How Do You Top Blackest Night?

I'm not really up on my Mayan eschatology, but between you and me, I am starting to get a little worried about the End Times.

First, let me set the scene for what my in-laws would call "all this frettin'." As a comic reader, I feel that right now– this exact moment of 2009– is an outstanding time to be me. By that, what I mean is "it is great to be a Marvel zombie who returned to comics shortly after the X-Men movie came out and dipped his toe into DC Comics for the first time with Identity Crisis." At the moment, each of the two titans of comic book publishing are in the midst of storylines that pay off so thoroughly for the very specific niche I occupy that I'm almost insulted when I pick up a copy of Blackest Night and it doesn't have my initials embossed on the cover or something.

"I'm sorry," I am occasionally heard saying on Wednesdays, "where is the Jimski monogram variant of this week's Green Lantern?… What do you mean, 'I'm sorry, sir, but you are nobody?'"

Anyway: my entrée into the DC Universe was a miniseries in which the most important superheroes in the world found themselves threatened by the deaths of the civilians closest to them. Who was this killer, and how did he/she know everyone's secret identity? Wives were murdered; parents were murdered. Throughout the series, the reader was given a de facto primer on the relationships in this world. How did Batman relate to Green Arrow? How did Green Arrow relate to Wonder Woman? For the 21st century newcomer, it was like a grisly guidebook. The fact that people online were crying, "My God: Sue Dibny!" or "Jean Loring would never do that!" said as much as the book itself to those of us who were still saying, "I assume this is going to turn out to be Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty again, right? They are Superman's only foes, as I understand it."

Fast forwarding to the present day, we find ourselves with Blackest Night, a galaxy-spanning storyline in which the emotions that all sentient life have in common are threatening to tear existence apart. It turns out that Green Lanterns (who represent the forces of Stubbornness and Not Tipping When The Service Was Inadequate) have to join forces with lanterns of many other colors, including purple (the color of Your Ex-Girlfriend in Her Underpants), red (the color of Oooooh I Could Just Vomit On You), and orange (the color of Greed Despite The Fact That Green Has Meant Envy Since Forever But Whatever You Say, Shakespeare) to defeat the Black forces of the Risen Dead. Suddenly, the only things I know about the DC Universe become relevant again as all of the people who were killed during Identity Crisis make their triumphant, passive-aggressive return as mean, articulate zombies who insult the heroes to death. I can only imagine what it must be like to read this story actually knowing who all these characters are.

On the other side of comical current events, we have Brian Bendis' Siege, which is just ramping up and bringing to a close the Dark Reign storyline that has been omnipresent all year like so many sparkly vampires. I know that some of you have said, "I tire of this! I do not enjoy seeing Norman Osborn's ridged skull popping up in every book I read," and that is fine. I've enjoyed it enough for me, you, and that creepy kid at the shop who talks into his collar and snorts when he laughs. Maybe it's just that, between House of M, Civil War, and World War Hulk, so many of the "big" stories have been about heroes turning on each other over the years that a good old fashioned bad guy doing evil is a satisfying change of pace. The fact that the villain holds all the cards and has been set up as an American political hero hits all of my favorite metaphor buttons to boot; a world in which the guys in charge are evil, manipulative lunatics is a world I understand, and at least in fiction they get their comeuppance.

And comeuppance is coming for Norman Osborn and his funhouse mirror Avengers; make no mistake about it. Knowing that in advance has not dimished my enjoyment at all as dominoes Marvel set up three years ago start falling. When you get right down to it, you knew six books ago that Harry Potter was going to whup Voldemort, but that didn't stop you from reading; it kept you reading. If anything, as someone who got back into comics exactly when I did, it feels like the epic that was starting its engine just as I was buckling in at Avengers Disassembled is finally in the home stretch. Every time I open a book lately, I find myself squealing, "It's all happening!" I'm exactly like Kate Hudson in Almost Famous, except that I'll do something else good in my career.

have you been clamoring for this?So, for the first time in my life, both of the major superhero publishers are telling a story that has me on the edge of my seat. One of them, I have been following forever; the other, I just started mainlining directly into my veins about a month ago. Both are about to reach their sense-shattering pinnacle, culminating after years of build-up….

…and then what?

How can you possibly follow either of these stories?

At the end of every major event Marvel's heroes have faced in the 21st century, the resulting change in the status quo has been ripe with new story possibilities that I couldn't wait to see play out. No one knew who to trust. Hero turned against hero. Good guys became outlaws. Now, as the villains inevitably overreach and turn against each other and heroes reunite to vanquish them, I'm a little sad to see all the delicious twists of the knife coming to an end. I keep hearing whispers about the coming "Heroic Age" and having Skrull nostalgia. People are cheering and breathing into paper bags over a picture of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America reunited, but when I saw it I thought, "Hey, I remember that classic Avengers lineup!, from back when I was aggressively bored by the Avengers." I trust the writers, but it's tough to get too excited. I have this image in my head of Norman Osborn being loaded into a paddy wagon, everyone high-fiving, and then walking into the sunset past a street sign that reads, "You Are Now Entering 1978 Again."

Similarly, after reading all that Geoff Johns has done to develop the Green Lantern mythos, peeling back layer after layer, I can't help wondering what happens after we just get to the center of the onion. Everything before Blackest Night was like that slow ascent to the top of the roller coaster– tick tick tick ticktickticktick!— and now we're whooshing around upside down at 70 miles per hour, but how do you follow that? Isn't the next arc inevitably the story equivalent of getting off the ride and having a funnel cake? It's hard to top saving the universe from Death.

