Friday, November 02, 2018

Blackest Night (DC)
Blackest Night #2 When: October 2009
Why: Geoff Johns How: Ivan Reis

The Story So Far...
In the forbidden zone of Space Sector 666: the landing sight of the defeated Anti-Monitor has given rise to a mysterious black battery. This was the dawning of a War of Light prophesized by the Guardians of Oa!

The first sacrifice was William Hand: the death-obsessed villain known as Black Hand who willingly becomes the avatar of the coming Black Lantern Corps! Across the galaxy - the dead will join him as undead ranks consuming the living to charge their black battery!

Every hero who discovers this cosmic conspiracy risks being claimed! On the beach of Amnesty Bay, the new King of Atlantis follows Mera to seek the remains of his former mentor and king. Garth aims to strengthen his rule by returning Aquaman's remains to the tombs of Atlantis, but will soon find the dweller of the deep now walks the earth as an undead Black Lantern!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Aquaman 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Aquaman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Tempest 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Aquaman 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Tula 2 (Average)
Fighting: Aquaman 4 (Trained)
Energy: Tempest 6 (Mass Destruction)
Total: Tempest 28 (Metahuman)

The dead are rising across the galaxy like a tidal wave of terror, but the Black Lantern Corps aren't your average zombies! They're an endlessly regenerating super-powered horde: cosmically charged by Black Lantern rings that're drawn to the emotional spectrum their shambling corpses inspire in the living!

Aquaman is recently deceased and perfectly poised to inspire intense emotions in his former wife Mera, and the new King of Atlantis: Tempest!

Emotional provocation adds an unexpected dimension to the battle, but Mera & Tempest are masters of hydrokinesis: techniques for manipulating water in a variety of states for offensive and defensive capabilities.

We saw Mera generate a hard water bubble to contain Ocean Master's explosive weaponry in Adventure Comics #444. The power of the pounding surf is one way they could keep their resurrected king at bay. Tempest also wields a vast array of magic powers. Things aren't necessarily as simple as that, though...

With every heart consumed, the Black Lantern Corps share an increased charge. Their rings allow them to regenerate from any injury, fly, and manifest solid structures similar to a Green Lantern. Aquaman arrives with the Black Lantern at a low charge, but can theoretically match any hydrokinetic creations with constructs of his own.

Aquaman can also still telepathically command marine life, albeit in the form of the ocean's dead! We saw him beat Sub-Mariner with the aid of a whale in the controversial crossover clash of Marvel versus DC #2. Imagine what he could do with an army of everything John West rejects! [They sell tinned fish, kids.]

Mera & Tempest will also have Dolphin and one-time Aquagirl Tula to contend with! Both had romantic ties to Tempest before they met their untimely demise, and both are making their Comic Book Fight Club debuts.

This early in the Blackest Night game nobody really knows what they're dealing with. Mera & Tempest are caught completely by surprise and their best bet may just be to use hard water to cut and run! Let's see how it went...

The Tape: Black Lantern Corps Ranking: Aquaman (#40)

What Went Down...
Arriving at the land grave of their former King: Atlantean soldiers are shocked to find his grave already disturbed! Through the thick fog emerges the greyed vision of Black Lantern Aquaman - his face twisted by decay and bitterness!

The former King drowns his subjects in vitriol and dark energy, claiming one of their fear-filled hearts to bring the Black Lantern charge to 2.63%!

Tempest reacts - sending the fresh bodies scattering as he rejects the former king as a fake. Molten red energy blasts Aquaman's body with accusation, magically igniting the air around him as his undead body refuses to burn!

The undead body's stubbornness is matched in voice as he questions Tempest's legitimacy as new King of Atlantis. Former Queen Mera intervenes - thrusting the points of her trident into her former lover's chest!

The unaffected corpse looms over his former wife and alludes to a romantic affair with the late heroine Dolphin. He stares blankly, offering mock apology for making Mera jealous as the Black Lantern Dolphin makes her presence known!

She reminds them all she found romance with Tempest after their fling, raking her fingers across his chest to draw blood! The young King finds himself caught between two former loves, as the Black Lantern Aquagirl claims him as well!

Tula clutches the shocked Tempest by the fabric of his uniform and hurls him towards the glass top of a nearby lighthouse! She chides him for her ill-fated career as Aquagirl and his promise of true love as he crashes uncontrollably!

