Saturday, January 02, 2010

Warning: This Post is Very Long

Well, I guess I needed another day after all. Sorry about that folks.

So: Blackest Night #6. Everybody who reads this blog knows I spend a lot of time talking about Blackest Night. It's not that I have an obsession with Green Lantern or even Geoff Johns. For me, the appeal of Blackest Night is the incredible importance it has for the entire DC Universe.

Most of you know that I studied history in my undergraduate years and am working on my M. A. now in a similar subject. I love history. Japan is my chosen field of study, but it only takes second place on my list of histories I'd most like to study. If I could really study anything it would be the history of the DC Universe.

Yes, I'm that big of a geek.

Blackest Night is a history making event in the DCU. It's the first time in a very long time that DC has consistently outsold Marvel by pretty much every metric. Blackest Night is also tackling the issue of death in the DCU -- that's been an elephant in the room for a long time.

When publishers hype their events they always like to talk about how "nothing will be the same." Usually that really is just hype. Admittedly, I still buy into it almost every time. Maybe I'm buying into this time as well. But I truly think that Blackest Night is going to reshape the DC Universe for a long time to come. Here's why:

1. Blackest Night will significantly alter the the meaning of "death" in the DCU. There really is no way around this. For Blackest Night Geoff Johns has tied the villain Nekron significantly to almost every major death and resurrection in the DCU. Nekron is now the canonical reason why characters were able to come back to life. With his probable defeat at the end of Blackest Night the landscape changes. Without the stated reason for resurrections, how can further resurrections happen?

Obviously there are ways around this. After all, a character can "die" like Stephanie Brown or Bruce Wayne. Since they aren't really dead they have no connection to Nekron. But I still think Blackest Night alters the status quo as far as death and resurrection. Will this mean fewer deaths or simply fewer resurrections? I don't really know. But I do know things won't be the way they are now.

2. The fall of the Guardians of the Universe. Those cosmic smurfs have been trying to run the "universe" their way for a very long time. They've constantly screwed up. The Manhunters. Parallax. Sinestro. They have failed at every turn, but have managed to hold onto their positions (or regain them) and keep trying.

They won't get to do that this time. Blackest Night is, in my opinion, the swan song of the Guardians. They've failed one too many times. This time, there's no coming back. Geoff Johns has in some ways said as much: apparently one of the first new arcs coming out of Blackest Night will be titled "The New Guardians." The Guardians have had their chance and failed. Now somebody else is going to be in charge of the Green Lantern Corps. Whoever it is will shape the future of the DC Universe.

3. The resurrection and the life. Character are going to come back to life. There's no question of that. A lot of characters who have died before and during Blackest Night can't stay dead. Too many of them have been slaughtered for that. And after Blackest Night when resurrections get locked down they won't be able to come back as easily. So they'll all come back before it's over. That will be a big shift in the population of the DCU for both heroes and villains.

And even if I'm wrong it's a huge deal. A DCU lacking important figures like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, and others will be significantly altered. We've had this for a while, no question. But with little prospect for resurrection (in universe if not out) how will that change the tenor of the DCU? How will it affect the way heroes and villains live out their lives?

4. The Corps. That's corps plural. The seven ring slinging corps have been painstakingly created by Geoff Johns over the past few years. Do you really think they are going away? Some people hate the concept, I know. But it's here to stay. And the presence of so many different corps has the potential to have an effect not just on a cosmic scale but on Earth as well. In Blackest Night we see natives of Earth acquiring rings. Will that really be the end of it?

Blackest Night is comic history in action. If we lived in a world where I could study the history of a fictional universe then this is the sort of event people would relate to their grandchildren. "I remember where I was when I read Blackest Night #6. I'll never forget how I felt when I saw Lex Luthor get his orange ring."

Yes, I'm overstating it. But for the characters in the DCU the event really is that big. And though we may come for the explosions, the undead, and the rainbow colored rings... We stay for the characters. And Blackest Night is going to change them all.

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3 Comments:

At 10:31 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

Being a historian is not a bad thing at all. As a fellow history major, I salute you!

It does sound as though Blackest Night is actually going to be one of the rare "events" that ACTUALLY will make a difference, doesn't it? Maybe we can finally move beyond the whole killing off a major character for fun schtick that seems to have taken such root over the past few years. It may have had shock and awe at one point, but certainly not any more.

And...it's a rattling good yarn to boot.

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger The M Show said...

I'm most interested in the multiple corps - it used to be that getting a ring was a big deal, now it seems like there's nobody left without one. It does make for a incredible new array of stories - corps clashing all over the universe, but it also creates a problem of enemies having to threaten to destroy the universe every month to keep things interesting...

 
At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Spectrum Rider said...

I only WISH I could study the history of the DCU or the Marvel Universe at anything approaching the level of detail you could apply to, say, Middle-Earth. But unfortunately most of the writers and editors are far less interested in that than some of us readers.

I read DC as a kid. As I got a little older, my mind drifted - in my opinion, quite naturally - to questions like "If Aquaman is freinds with Superman, and they meet in JLA and other comics frequently [translation: they live in the same fictional setting], then why do Aquaman's Atlanteans have two legs and Superman's have fishtails?" DC actually made it clear in their letter columns that they had no intention (at that time) of addressing those questions, and actually considered them inappropriate to comic books.

So I switched to Marvel. It was starting out, and over the first 10-15 years it actually seemed to hae a coherent history. (Not perfect, by the way. I don't look for perfection. I just like a good-faith effort.) But they drifted away and seemed to lose interest in continuity, and I drifted away from them.

I came back to DC for Crisis on Infinite Earths. All the hype suggested that they were going to start fresh after the Crisis, and pay closer attention to continuity. But the follow-through was mediocre at best, and deteriorated with every mega-event.

I really feel that both companies had a chance to create something quite beautiful, on a literary level, but went for immediate gratification over long-term goals every time. Well, not every time. But far too often.

I should mention that just continuity isn't enough to make a story for me. I like good characterization, clever plots, decent plotting, smart dialogue - the whole package. And sometimes continuity has to take second place, when it conflicts with one of those (which is rare). But for me, having stories set in the same universe which don't contradict themselves too often is something of a baseline.

Unfortunately, to the editors, the contradiction between, oh, The Death of the New Gods, Countdown, and Final Crisis, is to be shrugged off like water off a duck's back. We'll see if they feel like being more careful in the post-FC, post-BN era. But based on experience I've set my expectations pretty low.

But I do share your interest in a fictional history.

 

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