REVIEW: Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night #1

Written by Eric Cahill

Out this week is Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night, a monstrously named one shot that explores one of those “what if” type scenarios where someone fucks up some major event and cool shit ensues. Usually the world ends, new costumes are designed, and undoubtedly a few adults fondly half remember these as the best stories they read as young adults (Wolverine Lord of the Vampires FTW BTW). And those are great, full stop. Even the worst ones have an immediate hook! Actual consequences can be felt for characters that have had ongoing adventures for a hundred years. Nothing is certain and we can have actual endings! Bleak ones too! {Sigh} Excuse me while I go and dig out some old DC Summer annuals & work on my ‘Citizen Wayne’ cosplay…

Anyway the bad news is this one is about Blackest Night. It essentially poses the question “What if Sinestro was a dick at just the moment where he should not have been a dick?” It results in a series of escalating apocalypses in this fun, horror-toned adventure by Tim Seeley and Kyle Hotz. I was not a fan of Blackest Night. By the time it came out, we’d had a series of massive Green Lantern sagas, escalating in scale but diminishing in quality, backwardly forced into a thematic trilogy off of the success of the Sinestro Corps War. Geoff Johns and his artists had pushed the Green Lantern books into a comic shop popularity it hadn’t seen in perhaps forever. This is why we got that movie, people. He did so by being hyper conscious of continuity but also boiling everything down to super simple high concept adventures, aimed for the trades, to take as many issues as possible. He eventually absorbed the entire DC universe into these events as they became bigger and bigger but somehow also simpler and simpler. The war between colors became variant-cover-chasing costume switches and super power ups over story. They culminated in the incredibly ill-defined Blackest Night, where dead characters came back as zombies with varying degrees of motive and/or abilities. Frankly it was the ultimate capitalization – zombies were just a few years into their current decade of saturation. It was kinda toothless and repetitive and we’ve thankfully all moved on since then. And for the best – what GL has lost in popularity its since gained in quality and diverse stories. In hindsight, it actually always seemed better suited to a one-off alternate universe adventure just like the kind of thing this one shot ended up being.

So I wasn’t looking forward to reading a retread of it but I figured best case scenario this was probably the concept distilled in its ultimate form. And hey what do you know – it kinda was! This is a one and done and that’s all it needs. It’s not the expansive mythos buster that was teased and its not even much of a Lantern story. But then again the original crossover wasn’t those things either. I’m sure some can be said for expanding this version of the world into a mini or further one shots. But that’d lead to those diminishing returns we talked about earlier.

In what may be one of the perfect most confluences of creative team and concept in quite some time, here we have Seeley and Hotz. Both get identified with horror comics but actually tend to lean more towards horror-tinged adventure. These guys tackling this concept seems like a no brainer and works just as well as you’d think it would (for better or worse I’m sure). They tell a succinct story, featuring a variety of characters perfectly suited to the story and even pack in a few unique concepts and story twists that had me raise my eyebrows a bit.

While this is Sinestro’s story (or a version of him anyway), its really Lobo who leads the way and sets the tone. More of a light splatter action romp with some occasional mean spirited twists, this should have a firm place in the Lobo canon going forward. I’m not a huge fan of the character but how he’s used here, where you know what you’re getting into, and letting the nihilistic nature of the character spread thematically through the narrative? Well I didn’t mind him so much at all! Sure there was some cringey Lobo-isms and a few broad, bad jokes you have to swallow in a Lobo story (the cigar bit why) but in the end the comic makes a statement about the character that’s pretty worth it.

Rounding out the zombie bashing is a diverse crew with cross purposes (a requirement for this genre). We have the aforementioned Sinestro, a well used Mister Miracle, and the superheroine Dove. The use of Dove is probably the most problematic thing in the story. She’s 100% an object, and any agency she demonstrates is window dressing. It’s another unfortunate staple of the genre but its also 2019 and there’s not really an excuse for it. I get that there’s a limited amount of space in the one shot and she’s there for a specific purpose that comes into play towards the end & I liked the story so I’m willing to label it unfortunate rather than shitty. But still! 2019, man.

Hotz’ art style is the same as it ever was, and if you dig it that will continue. He’s very much in the vein of Eric Powell, an old school cartooning style with a lot more energy than most comics of that type. He’s great at what he does and he’s been doing it forever. But he’s really refined it over his career. Looking back 20 years at some of his work he hasn’t changed dramatically but you could see his work get cleaner and more precise. I dig the style personally and I love to see it. The man’s got his niche and I’m for it. Also, sorry to spoil but – zombie Darkseid is one of those silly ideas that seems just dumb and obvious enough that it could become a long term fan favorite. Hope these guys get some t-shirts out of it, they have it coming.

Overall, its an enjoyable enough experience with – believe it or not – a bit of escalating tension! The character beats were a bit perfunctory but they still land in the context of the kind of breezy, lunch time snack of an adventure this is. The climax is a bit goofy (and kinda gibberish), the sort of handwavey believe-in-yourself nonsense its so easy for a Lantern story to fall into. But it makes up for it with a truly dynamite epilogue. Sincerely loved that bit and won’t give it away here. And even the goofy dark multiverse narrator character who seems to exist solely for me to roll my eyes at gets a great scene at the end. All in all, a recommended special. Kinda dumb, gory, a few small bits of horror, and lots of fun character usage. Reminds of those great old ‘What If’ days. But let it end here, DC. Stop milking the cow before you see blood.

Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night #1 earns 4 out of 5

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