Blackest Night: Superman #1 (2009)

Blackest Night: Superman #1 (October, 2009)
“A Sleepy Little Town”
Writer – James Robinson
Penciller – Eddy Barrows
Inkers – Ruy Jose & Julio Ferreira
Colorist – Rob Reis
Letterer – Steve Wands
Editors – Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

Was in the mood for something a bit “darker”… and didn’t wanna wait until October for a little #boohauntedblog.

We open cold on Kal-L from Earth-Two’s hands jutting from his grave after being summoned to “Rise”… which, if you recall, was kinda the thing that gimmick of Blackest Night.  From here we shift to Smallville, where it’s really just another quiet day around town.  We join (former President of the United States) Pete Ross sweeping outside his shop and chatting with the locals.  It’s a real illustration of the pleasant mundanity of small-town living.  Their discussion is briefly interrupted by a shadow crossing overhead.  Was it a bird?  Nah, it was probably nothing.

We briefly visit with the Sheriff’s office where a bored Smallville Officer claims to have applied for a position on the Metropolis Police Force.  While the Sheriff tells him what a dumb idea that was, a black hole appears below him.  The Sheriff plummets and the entire dealie results in elevated levels of fear.

We shift over to a diner where more folks are going about their mundane Smallville lives.  “Regulars” are enjoying their “usuals”, we learn that poor Tom Hardy lost his thumb in an accident… stuff like that.  A man enters in shadow… resulting in even more elevated fear-levels.

Across town at the drive-in, a couple enjoys a Friday the 13th-esque horror flick.  Guess what?  Elevated levels of feeeeear (and love, cuz they’re making out).

After our Smallville tour, we finally arrive at the Kent farm where Ma, Clark, and Ma’s new housemate Conner Kent are sitting down to dinner.  While they discuss how well Kon is adjusting to his new digs, one of Krypto’s ears perk up… there’s something sinister in Smallville.  Superman and Superboy “supe-up” and head out to see what might be lurking.

They arrive at the graveyard where they discover… Black Lantern Superman (of Earth-Two), and it would appear that he just finished… digging up Pa Kent’s body.  Yikes.  I suppose I oughtta mention that he appears to have used a shovel… which is a very silly visual in my head.

It should go without saying… a fight is on.  Kal-L lunges at Superboy, and mentions that he was just recently dead… and with L’s help, he could be dead again!  As Black Lantern Superman and Superboy soar across the sky, real-deal Superman (though, I suppose in a situation like this, your mileage may vary) gives chase, with heightened levels of Fear, Hope, Will, Rage, and Love!

Back at the Kent farm, Ma is attending to the dishes.  Upon first blush, it seems kinda silly, doesn’t it?  Then I remember that Clark being out dealing with dangerous situations is nothing new to her.  Suddenly, one wall of her home is demolished and Krypto goes flying… when the dust settles, she finds herself stood before Black Lantern… Lois Lane (of Earth-Two).

Back at the Super-Fight, Kal-L really starts getting his digs in on Kal-El.  He suggests that he is no Superman, as he couldn’t even save his own father.  Instead of reminding the baddie about Kal-L losing both parents to a silly tropical disease, he just seethes then socks him so hard his anatomy goes wonky (see below).  Though, to be fair, he probably doesn’t know about that.

L continues, comparing and contrasting their disparate upbringings.  L claims that he was never scared of his powers… even as a child he would “leap tall buildings” and whatnot as Superboy.  Speaking of Superboy, Kal-L just hurled him toward the ground… I may not have made it clear, this battle has been happening in the sky.

We take a brief detour to… New Krypton.  It’s been a long time since I tried reading through the New Krypton saga, so I’ll leave my pithiness out of it.  By the way, “Krypton” has gotta be one of the least typing-friendly words known to man.  I never backspace more than when I’m trying to type that word.  Anyhoo, Supergirl and her mother are paying their respects to her fallen father Zor-El… when he is fitted with a new piece of jewelry and summoned to “Rise!”

Back on Earth, Superman and Superboy return to the Kent farm.  They find it in all sorts of disarray… the front porch is completely destroyed and Krypto has been wounded.  A quick scan tells them that Ma is no longer there.  They head down Main Street, and note that things have grown even more ominous… nobody is around.  It’s silent, not even the crickets remain.  They do eventually find Ma… unfortunately, she’s being held captive by Black Lantern Mr. and Mrs. Superman!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been reading (and covering) so much 1970’s material lately, but… boy did this feel decompressed.

These quick little vignettes… shots of the town, and the townsfolk interacting with small talk took up far too much of this issue.  I mean, I get why they did it… but I feel like too much time was spent on it.  Much of it could have been summed up in a single page.  Instead, we get a full page of a couple at the drive-in movie.  Seems wasteful to me.  It reminds me of a Vince McMahon quote I see bandied about when folks get annoyed at the current state of Professional Wrestling, “We’re makin’ movies, pal!”  This feels more like it’s playing toward a cinematic feel rather than just being a comic book.

Blackest Night was one of my blindspots in DC history, as it landed smack-dab in the middle of a really rough financial patch in my life.  It was an event that felt as though most of its tie-in miniseries’ were actually warranted.  I remember being excited about this one in particular, as I wasn’t sure if they were going to revisit Clark’s own death, or if we were going to see more of the Earth-Two folks, who made their return a few years earlier during Infinite Crisis.

I appreciate the ideas presented here… Kal-L appears to be going around Smallville killing Smallvillians.  At least that’s what I think it occurring at the end of the vignettes.  That’s all well and good, but again, I think far too many pages were spent on this.  I’m intrigued to see what Kal-L and Kal-Lois are planning to do.  Not a bad start here, just took a bit long to “get there” for my liking.  

The art here is rather good, if not a bit inconsistent at times.  Being pretty familiar with Eddy Barrows’ work, I’m gonna blame most of that on the inking.  Some of the Smallvillians here look positively ghoulish… even moreso than the Black Lanterns.  I’m looking at Pete Ross’ evil-looking mug expecting him to sprout horns and a tail and be revealed as the devil or something.  Kinda off-putting, and something I’d have imagined they’d work hard to avoid.  I’d assume they’d want the “mundane” scenes to appear to be as clean and un-scary as possible to contrast with the Lantern threat.

Overall, I really want to recommend this… however, with a caveat.  I’d say if you haven’t read this, and want to… maybe grab the trade.  After reading just the first issue, I’m left a bit cold… it doesn’t feel like enough has happened.  Feels like I got the same amount of story from this that I would have if I read 3-5 pages of a Bronze Age comic.

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