On the rocky shores, Aquaman swats Mera away from her trident and demands she tell him if she misses their deceased son. She holds firm to the memory of the man he was, believing the real Arthur never demanded anything of her.

Surviving soldiers emerge from the chopping sea with weapons drawn. They race to Mera's aid in the name of Atlantis, but their bravery is short-lived. Aquaman declares he is still King - summon undead sharks to the slaughter!

Aquaman reaches for his Queen's heart, but she rejects him with the fury of the sea! His body is washed from her presence with great crashing waves!

Tempest struggles to rally his own counter-strike, magically unleashing the cold of the arctic sea in a focused blast! It freezes the lurching Dolphin at the head and shoulders for Mera to shatter with her reclaimed trident!

Triumph is short-lived as Tempest contends with Tula smashing him through more lighthouse glass -- and Mera finds the headless Dolphin reconstituting as its headless body continues to grapple with her weapon!

King Tempest radiates with hope that Tula can fight the darkness gripping her, but hope is his undoing. The intense emotion allows Aquagirl to plunge her hand deep into his chest and remove his heart. Garth of Earth is welcomed to the darkness with the darting arrival of a Black Lantern power ring.

Black energy engulfs Tempest's body and sends a shockwave that throws Mera helplessly flying inland! She crashes into a car in a parking lot as the undead Aquaman Family calls to her! Masked by fog, Mera has no choice but to run.

The Hammer...
Wow! The significance of Blackest Night warranted frequent reference in the years that followed, but I don't think I've seriously looked at Blackest Night #2 since it was released in 2009! I forgot just how dramatic the early issues were!

The Black Lantern return of Aquaman occupies a majority of this issue, but was easily overlooked, given the massive scale and mystery surrounding the DC-wide event, and the bitter state of the Aquaman property in the late 2000s.

The original Aquaman was finally killed off in 2007's Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #50, but not before he was mutated beyond recognition as the squid-faced "Orin, Dweller of the Depths". If you're picturing that guy from the Sega video game ComixZone - it wasn't anywhere near that fun.

It was some kind of misguided effort to clean the slate, and lean-in to a new era of sword & sorcery in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean and World of Warcraft. Not a bad idea in and of itself, but riddled with unattractive propositions, not the least of which was a different almost identical Arthur Curry assuming the mantle of Aquaman. An utterly pointless and unnecessary move.

If this treatment of Aquaman all sounds pretty stupid in hindsight - it was. In fact, it was pretty stupid at the time! A handful of short-lived revamps, and hangover from the nineties hook-handed beardy era, had started to feed into a sense that there actually wasn't a place of relevance for Aquaman in the modern comics landscape. Which is ridiculous on a lot of levels.

Fortunately, Blackest Night #2 restores Aquaman to his classic self, with a lot of emphasis on calling him Arthur Curry. It was the first step in a restoration process begun by the great Geoff Johns, continued with a bona fide resurrection in Brightest Day. A needlessly circuitous route back to basics, but welcomed.

I don't have a lot of love for the New 52 or DCEU, but both efforts have kept the Aquaman ball in the air. The days of self-loathing jabs seem to be a thing of the past. We're going to get an Aquaman movie next month, and we're living in an age when even Mera is a starring character in her own right. Not bad! I'm still looking at mid-seventies Adventure Comics as the evergreen example of quality Aquaman comics, but it's all relative.

I don't have strong feelings about Dolphin and Tula, but I will be sure to make some time in the future to take a closer look at Tula's death. She was one of the less significant victims of Crisis on Infinite Earths, poisoned by Chemo in issue #9. One of many deepcuts found throughout Blackest Night, which managed to revive a lot of continuity, despite being all about death.

Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of Blackest Night. I'm sure we'll be talking more about that. If you can't wait until then, you can always pick yourself up a collected edition via the embedded Amazon link provided! Doing so will keep Secret Wars on Infinite Earths among the living at no extra cost to you!

You can also find plenty more Blackest Night, Aquaman, and Halloween horrors by diving into the Secret Archive! Resurrect your favourite battles of the past by referencing links indexed by publisher, series, and issue number.

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Winners: Aquaman, Tula & Dolphin
#32 (+8) Aquaman [+4 kills]
#194 (new) Tula [+1 kill]
#316 (new) Dolphin
#549 (-10) Mera
#861 (new) Tempest (Garth)

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