Blackest Night

This is how events should be launched: with a free preview and a dossier of the major players included therein. In the past, Free Comic Book Day has become equivalent with "Free Reprint Material Day" for some fans. That's not true this year, as DC and Marvel both added never-before-published product to the spate of free comics being offered.

Granted, the true story contained herein is only twelve pages in length, but it is a powerful twelve pages. Ivan Reis, in my opinion, is this era's George Perez, capable of rendering anything and everything with equal flair for detail and descriptive composition. In one 5-inch by 5.5-inch panel, Reis gives us over twenty distinctly recognizable characters.

Johns' story is not to be overlooked. For fans of DC comics who may have lapsed the past twenty years, the conversation between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan might seem appropriate, but as their conversation illustrates, both have seen the world they inhabit change. Death has always been a constant and there is a foreshadowing of more to come. Johns masterfully recaps the passing of Justice League stalwarts Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, including the rumors of the Aquaman sighted during the issues of "Final Crisis"

The story is rounded out with the oath of the Black Lanterns and the rise of the Black Hand. Interspersed are images of tombstones from fallen heroes -- Ralph Dibny and his wife Sue, as well as Ronnie Raymond -- offering teases of Lanterns to rise. Heroes still living -- Hawkman, Hawkgirl and the Atom -- while devoid of dialog here, are no strangers to the threat of death in the DC Universe, also make appearances here, hinting to a larger presence in the main story set to debut on July 15.

The remainder of this gift from DC Comics is filled with profile pages of the color spectrum set to wage the War of Light in the upcoming "Blackest Night" -- the Green Lantern Corps, the Red Lanterns, Agent Orange, the Sinestro Corps, the Blue Lanterns, the Indigo Tribe, Star Sapphires and the Black Lantern Corps. Readers will have a fun time trying to identify the hands of those called from beyond the grave on the Black Lantern page -- all marvelously rendered by Doug Mahnke as he prepares to take up the reins of the regular penciler for "Green Lantern".

As far as free comics go, I seriously doubt they get much better than this. While it is just one giant advertisement -- with more ads for Green Lantern-related items, from the Blackest Night action figure line to the "First Flight" DVD -- this story sets the table nicely for the events to come in July. I only hope that the issues with a price tag higher than "free" are as enjoyable as this prologue.

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