even after a third reading in under 12 hours, I still want more. It’s not that this ends abruptly, it’s just that I don’t want to wait until July for the story to continue.

The Scores

The dead return in comics on a fairly regular basis. That element doesn’t seem original, until you take a closer look. Up to this point, the dead generally come back as they were before they died. (Well, sometimes they have longer hair or a new outfit.) When the dead return here, they will most definitely not come back as they were before they left. Johns has a talent for mining continuity to bring forth a new perspective on things, and I fully expect this series to maintain the tradition based on what I see here. I give it 4 out of 6.

The artwork is great. Ivan Reis has been consistently great on the main title, and he’s definitely delivering here as well. Barry Allen and Hal Jordan both look great, particularly in the moments that reveal the disconnect Barry has felt since his return. The colours are great, with a green glow running when the ring operates, and blurring and sparking surrounding Barry virtually all the time. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story does a great job of recapping recent events for those who haven’t been reading a lot of DC, without boring those who have. Simultaneously, it sets up a lot of what’s coming. The back pages describing the different Corps are similarly effective in getting readers up to speed. The graves indicated and missing friends discussed effectively set up likely candidates for the Black Lantern Corps. Specific names are held under spoiler guard (highlight to read): Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Hal’s dad, Barry’s mom, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Ralph and Sue Dibny, and Ronnie Raymond. End spoiler guard. The plot is little more than a conversation and the first visible act by the Black Hand, but the conversation is interesting enough that this isn’t a problem. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization is well done, as it would need to be in a conversation driven story like this one. We get a very good view of who these two heroes are, how their friendship works, and how they fit into the big picture. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is excellent. The conversation is well paced, and the fact that, as a reader who knows the general driving force behind the event, there’s so much dramatic irony knowing what will likely happen to those that are discussed just helps it resonate. The introduction of the Black Lantern oath while the Black Hand holds that particular skull also goes a long way to getting things fired up. I give it 6 out of 6.

The flow is smooth. The conversation is organic, the flashbacks are framed in green panels that clearly distinguish them from the “live” conversation. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great introduction and setup for the main event, and well worth your attention. I suspect word of mouth will drive this one hard; get to your local shop shortly after it opens to make sure you get your copy. Johns and Reis have made a great team in the past, and this is looking like no exception. This free issue would be well worth paying for. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Blackest Night #0 receives 37 out of 42.

Blackest Night Checklist

Preliminaries

The Main Event

  • Blackest Night #0 (Free Comic Day edition), #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, complete series
  • Green Lantern #43
  • Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1-3
  • Green Lantern #44-??
  • Green Lantern Corps #39-??
  • Blackest Night: Batman #1-3
  • Blackest Night: Superman #1-3
  • Blackest Night: Titans #1-3
  • more to come…