Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hero of the Week #31: Black Hand

Real Name: William Hand
First Appearance: Green Lantern #29 (June, 1964)
Group Affiliation: Black Lantern Corps
Gaming Credentials: DC Universe Online (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #603

If you read the penultimate HOTW for 2009 [The Hood], then you already the score -- I'm finishing the year with representatives from the corporate "big two" and I'm forgoing my usual desire to tie that somehow to video games. I've regularly brought a comic book perspective to aspects of video games and I suppose I'll just have to embrace that (unless you offer gainful employment to freelance writers who could use the work, and are really willing to change this time! No, really!!! BABY!!!).

If you read the afforementioned previous HOTW, you probably also noted a hint of cynicism toward the once proud House of Ideas. At the beginning of the decade, they were instrumental to turning around the slump comics incurred in the mid-to-late nineties, reinvigorating the creative landscape of four-colour heroes with a renewed emphasis on characters and urban pseudo-realism. By the middle of the double-ohs, many of the key players in Marvel's turnaround were elevated into new positions of power, and sadly, their touch wasn't as golden at the top. A problem DC hasn't struggled with as they elevated some of their brightest talent from writers-for-hire, to architects of a DC Universe that will hopefully find it's way into the MMO gamespace in 2010. [There's that game connection!]

At the forefront of DC's hike to the top has been Geoff Johns, who's of special note today for his role in moving forward the Green Lantern franchise and spinning his work out into the DC-wide undead extravaganza that has been Blackest Night!

Putting a face to the name, at least until the real big bad revealed himself, was Black Hand: a villain who started the year a typically trounced upon halfwit out to cause problems, and has ended it as one of the most threatening figures in comics! As a scion of Nekron -- guardian of the universe and master of the dead -- Black Hand hasn't actually been dishing all that much mayhem himself, but like any general, is as culpable for raising armies of undead Black Lantern versions of characters as the murderous zombie-lanterns themselves. Moreso, if you consider the notion that the exhumed bodies are merely psychologically intriguing vessels through which Nekron is attacking the heroes!

It was in Green Lantern #45 that readers were introduced to the first official Black Lantern -- Black Hand himself! Detailed in an entire issue dedicated solely to the villain was a man twisted and demented, so obsessed with death that he had become barely human, ultimately willing to murder his entire family as a sacrifice to his idol, Nekron. In that story, Black Hand was elevated with a single chilling page, depicting his own suicide! The sinister and slightly disturbing character study, a trademark of Geoff Johns, and a terrific way to establish the creepy tone of the event and it's villain!

Blackest Night wasn't the only story to put DC on top in 2009, but it was instrumental to one of their first sales victories in an estimated four decades! Blackest Night #4, along with several related issues, pushed DC into the top six slots of top ten issues sold in October 2009 -- a rare win for the company who've often failed to garner the same blind dedication Marvel's media presence has. Of course, events like Batman: Reborn and Flash: Rebirth have also kept DC bouyant in the 'event' stakes, while quieter efforts have maintained the company's prestige when it comes to more experimental fare.

Just as they did in the comics; DC also succeeded in defying expectations and redefining what it means to make a licensed video game. Batman: Arkham Asylum was an undisputed Game of the Year contender for it's high-concept simplicity, attention to franchised detail, and competence in bringing a character to life whose exploits in the medium have often been less than admirable. It's little wonder that we're now looking toward a Batman sequel -- to say nothing of their efforts to crack the MMO genre open with story-driven adventures, free roaming superheroics that have the potential to defy the standard of stat-counting, and the iconic characters gaining traction in all mediums, in DC Universe Online!

Blackest Night player, Sinestro, is confirmed for DCU Online, while Black Hand remains an outsider possibility.

DC won't be able to rest on their laurels in 2010, however, as Marvel initiate their Siege counterfire that already looks like a vast improvement over some of their recent failures. It also paints a stark contrast to the continuation of DC's Blackest Night juggernaut, which, although well orchestrated and enjoyable for it's simplicity, has been spread quite thin! Fortunately, there's plenty on the DC horizon with announcements preparing fans for the return of Bruce Wayne from his in-universe fake-out death, and a new effort to explore original graphic novels with a pair of single-volume stories coming in the form of Earth-One Batman, and Superman.

With that, we bring 2009 to a close!
Barring unforseen distraction, we'll do it all over again in 2010 with a brand new sweep of influences to steer observation across the world of superheroes and beyond! If you haven't quite had enough for this year, ring in the new one with more me via the Best of 2009 recap, or head over to The Comic Book Fight Club and vote in the Annual Year-End Infinite Wars DC vs Marvel Fantasy Fights, whilst wondering why updates stop at July. Hey, it's been a big year, and you are my favourite readers!

Happy New Year, folks!
Hope it's a good one for us all!

In case you missed them, DC's 2009 HOTWs: Batman (06/08); The Flash (06/15); Green Lantern (06/29); Superman (07/13); Hawkman (07/20); Batman (08/11); Aquaman (08/17); The Joker (08/25); Scarecrow (09/05); Green Arrow (10/04); The Flash (10/18); Solomon Grundy (11/01); Dr. Fate (11/15); The Sandman (11/22); Two-Face (12/13); Black Hand (12/31).

<< Hero of the Week 01/08: Wonder Woman       [Home]       Hero of the Week 12/27: The Hood >>

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