Nightmares Illustrated 005
By Wayne Edwards

Nightmares Illustrated, the column for horror comics readers.

A Readers’ Guide to Blackest Night

What we have here, sporadic reader, is a guide to the most exciting horror comics cross-over event that DC comics has ever produced. Nightmares Illustrated this month is not reviewing the Blackest Night event in any real detail—to that end I am simply giving it an overwhelmingly positive endorsement and hoping you’ll trust me on this one. Also, there are a lot of plot summaries floating around if you want more info than I give on that score (like the DC website, for instance). Mainly the article you are scanning now is meant to do three other things: outline which comics comprise the Blackest Night series, reveal which are most important if you want to follow the story, and give you buying options if you decide you want to read it. And I am sure you are going to want to read it. The only question is, How much of it should you read?

The ramp-up to Blackest Night started at least as far back as Green Lantern 25, but let’s try to focus on the main event. The relevant back story is retold within the pages of related issues giving you all the information you need to keep score.

The beginning of the series, then, was Blackest Night 0, given away for free on Free Comics Day (May 1) 2009. This cross over event is rooted in the Green Lantern book, but you have to know a lot more about the rest of the DC universe to follow the plot. #0 gets you started on that background and reminds you who is whom and what happened to them lately (in there own books previous events). It also catches you up on important recent Green Lantern developments in case you missed them, like the existence of the Red Lantern Corps, Agent Orange, the Sinestro Corps, the Blue Lantern Corps, the Indigo Tribe, the Star Sapphires, and the Black Lantern Corps. It sounds like a lot, but it is really not that hard to get into it and #0 is a big help. From this beginning the series proceeds and backtracks as necessary to fill in the plot.

Blackest Night itself concerns a force that is trying to eliminate all life and emotion from the universe by resurrecting dead superheroes who then set about murdering the living by ripping their hearts out. Exciting premise, huh? It is a tale of bloody murder, the walking dead, and a complex mythology of inter-related galactic forces. I have always been a huge Green Lantern fan, but most of the time that book does not have a horror focus. It does now, at least for this event. Blackest Night (written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert), Green Lantern (written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Doug Mahnke, inked by Christian Alamy), and Green Lantern Corps (written by Peter J. Tomasi, penciled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Rebecca Buchman) tell the primary story. Interesting side-lines show up in the mini-series and the tie-ins. The plotting, writing, and artwork are exceptional for these three books. It is some of the best work I have seen from these talented contributors, and that is high praise because they have all produced excellent work in the past. The six mini-series are also very well appointed with great writing and art. The tie-ins are mostly good, too, but the farther you get away from the main plot line, the thinner the connection so at some point it gets a little strained and redundant. In order to avoid resurrection overload, you might want to do a little picking and choosing.

But which ones should you read?

Below you will find three separate lists. The first is a list of four levels of reading from the most integral in the cross-over to the most peripheral. Next is a list of the planned book collections arranged in an order to match the first list – most important to least important with respect to series content. And finally there is a block-chronological release date listing of the Blackest Night titles and tie-ins. This is all intended to be a handy little reference guide with the dual purposes of helping you avoid wasting your time on items you are not interested in and budgeting your expenditure on the event. If you add up all the individual cover prices you get a total of $254.25 for the entire series of 76 comic books. That’s a lot of money, isn’t it? For most people, it is just too much. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Blackest Night by making specific selections. I hope these lists help you make informed choices about what to focus on and what to let go.

In all, Blackest Night gets my highest recommendation. This is definitely one of the best cross-over events since the beginning of cross-over events. Happy reading.

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Here then is List A: concentric circles of plot necessity.

I. Essential List. Well, now, you have to read the main series, Blackest Night 0-8. This is the bare minimum and is an excellent way to spend an hour or two.

II. Very Important List. After the Essential List, for more important developments and great action consider reading Green Lantern 44-52 and Green Lantern Corps 38-46. The entire Blackest Night event comes out of the continuity of Green Lantern so important developments do occur throughout both these books.

III. Very Good List. Next step down are the Batman, Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Titans, and JSA mini-series. These are very well done and worth reading. They focus on how Blackest Night events affect the particular characters in the minis outside of the main Green Lantern continuity.

IV. Ancillary List. Everything else. If there is a particular character or book you have liked in the past, well then you’ll want to pick up the tie-in or mini. In general, though, absent an abiding separate desire, the remaining books (List C below) are more curiosities than essential reading for the event. But don’t mistake me: there is a lot of cool stuff there. One example is the “resurrection” of previously canceled series. DC brought back eight books for one more issue to tie-in to Blackest Night. If you are a fan of The Phantom Stranger or Cat Woman or Starman, these are great comics. The numbering continues from where the previous series left off (Weird Western Tales 71, for example). See March 2010 release from List C below for a complete list of revived titles. The other tie-ins have their charms, too, and some do have the occasional important development. Just because they are here on the bottom of the list doesn’t mean they aren’t good.

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And now List B: The Collected Volumes.

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that the comics are being collected in hardcover books beginning this summer. The four List A categories mostly apply if you are going to buy the books instead of the comics. Here we have a good example of how buying the books is a lot less expensive than the comics. The retail total for the books is $179.93, and if you buy them from Amazon you only pay $118.73. Compare that to the $254.25 when buying the individual comics. Also, books stand on book shelves better than do comics. Now, these collections do leave a few comics out, and those missing items look like they’ll be collected in separate volumes outside of the Blackest Night book series. For example, Superman/Batman 66-67 will show up in the Superman/Batman: Night and Day collection in August. Still, while not exhaustive, you do get a mostly comprehensive collection with these seven books. They are a good way to go.

