Friday, July 24, 2009


Only the Good Die Young (DC)
Green Lantern #44 When: Late September 2009 Why: Geoff Johns How: Doug Mahnke

The Story So Far...
The birth of a yellow Corps of fear-wielding ring barers was the first step toward a prophecized war of light that would usher in the Blackest Night. This Sinestro Corps waged war on the Green Lanterns above the skies of Earth, but when their strongest ally, Anti-Monitor, was destroyed by Superboy-Prime, his powerful yet broken form was sent hurtling through space, toward Sector 666 and the fulfillment of the Blackest Night prophecy.

From the corpse of the Anti-Monitor arose an immense Black Lantern, feulled by the power of death. There it lay in silent wait, while across the galaxy, the spectrum of emotional powers was awoken in force, creating rings of Red, Blue, Orange, Violet, and Indigo, before finally William Hand sacrificed his own life in the pursuit of death, and was reborn as the first of a Corps of Black Lanterns.

Now the dead across the universe will rise as fallen Guardian of the Galaxy, Scar, and Black Hand, march a black plague of death and destruction to every corner of existence. Former allies will rise to strike out at their friends, devoid of emotion and intent only on recruiting them to their order of the dead. This is the fate of the noble Martian, J'onn J'onnz, who was laid to rest on his home world by friends shortly after his brutal murder at the hands of the Society of Super Villains.

The Martian Manhunter's grave is not the first to be disturbed, leading Flash and Green Lantern to investigate the descrated grave of a believed-dead Batman. Little do they know that the missing skull is now a symbol of death for Black Hand, and wielding a black energy ring, J'onn J'onnz is returning to Earth, ready to strike at his old friends! The Blackest Night begins...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: M. Manhunter 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Flash 5 (Professor)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Green Lantern 6 (Generator)
Agility: M. Manhunter 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Green Lantern 4 (Trained)
Energy: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic)

- Experiments with teleportation technology developed by one Dr. Erdel were, by accident, responsible for plucking J'onn J'onnz from his home on Mars. Traversing the gulf of space by unknown means, the unannounced arrival of a lurching Martian figure was enough to startle the aging scientist to his death. Alone in a strange world, the accident forced the Martian to at first adopt the scientist's identity by means of shapeshifting, before he absorbed enough understanding through the observation of television programming to assume his own identity.

Finding aspirational figures in the gumshoe detectives popular on television, the Martian adopts the fictitious identity of Detective John Jones. For a time he was to do as he had on Mars, delivering justice with unwavering moral and character, but eventually circumstances would force a reveal upon the Martian Manhunter.

Though resistant at first to expose himself to humanity's judgment, his unique Martian abilities quickly earned him status with the Justice League of America.
Along with the ability to transform his appearance and form, J'onn J'onnz also possesses fantastic super-human strength, speed, durability, energy vision, vast telepathic skill, and the ability to become invisible and intangible. While these many abilities quickly rank him among the most powerful figures in the DCU, the sole survivor of catastrophe on Mars has a single mundane weakness -- fire!

- Once little more than a carefree daredevil test-pilot; Hal Jordan was given a crash course in law and order when an alien from distant space, Abin Sur, landed in the desert during a test flight. Injured and dying, the alien's powerring found in Jordan the ability to possess great will and overcome great fear. Thus, he was unofficially inducted into a Corps of universe-spanning lawkeepers, replacing the deceased as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814!

As a police forensic scientist, Barry Allen's job required him to be methodical and deliberate, but even within the police force his reputation for being notoriously slow was the only extraordinary thing about him. That is, until once fateful night when he was struck by lightning and thrown into a shelf of chemicals! Granted the ability to move at superhuman speeds by the accident, he learns to innately tap into the pseudo-scientific phenomenon of the Speed Force, transforming him into a hero inspired by his boyhood idol, Jay Garrick -- The Flash!

Green Lantern and Flash are founding members of the Justice League of America and have worked extensively as friends and allies, two brave and bold heroes whose legendary status within the superhero community was only solidified by their legendary sacrifice which led to death. For Flash, the multi-dimensional threat of the Anti-Monitor led him to make the ultimate sacrifice, while Green Lantern, still under the influence of the fear-demon Parallax, sacrificed himself in a moment of retribution to reignite the Earth's sun. Each gained a second chance at life; Hal Jordan restored in-part by his connection to The Spectre, while Barry Allen's return remains more mysterious, coming during the defeat of Darkseid.

