Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: The Best and the Blackest

Posted by on January 27th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

This is the third and final installment that attempts to give due credit to at least the inceptions of giant company crossovers from DC and Marvel, blockbusting, wallet-emptying sagas begun in 2009 and scheduled to finish up by Second Coming Eve.

Even growing up as a fan of monster movies, I never cared much for Westernized zombie films (although those taking place in the tropics of either hemisphere could still pretty much scare the wee out of me). Apart from their atrocious dietary habits and the occasional superlative work from make-up artists, zombies never seemed to have much going for them, scary-wise. Being dead and all, they really should have been able to bring more to bear. I wasn’t a deep thinker but it just seemed to me that being DEAD would put you through some changes, changes that ought to give you a major leg up on the living. The dead would know things the living didn’t and that could be scary, especially if, like, they were mean zombies or liar zombies. You know, the dead come back saying things like “Death really, really hurts, even if it happens while you’re sleeping,” or “Your dog isn’t in heaven,” or, for those deep thinkers, “There is no heaven.”

Blakest Night #4 (December 2009) written by Geoff Johns penciled by Ivan Reis and inked by Oclair Albert & Joe Prado. ©2009 DC Comics

The “Blackest Night” saga began for DC with its Green Lantern titles and developed exponentially from there. The premise is that dead company characters come back to life, animated by … Well, the important thing is that regardless of their role in prior lives, the reanimated come back wishing no one well. Former villains, former good guys, teammates, sidekicks, cast members, siblings, wives, husbands, babies, they all come back bad.

And the best of them come back dissembling, sowing confusion among the heroic living. Best friends lie. Old partners betray. Family members accuse, poison. Lovers pretend. Mentors exploit. Tugs are made on loyalties, on heartstrings of beating hearts. Intimate secrets are turned against and the past is twisted to nefarious advantage. For their part the good guys are subject to all manner of guilt, shame, reproach and remorse, often because they had something to do with the zombie’s initial demise. In certain creative hands, in certain dramatic situations, the pleas, insults and hauntings of the dead can be delicious fun, inventive, cruel, horrible and ingenious.

In other hands, not so much. “Blackest Night” is a company tent-pole. It spills into many titles and calls upon the efforts of many writers and artists, month after month after month. This, of course, virtually guarantees that the thrust, the quality of the “event” will be hopelessly diluted and woefully uneven. With less imaginative, sensitive, devious talents, too quickly the interaction between the living and the dead reverts to the ham-handed, to the threadbare ballet of the genre: slugging it out. Devastating deft slashes to the psyche are replaced by common corporal mayhem. Not that scary.

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