Blackest Night is the best DC event since, well, ever. Infinite Crisis was too convoluted to be enjoyable but Geoff Johns excels at the kind of straight forward storytelling approach that is an unfortunate rarity in comics today. Even the few mini-series tying in to Blackest Night, such as those involving Superman and Batman are enjoyable. It is with the former that James Robinson is doing some great work. Far greater than his Cry For Justice mini-series, Blackest Night: Superman #2 (of 3) is by Robinson and artist Eddy Barrows. It begins with a few pleasant scenes in Smallville, and you just know that’s not going to last long. Soon, Superman and Superboy team up to fight another risen from the dead character – the Superman of Earth 2, Kal-L. The black power rings that reanimate and corrupt dead heroes, villains and supporting characters from DC’s storied past is a great way to get around the whole “revolving door deaths” of superhero stories, and it works well here, with a menace that has been seen in every Blackest Night tie-in. Psycho Pirate inflicts his emotions on Smallville’s helpless citizens, while the three “Supers” battle above. Then a teary Supergirl shows up and is hopeful yet horrified to see her recently killed father standing before her as a grinning skeleton. It ends with the also risen Lois Lane of Earth 2 hunting Martha Kent through a cornfield and ends on a page that is funnier than it’s supposed to be, with the elderly Martha doing her best action hero portrayal.
Robinson and Barrows work well together. Barrows in particular makes the most of the darkness in the tale and makes everyone look frightening. Well, everyone except Martha Kent. He also shows superb control of page design in the many fighting/chasing scenes, adding to the desperation for survival.
The New Avengers #57 is another pitch perfect Brian Michael Bendis tale. He’s essentially Marvel’s version of Geoff Johns – a popular writer who respects the past but is creating the future. With The New Avengers he doesn’t let himself get too talky, but gets straight to the nuts and bolts of superhero shenanigans. The handy intro page in each issue is a worthy addition, as the cast of characters grows every month, but Bendis makes it work. He gives each character their own voice (Spidey’s wit, Luke Cage’s toughness, Norman Osborn’s arrogance). There’s more spandex wearers fighting each other in the streets than Civil War but with Stuart Immonen’s grand and fluid pencils on display it all looks so elegant and dramatic. The New Avengers are powerless, as are their enemies Osborn’s Dark Avengers, all thanks to some renegade baddies with a high-tech gizmo that takes powers away. Everyone is desperate for victory and Osborn makes a deal to ensure he gets his, as does Luke Cage. Every time I read this series, I wish JLA could be this good.
Superman: Secret Origin #1 is the premiere ish of a new 6 part series re-telling Superman’s origin. What, again, I hear you ask. Yes, that’s what I thought to. I mean, Mark Waid’s Birthright did the same thing not that long ago, and John Byrne’s Man of Steel did it before that. However, a lot has changed in the DCU since Byrne’s bold 1986 series that reintroduced Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths that changed everything in its wake. Geoff Johns proves me wrong in the first few pages. Where the 12 issue Birthright got it wrong was that it took too long to get to the juicy parts. Johns knows that we are all very familiar with Superman’s origin after 80 years, so he hits the ground running. This debut ish begins with young Clark Kent discovering that he’s different when he accidentally breaks his friend Pete Ross’ arm, and expels heat from his pupils after his first kiss with Lana Lang. Then his parents give him the talk and show him the rocket he arrived in. Clark’s upset when he sees it and activates a holographic message by his Kryptonian parents. Johns continues to wear his love affair with the Silver Age on his sleeve, and keeps most of what readers of Superman comics from the 1950s and 60s would be aware of, but also puts a contemporary spin on it. There’s nods to Braniac and Doomsday, and even Smallville, with Clark meeting Lex as a child, and his rescue of Lana from a tornado. Jor-El and Lara look like their versions from Johns’ recent Last Son storyline and artist Gary Frank is proving himslef to be the premiere Superman artist these days. The last page in which Clark puts on the Superboy costume for the first time truly reveals Frank’s grasp of pre-teen awkwardness and was a pleasant surprise. It appears as though Johns is going to rocket through this origin tale in only 6 issues and I’m glad.