Math: Green Lantern/Flash (Ttl) M. Manhunter (Avg) Ranking: Flash (#15)

What Went Down...
The forensic scientiest and the space cop -- Flash and Green Lantern were natural choices to investigate what seemed to be the desecration of an unmarked grave belonging to believed-dead Bruce Wayne (aka; Batman). The duo are also natural choices for a Black Lantern Martian Manhunter to descend upon, seeking to return them to the grave they each escaped! "You should both be dead."

The Black Lantern sees each man bathed in the light of the energy he emits -- Green Lantern naturally exudes will, while the Flash glows blue in the eyes of Martian Manhunter, emitting hope. It is these emotions he hopes to corrupt, but while the Martian's shape-shifting abilities allow him to appear human, a similar scan by the Green Lantern's ring reveals his status as a lifeless shell.

The ruse of his reappearance undone, the Black Lantern is forced to engage!
A giant green energy-fist glides through the Black Lantern's body as it recalls the powers of intangibility used by Martian Manhunter. Intangibility equals invisibility and the BL Manhunter is able to swat both living heroes down, no doubt utilizing the powers of speed and strength the Martian Manhunter also used in his time as a living, breathing member of the Justice League of America.

Psychological warfare is as apparent as the physical manhandling the reanimated Martian intends to unleash upon his friends, declaring his intentions to "help" his former friends, whilst gripping the throat of the Green Lantern!

"Martian vision" gives Flash something to run from while the Manhunter analyzes the past of each once-dead hero. Yellow fear rips through Barry Allen as his mind is telepathically flooded with images of passing into the Speed Force, while the Green Lantern glows with green will, resisting flashbacks to his time as Parallax.

The flood of willpower into Hal Jordan's body appears to play into the Black Lantern's goals, but before he can make good on his threat to reach into his former ally's chest, the Flash goes airborne, vaulting off a makeshift ramp made from a fallen tombstone! The crackling speedster has little influence over he and his fellow's descent, however, forcing him to compell his friend back from the visions projected into his head!

A surrounding green light gives the pair a rough but safe landing into one of the buildings below, but it's not long before the building itself begins to quake with the Black Lantern Martian Manhunter's power. He brings the entire structure down with strength comparable to Superman -- a power he notes is all too often forgotten.

Fortunately, Green Lantern is again able to protect the innocent, housing himself, Flash, and the building's occupants in an impenetrable bubble of his ring's energy. It gives the heroes a chance to regroup and strategize.

Flash encounters an unseen Martian Manhunter first, unleashing a barrage of super-fast strikes whilst appealing to better days when the two discussed their lives as agents of law enforcement. With a super-fast twist of his limbs he blows a chemical tanker into his former ally, rocketting into a devestating follow-up left hook that provokes a whimpered appeal from his opponent, "B-Barry."

Unbeknownst to him, the Flash was the victim of Martian Manhunter's telepathic attack once more, actually unleashing his beating on Green Lantern! The Lantern uses his ring to try to lift the fog and free himself, only to be entangled in the metamorphic limbs of the decayed Martian Manhunter!

The Black Lantern chokes Green Lantern out and tosses him into the night sky, returning his focuses earthbound with a slingshot of his extented limb in the direction of the Flash! It is the final blow in this opening chapter of the battle, leaving Flash sinking in the Gotham waters, while GL floats aimlessly.

The Hammer...
We got the first inclination that this fight would occur in Blackest Night #1 and it's conclusion would have to wait until the second issue of the afforementioned series. However, as an autonomous depiction of the fight, I'm going to declare Martian Manhunter the victor under the logic of rounds. A long way of saying -- welcome back to The Comic Book Fight Club!

Our traditional examinations of superhero smackdown and comic book review has all but screeched to a hault since the slowdown of early 2009. A conspiracy of events has contributed to the necessity of this retroactive backlogging, one of the most significant being the somewhat appropriate struggles of experiencing the closest personal death of my short lifespan. In that respect, I suppose I can relate to the idea of these Blackest Night comics, even if I'm not inclined to read or discuss them with that perspective.

It bares repeating -- this is officially a backlog entry, written in 2010.
You future retronauts might like to know that, as I'm writing this portion of the review during a time when Blackest Night has finally finished, working around only notes from the time when this issue was actually written (and added to the Infinite Wars to-do pile).