In order of importance (from List A) the books are (DC press notices included in parentheses):

1. Blackest Night (“As the war between the different Corps rages on, the prophecy of the Blackest Night descends in this hardcover collecting the best–selling BLACKEST NIGHT #0-8. Now, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps lead DC's champions into battle to save the universe from an army of Black Lanterns made up of the DCU's deceased heroes and villains!”) $29.99

2. Blackest Night: Green Lantern (“The Black Lanterns descend on a spectrum of Corps across the universe in this hardcover collecting GREEN LANTERN #43-52. Plus: Black Hand's connection to the Black Lantern Corps is explained, and key plot points essential to enjoying the storyline to its fullest are revealed.”) $24.99

3. Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps (“Green Lanterns Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner and John Stewart join the rest of the GL Corps in the desperate struggle to preserve the Central Power Battery and Oa itself from being consumed by the Black Lanterns in stories from GREEN LANTERN CORPS #39-47.”) $24.99

4. Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps: Volume 1 (“Superman, Batman and The Titans battle their greatest foes and long lost loved ones, newly undead as evil Black Lanterns, in this collection of three 3-issue BLACKEST NIGHT miniseries.”) $24.99

5. Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps: Volume 2 (“The Flash, Wonder Woman and the JSA come face to face with their greatest foes and long-lost loved ones, newly undead as evil Black Lanterns, in this collection of three 3-issue BLACKEST NIGHT miniseries.”) $24.99

6. Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps (“From the pages of TALES OF THE CORPS #1-3, GREEN LANTERN #49 and ADVENTURE COMICS #4-5: Witness Saint Walker's pilgrimage of hope, Carol Ferris' sacrifice for love, the first appearance of the Indigo Tribe and much more!”) $24.99

7. Blackest Night: Rise of the Black Lanterns (“Seven classic DCU titles — THE ATOM AND HAWKMAN, THE QUESTION, PHANTOM STRANGER, STARMAN, THE POWER OF SHAZAM!, CATWOMAN and WEIRD WESTERN TALES — are resurrected alongside GREEN ARROW #30 and ADVENTURE COMICS #7 in this BLACKEST NIGHT tie-in hardcover!”) $24.99

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Finally, List C: The Chronology.

And now, for those of you who have to have it all, here is the BIG LIST by cover date. Each title costs $2.99 except the ones with an * which retail at $3.99. The total retail cost of each month’s releases is in parentheses beside the date.

June 2009 ($0.00—the first one is free)
Blackest Night 0

September 2009 ($21.94)
Green Lantern 43
Blackest Night 1*
Tales of the Corps 1*
Tales of the Corps 2*
Tales of the Corps 3*
Green Lantern 44

October 2009 ($18.94)
Blackest Night 2*
Green Lantern 45
Green Lantern Corps 39
Blackest Night Batman 1
Blackest Night Superman 1
Blackest Night Titans 1

November 2009 ($18.94)
Blackest Night 3*
Green Lantern 46
Green Lantern Corps 40
Blackest Night Batman 2
Blackest Night Superman 2
Blackest Night Titans 2

December 2009 ($18.94)
Blackest Night 4*
Green Lantern 47
Green Lantern Corps 41
Blackest Night Batman 3
Blackest Night Superman 3
Blackest Night Titans 3

January 2010 ($40.89)
Blackest Night 5*
Green Lantern 48
Green Lantern Corps 42
Justice League of America 39*
Superman/Batman 66
Doom Patrol 4*
Booster Gold 26*
R.E.B.E.L.S. 10*
Teen Titans 77*
Adventure Comics 4*
Outsiders 24*

February 2010 ($49.86)
Blackest Night 6*
Green Lantern 49
Green Lantern Corps 43
Blackest Night Flash 1
Blackest Night Wonder Woman 1
Blackest Night JSA 1
Justice League of America 40*
Superman/Batman 67
Doom Patrol 5*
Booster Gold 27*
R.E.B.E.L.S. 11*
Teen Titans 78*
Adventure Comics 5*
Outsiders 25*

March 2010 ($42.86)
Green Lantern 50*
Green Lantern Corps 44
Blackest Night Flash 2
Blackest Night Wonder Woman 2
Blackest Night JSA 2
The Question 37
The Phantom Stranger 42
Starman 81
Suicide Squad 67
Weird Western Tales 71
Cat Woman 83
The Power of Shazam! 48
Secret Six 17
The Atom and Hawkman 46

April 2010 ($30.91)
Blackest Night 7*
Green Lantern 51
Green Lantern Corps 45
Blackest Night Flash 3
Blackest Night Wonder Woman 3
Blackest Night JSA 3*
Adventure Comics 7*
Secret Six 18
Black Lantern Green Arrow 30*

May 2010 ($10.97)
Blackest Night 8*
Green Lantern 52
Green Lantern Corps 46*

                                                                                                                                               
Note: All Blackest Night titles, tie-ins, and minis are published by DC Comics.

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Wayne Edwards has been quietly writing, editing, and publishing for the past three decades. He divides his time between Anchorage [Alaska], Burlington [Vermont], and Mysore [India].


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