As the last Blackest Night hardcover published, Tales of the Corps would seem the most tertiary of the books. Indeed, if you've read all the others, there's not much here that you don't already know, but I was surprised at just how strong some of these short stories are. Writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi give a sharp outing to Agent Orange, the Blue Lanterns, Indigo Tribe, and Star Sapphires in particular, followed by a cogent re-explanation of the war between darkness and light that underpins Blackest Night. The book -- and the crossover as a whole -- closes with a two-part Superboy-Prime tale that's a worthy meta-epilogue to the event.
Short Green Lantern Corps "tales," often as backups to other stories, have sometimes been dangerously repetitive -- a Lantern faces a situation, it doesn't go as planned, the Lantern learns something. Indeed, there's a couple of stories in Tales of the Corps that follow this pattern; Tomasi's Kilowog story, though it ties in to Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps, is rather predictable, and Johns's Red Lantern story doesn't reveal anything about those Lanterns that we didn't already know.
In the majority of the Tales of the Corps stories, however, I appreciated how the writers complicate the Lanterns or otherwise plays them against type. In Tomasi's Agent Orange story, the alien Blume (before he's subsumed by the Orange Lantern) travels between planets stealing and eating their riches; in a painful scene, a civilization seemingly sacrifices their children to Blume -- but, since Blume is only interested in material wealth, he later gives the children back. This is a complicated idea of avarice, escaping some of the parody of Agent Orange Larfleeze, and it makes the Orange Lantern concept richer overall.
Similarly, in Johns's story about the Indigo Tribe, leader Indigo-1 suffocates to death an injured Green Lantern, and then sends a member of the Sinestro Corps away free. The Indigo Tribe represents compassion, though their motivations remain mysterious even after Blackest Night; here, too, we have a complicated interpretation of this "emotion," in that the most compassionate thing to do for the Green Lantern was to end his life, and the most compassionate thing to do for the Sinestro Corpsman was to let him go. Rather than something one-sided, these stories suggest both the good and bad that can come from otherwise simple emotions.
Honorable mention goes to the Blue Lantern and Star Sapphire chapters by Johns. In the former, future Blue Lantern Saint Walker faces the destruction of his home planet by taking his family on a quest to seek their Messiah; the results are tragic, perhaps predictably so, but benefits from Johns's take on both the benefits and drawbacks of faith and hope. The Star Sapphire story, remarkably, entirely involves a conversation between Carol Ferris and a Sapphire ring in the cockpit of Carol's airplane; the story features art by Gene Ha and is both a good look back at Carol's history as the Sapphire, and also a prime example of a cogent comics story that doesn't require punching and kicking.
The book closes with Adventure Comics #4-5, the return of Geoff Johns's controversial Superboy-Prime (Johns co-writes the two issues with Sterling Gates). After Legion of Three Worlds, Superboy-Prime lives on the reconstituted Earth-Prime (DC's version of "our" Earth), aware of the DC Universe through comic books; Superboy learns he might die in Blackest Night just as a Black Lantern Corps of heroes that he's killed arrive on Earth-Prime seeking revenge. Superboy proceeds to DC Comics, of all things, to save himself by changing the next issue or otherwise destroying the company.
For a series that has knocked off a number of characters with even more alacrity than DC is generally known for, there's a great self-parody in this final story. Superboy-Prime, reminiscent of Grant Morrison's Animal Man, decries being a plaything to the DC Comics writers who decide whether he lives or dies. In Blackest Night, Johns must realize, he's used the characters as playthings even more than usual, even as the lasting point of Blackest Night is that, potentially, death won't be used as such an easy stunt any more.
The story would seem to end with Superboy-Prime getting a measure of peace from the writers in the return of his dead girlfriend, but ultimately it's another Black Lantern trick. The message, perhaps, is that it's just comics, or else that Superboy-Prime is the Charlie Brown of the DC Universe, doomed always to fail no matter what he might try. It's a flip moment where Johns simultaneously takes responsibility for the carnage of Blackest Night and also downplays it, and that seems a worthy two sentiments to go out on.
Tales of the Corps also includes a fascinating two-page essay by artist Ethan Van Skiver discussing the creation of each of the various Lantern symbols, and villain Black Hand's creepy "Book of the Black" diary by Geoff Johns (creepy not just for the murders Hand describes, but also for the hint, again, that the Indigo Tribe may not be as benign as they seem ...)
[Contains full and variant covers, Black Lantern sketchbook]
Coming up next, some closing thoughts to finish out Collected Editions' series of Blackest Night reviews.