And so DC’s Next Big Event Crossover Thing begins, having morphed in the couple of years since it was first teased from being a Green Lantern story into being a general DC Universe story. So even though, in a rather nice scene in the early pages, the focus is on both Hal Jordan and the core GL Corps cast, events quickly expand to take in a variety of DCU characters – with a large hint that, once again, Bruce Wayne’s fate is going to be pretty integral to proceedings. And this despite the fact that… well, look, I’d never accuse Geoff Johns of not knowing his DC stuff (in fact, as we trawl through yet another set of flashback panels, it’s clear that he thoroughly enjoys playing the game of “Look at me! I know the entire history of the DCU! Let’s have a look at some of it!”), but given that there was more than a hint of ambiguity over whether the charred corpse carried forth by Superman at the end of Final Crisis and subsequently buried at Wayne Manor was actually Bruce Wayne (what with that whole “being transported back in time” deely), then making said corpse an immediate plot macguffin seems a risky strategy to say the least.
Incidentally, it’s not as if first-issue repetitive scenes with various characters handwringing about things that have happened in the last year or so is the only Johns trope employed here – the defining characteristic of the book, as with just about every other Johns-related event, and the “Prelude” issue that I capsule-reviewed last week, is that it’s quite deliberately unpleasant while still trying to remain within the boundaries of what you can get away with in a mainstream superhero book. Alright, so it’s not Ultimatum, but still – this is essentially a superhero zombie story, so ickiness abounds almost from the word go. The body count (or, at least, the “characters being killed so they can immediately come back as Black Lanterns” count) is kicked off in earnest, although I question the wisdom of deciding to kill two particular characters as the first marker of intent when they’ve already suffered such high-profile recent confusion over whether they died in the last big event.
Still, the issue builds a decent sense of ominous foreboding – the wider sequence of the Black Lantern rings streaming across the universe seeking out their new owners is played in nicely cinematic fashion, weaving in and out of smaller-scale scenes of impending darkness like the attack of rogue Guardian Scar, or the appearance of none other than Black Lantern J’onn J’onnz. I think I’ve said before that I generally approve of building a story around the very idea of “comic book death”, so there’s also a strong resonance in one of the better ideas Johns employs here, of DC’s world having a specific day on which people remember fallen superheroes (and rogues). On the flipside, mind, I question whether having a supervillain morgue in JLA headquarters is really an idea that anyone can swallow the entire League as having been morally okay with (if anything, it simply feels like a massive bit of plot telegraphing for when they inevitably pop out and attack en masse).
Visually it’s all as competent as you’d expect, Reis is always solid and reliable rather than particularly spectacular. There’s some memorable imagery, particularly the double-page spread of former Green Lanterns rising as one, but I just wonder how long he can sustain the grislier tone – he’s clearly far more at home drawing the living heroes than the dead ones – and whether Doug Mahnke, who turned in some genuinely unsettling work in the Black Hand Prelude, might have been a better choice to carry this. Still, it’s a decent start – I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be anything like the epoch-making event that the really quite ludicrously long build-up would suggest, nor indeed if it’s worthy of finally putting a story to Alan Moore’s vague decades-old notions of an “end of it all” event for the Corps; but for the moment, it’s at least refreshing to see a big company-wide event that’s honest about its obsession with needless death.