The middle installments in a series are often where things slow down. You’re not at the early, “this is what’s going on” stage of your story, and you haven’t yet hit the climax. So while it’s certainly not always the case, if there’s a slow stretch to be found, that’s usually where it hangs out. So knowing that “Blackest Night” runs eight issues, I braced myself for a lot of exposition this issue, and sure enough, that’s what I found. But just when I had gotten used to that idea… well, things didn’t stay slow for too long.
There are some nice surprises early on in “Blackest Night” #5; a team-up that I thought wouldn’t happen until almost the conclusion, for instance, has already started (and kicked off in “Green Lantern” #48, so make sure you read it first), and there are some good back-and-forth dialogue moments between the characters. But once we hit Earth, it feels almost like Johns has to give the characters there an obligatory scene or two. We hear about what happened in some of the tie-in mini-series, and on the whole the characters remain ineffectual — which is really the one big problem with “Blackest Night” up until now — while the Black Lanterns continue to walk all over them. There’s just only so much of, “the heroes can do nothing to stop the bad guys” that one can take, after all. So by the time #5 has rolled around, it’s hard to not groan out loud and think that we know that the Black Lanterns are generally unstoppable.
I guess that’s why the second half of the issue makes everything much more interesting. Suddenly everything is rolling forward again, progress is being made, for both the good and bad guys. Johns has timed that moment almost perfectly, when you think about it. You’re no longer expecting it to happen, and that sudden flip around feels good to finally occur. It’s also a great usage of the cliffhanger; instead stopping the action at the climactic moment, Johns extends it by three extra pages to build on the moment and make it even worse. It’s a nice progression of things going from bad to worse for our heroes.
Ivan Reis’ pencils look snappy as ever; this is one of the few books where double-page spreads feel not only natural, but have the amount of punch that should always be required for those kinds of moments. It helps that he’s got Alex Sinclair providing colors, for that matter; the glows of the various lanterns on the same panel look fantastic, and the attack on Scar halfway through the issue just sings. While “Green Lantern” is in excellent hands these days with Doug Mahnke on pencils, Reis’ work here makes me miss him on the other title. Reis is definitely proving he can headline such a major event comic for DC.
Some of the tie-ins might have been a little iffy, but “Blackest Night” continues to entertain (as do “Green Lantern” and “Green Lantern Corps” and are really required reading for this mini-series). It’s easy to see why Johns and Reis have pulled so much attention to this corner of DC Comics’s stable. This is just good old action-adventure fun.