The first volume of Black Lantern Corps is my first real disappointment with Blackest Night. These are not terrible stories, mind you, and as a matter of fact the "Titans" chapter by J. T. Krul is good enough to make me optimistic about Krul's upcoming run on Teen Titans. But unfortunately, neither the "Titans" nor "Batman" or "Superman" chapters amount to much; having just read Blackest Night, Green Lantern, and Green Lantern Corps, I can certify that this book is entirely skipable. Indeed, while there's a miniscule amount to be had from seeing your favorite dead hero or villain back on the screen for the moment, none of the Black Lanterns retain enough of their old personalities to even make that worth it.
I just raved about Peter Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps volume, so perhaps my biggest surprise reading this book was how unremarkable Tomasi's Blackest Night: Batman story is. The first page, where artist Adrian Saef mis-draws new Robin Damian in Tim Drake's old costume, seems an omen; Tomasi can't seem to get Batman Dick Grayson nor Damian's voices right, neither when Dick tells Damian to "shut up" (too harsh) nor the handful of times Damian gets scared (too weak). I'm not even quite sure that guest-star Deadman's ability to see a person's life when he possesses them is quite kosher -- it's not something I remember Deadman being able to do before.
All of this speaks to an uncustomary carelessness on Tomasi's part (even having written Nightwing before) that lessened my enjoyment of the story. Tomasi does echo well at one point the death of Tim Drake's parents in Identity Crisis, but I feel I have to credit that story more than this one.
James Robinson's Blackest Night: Superman is better, in that Robinson is one of the driving voices of Superman right now and the characters seem more in-character. Whereas Tomasi works with so many dead Bat-villains that most tend to fade to the background, Robinson uses just the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane, and the Psycho Pirate, and this is a riff on Crisis on Infinite Earths which, if not addressed directly, at least gives the story an additional ironic layer.
Robinson's trademark stilted dialogue is perhaps more noticeable here, however, because of the brevity of the tale; it's also especially strange how the Superman story would seem to make a great change to the overall "New Krypton" tale, when Blackest Night is all but ignored over there. I was also sorry not to see New Krypton's Nightwing, Flamebird, or Mon-El make any appearances.
But the biggest problem with these two stories is that they have ultimately no bearing on Blackest Night. Each ends on a vague "let's go join the fight" note, neither bringing to nor suggesting anything about the crossover. The Black Lanterns are completely one-dimensional; Dick shows no great emotion when faced with the Black Lantern Blockbuster, in whose murder he's complicit, nor is Superman ever convinced the Earth-2 Superman is the real thing. Most notably, Robinson never pulls the most emotional trigger and resurrects the newly-deceased Jonathan Kent, which really would have pained Superman. Basically, the two miniseries are long fight scenes that don't amount to anything in the end.
Krul's Blackest Night: Titans is only a little better. There's a good arc here in Beast Boy accepting his complicated feelings for Terra; also, Krul demonstrates he can write a flip-but-not-silly Kid Flash, which is a good sign to me about his forthcoming work on Teen Titans. But, if you've read Blackest Night then you already know Dove has some kind of power to stop the Black Lanterns; in this way, while the "Titans" chapter has a greater bearing on Blackest Night, you could pick up most of this from the miniseries itself. Krul as well seems to sidestep some of the easy emotional territory of this story, keeping Red Star off-screen even as his adopted family Pantha and Wildebeest return from the dead.
I would say, however, that Black Lantern Terry Long -- still with the mutton chops even more hopelessly out of style than they were when Terry was alive -- gets the award for about the most frightening Black Lantern I've encountered so far. Krul writes some nicely emotional scenes when Donna Troy has to fight her dead husband Terry and, especially, her dead infant son Robert, though this is marred only slightly by what a huge continuity quagmire it is -- I had thought Robert, especially, was just a construct of the Dark Angel creature who tortured Donna some years ago thinking she was Wonder Woman, and that Donna having a son had been retroactively removed. This reminds that, even post-Infinite Crisis and with stories like DC Universe: Legacies ongoing, DC still doesn't have a standing origin for Wonder Woman and Donna Troy, and they probably should.
[Contains full and variant covers, Black Lantern sketchbook pages (note King Snake referred to as "King Cobra," with an incorrect origin)]
If you're looking for a Blackest Night volume to skip, then, this is my first suggestion. These are not terrible tales of "your favorite hero fights zombies," but neither are they remarkable. With Dick Grayson face-to-face with a resurrected Blockbuster, or even Azrael for instance, I would have hoped he'd have something to say, some coda to those previous stories, but it's not the case. In this outing of Black Lantern Corps, I think DC has a missed opportunity.
Coming up, the review of Black Lantern Corps volume two!