It was tough not to be excited about this issue the minute the cover was leaked. It was a great way to immediately engage the longterm readers who, if you were anything like me, were probably anticipating Martian Manhunter's return during his death in Final Crisis [via the Requiem one-shot]. Such was the anticipation built by the Blackest Night teaser housed in the epilogue of Sinestro Corps War!

It was a wonderfully personalized way to get the message of the event across straight away, moreso than perhaps the deaths of Hawkman and Hawkgirl in Blackest Night #1. Martian Manhunter has long been the sentimental favourite of the JLA, engendering a fond following all the way to the naked uninformed of the cartoon audience. Besides, take a look at that cover! Amidst the speculation of who would be among the Black Lantern Corps' number, the image of MM with Flash on his back and GL pounded into the ground is a pretty big statement in the most primal terms! Exciting!

History will show that Black Hand was the first official Black Lantern to enter the fray after killing himself in the previous issue of Green Lantern -- the culmination of plot points explored throughout Geoff Johns' tenure on the title. It was in solicitations for action figures, however, that we first gleaned confirmation of a Black Lantern Martian Manhunter and Earth-2 Superman, which did little to reaffirm the scale of what was to unfold over the course of 2009. The speculation game was a small part of the Infinite Wars, but was quickly rendered moot by this gradual realization that the Black Lanterns would go far beyond the structure of the Yellow Lanterns that were the first of their kind introduced by Johns.

Those are the facts as they were.
Little did I know at the time that Green Lantern #44 would be the very narrow foundation upon which a goliath event would be erected. By the time big bad Nekron showed up, much of the excitement had begun to peter out. It was the sense of mystery in the early goings that really propelled Blackest Night as not only a story, but a monthly phenomenon that pushed DC to a controlling position of the top ten monthly sales chart. GL #44 played to that beautifully, adding a second glimpse at the emotion-vision colour treatment that became a trademark of the Black Lanterns throughout the many disconnected mini-series and one-shots.

This issue was also the first indication that this was very much a story with the newly returned Barry Allen Flash and Hal Jordan Green Lantern at the centre of it. This was something I certainly had not anticipated to such a total degree, but come 2010 have embraced to it's fullest. I had extreme reservations about the notion of permanently resurrecting a character [in Flash] that had contributed such an important legacy with his fictional death back in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Between the efforts of Final Crisis, Flash: Rebirth, Blackest Night, Blackest Night: Flash, and the odd blip elsewhere, it's become very easy to take the Flash of my youth for granted once more -- something I never expected. It's a credit to the nurturing of Geoff Johns, whose greatest triumph is almost always the respect he shows for concepts and characters created decades before his birth.

It's difficult to look back on this issue with the perspective of a typical review.
When the dust has well and truly settled, it'll be interesting to go back and try to reabsorb Blackest Night in a single download. I wonder if an issue like GL #44 will remain lost in the complexity and vastness of the story's eventual design, or if the personal undertones will take on a stronger meaning. To that end, I wonder where this issue will fall in the complicated shuffling of DC's Blackest Night trade paperback program. Both this and the previous issue have a curious disconnection about them, feeling like one-shot curio rather than part of the more elaborative storyline dotpoints that populated Green Lantern later in the event.

What remains true regardless of time is the success of Doug Mahnke's draft to the A-list. His pencils were a pleasure to behold come the conclusion of Final Crisis and I was very pleased to be reading a Green Lantern with his approach. There's a confidence in his line work that isn't always easy to describe. Clean lines and solid inks provided, in this issue, by the team of Christian Alamy, Tom Guyen, Rooney Ramos, and Mahnke himself, are always a feature of Mahnke's artwork, but there's a lot more to enjoy about his compositions and treatment of the superhero/human structure. He is a worthy successor to the hyper-realists that came before him. I'm not apt enough to really give him due credit.

Which probably makes this as good a time as any to cut the review.

I have a big stack of comics to my right that have accumulated each week throughout 2009 and 2010. They are the backlog I fully intend to contribute to the site as I find the time and energy. I've given consideration to other ways to keep the site bouyant with activity, but it's my feeling that this format of fight features and reviews is just too fundamental to the blog to supplement.

In that stack of backlog issues is plenty more Blackest Night, which I hope we can mine for some interesting retrospectives and statistics for this big game we call Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

The Issue: 5.5 The Fight: 6
Winner: (Black Lantern) Martian Manhunter

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