We’re halfway through DC big event of the year and, on the second and third pages of “Blackest Night” #4, a double-page spread where Barry Allen is confronted by a legion of Black Lantern supervillains, the question that seems to be on the minds of all involved is asked by Black Lantern Firestorm: “Cool, right?” That’s what this event seems to come down to: do you find the idea of resurrected heroes, villains, and supporting characters from DC’s past coming back to life to terrorize the still-living heroes cool? Sadly, this issue doesn’t really extend beyond that idea, causing me to wonder if, perhaps, the goal should have been producing something ‘good’ instead of something ‘cool.’
The focus in this issue is on the trio of the Flash, the Atom, and Mera, as they flee from the supervillain Black Lanterns and, then, decide to hold down the fort, hoping that Hal Jordan can rally the Green Lanterns and the other Corps to defeat the Black Lanterns, giving this issue the feel of a tie-in book where we see what the other characters are doing while the important actions are being undertaken. Nothing that happens in this issue comes off as necessary or important until the final pages, mostly filler with half-hearted action scenes and tripe speeches about heroism and not being afraid that sounds like they were stolen from an episode of “Super Friends.”
Throughout the issue, updates as to the status of the Black Lantern power battery keep popping up, indicating that the Lanterns are off killing people, but, until one final death where the battery finally reaches 100% power, we see none of them. It’s all tell, no show. Perhaps, after three issues, the story needed a breather issue and this one won’t read as poorly in the eventual collection as it does standing on its own, but, as a single issue, it’s boring and inconsequential. There are some bright spots as Firestorm gets a chance to shine, proving his determination and heroism for a brief moment. Lex Luthor also gets a page to set up what I hope is a payoff as he severs ties with his fellow villains, preferring to handle this latest crisis alone.
Ivan Reis is clearly a talented artist, but his style doesn’t lend itself entirely to this sort of dark, shadowy storytelling. His work on “Green Lantern” during “The Sinestro Corps War” was impressive and caught a lot of people’s eyes, but this story is done in a very different way, and this issue doesn’t help matters by squeezing as many characters and panels into each page as possible. In a few spots, he’s given a chance to show his skills, but most of the issue has him trying to dramatize the speeches I mentioned on heroism and fear and having some gosh darn grit, and those scenes are lifeless (pardon the pun). Reis is better doing blockbuster action scenes, something this issue has very little of.
If this were a tie-in issue to “Blackest Night,” I would be kinder since it is a generally competent, inoffensive comic, but as the fourth issue in the main series, it lacks drama and a genuine feeling of importance until the final pages. “Cool, right?” Not really, no.