A lot of my trepidation is probably just due to the fact that I'm in a self-imposed media blackout. If I were behaving like I usually do, I'd have probably read ten interviews by now where Brian Bendis and Geoff Johns spell out exactly what they're doing next and how exciting it's going to be. Still, I increasingly find myself saying, "How will our heroes get out of this one?" and referring to the writers, not the characters.


Jim Mroczkowski will still pay top dollar if this all ends with the Sentry dying horribly. He would welcome your reassurances via Twitter.


  1. This is a great analysis of the current state of these events.  Thanks for posting it!  And I love the rundown of the different color lanterns; I will link to this from now on whenever people ask me (for some reason that is slightly baffling since I have often and loudly expressed my preference for ‘Green Lantern books where they don’t go into space’) what the different colors mean.

  2. Wonderful.  Jimski, you have topped yourself.  I laughed and cried (in that order).  This may be the best article you (or anyone else) have ever written.  Every point is made concisely and concretely.  How are you going to top this???

    To be honest, I fully expect Grant Morrison (or someone like him [or maybe even James Robinson in JLA]) to jump in and pull the rug out from under the DCU after everything stabilizes post Blackest Night.  I don’t know who will play that role in Marvel’s 616 (simply because I don’t follow it, not because I don’t think they have the talent).

    This was a fun article.  It made me happy to be a comic book fan. 

  3. Let’s not try to follow these events right away. How about a radical idea and let us have a status-quo for a couple of years.  Let’s explore the ramifications of these events and at least let us have a semblance of normality to catch our breaths before the next big event.

  4. Well Geof Johns is staying on Green Lantern, but I think his next big crossover would be Flash related, something on the level of Sinestro Corps War, which is truly how a crossover should be done. it would involve Hal Jordan, just like Blackest Night involves large ammounts of Barry Allen.

  5. Marvel has said that there will be no event or DR style story following Siege, but whether or not they stick to that, or are already lying, remains to be seen.

  6. Great article.

  7. Good stuff here – that is always the question to ask after roller coaster rides such as Blackest Night.  How exactly do you top it?  And if DC and Marvel are true to their word, they will scale it down a notch to get more self-contained stories/crossovers going (like Sinestro Corps War or Messiah Complex) so that we don’t burn out on events.  But like @stuclach said, they can easily sweep everything away again and get a new event going if the sales show that people are still interested in these.

  8. I dunno, there were good comics before events, y’know? Are "Dark Reign" and "Blackest Night" even looked at as SUPREMELY great comics? They’re fun, but I think even the biggest GL fans, for example, would say that they enjoyed plenty of regular GL issues as much or more than Blackest Night. I think Dark Reign has been okay, but I don’t get why the mentality is "How can this be topped?" Surely fans of Dark Reign have enjoyed Bendis/MU stories that weren’t really tied into an event.

    It’s not that I think the event-centric "How can this be topped?" mentality is necessarily bad (on the part of the reader or on the part of the publisher), but my point is that there’s a vast landscape out there in which you don’t have to be hooked on "What’s next?!?!?!" If you’re bored by whatever passes for the status quo of the Marvel U after The Siege, my advice to you would be to pick up Bone, or Sandman, or older Marvel stuff that did the status quo well, or a novel from the early 1900s–or learn woodworking, or take a computer programming class, or try to date someone, or get a new pet.

    Does it really MATTER whether Marvel and DC "top" the current events? Isn’t that like asking for their hype-machine to jazz you up even more? I understand where this thinking comes from–it’s natural to ask this–but I think if people broadened their horizons a bit then the question becomes sort of beside the point. There’s just so much else to do in life, that these questions don’t really matter to me. Just my opinion.

    (It’s posts like this that are probably the reason why iFanboy never spotlights my reviews. Sorry to be a downer; from my pov, I’m just being a realist and trying to be thoughtful.)

  9. If Geoff Johns is writing the next DC event, he will be able to top Blackest Night.

    Then again you could say the same about Morrison. Whenever that Multiversity title comes out that could definitely top Blackest Night. Morrison writing Captain Marvel? Score!

  10. @flapjaxx: People prefer Green Lantern because most of Blackest Night actually occured in that book.


    Also, Jimski, I got into the current DCU with 52. Now, that was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

  11. @flapjaxx – So asking "Where do we go from here?" isn’t a legitimate question?

  12. Oh, how badly I want a edit button.

    @flapjaxx: Also, I think Jim was saying it in the context of the length of the stories. Blackest Night and Dark Reign aren’t self contained, they are culmination of stories taht have been running for as long as half-a-decade. How do you tell this long-form, over-arching story and follow it up? Of course, I know Johns as something in store for Flash, whereas Bendis will still be on the eventually renumbered Avengers, with Thor, Cap and Tony sitting around and talking. The suspense and tension will be set-up masterfully, with a incredibly underwhelming pay-off.

  13. Nobody’s heard of DC’s next events: Crisis of Infinite Lanterns, Infinite Night, and Final Night?  

  14. I should mention, because my article did not communicate this well and I am bad at my job, that I’m not really looking for the next event or asking for bigger-louder-more. What I am really thinking about is that, after years of one event leading to another event leading to a bigger event leading to a cataclysm leading to a crescendo, can you really just hit the brakes without getting whiplash? Can you exclaim "the universe will never be the same!" every six months for five years and then just shift gears to "actually, the universe will be kinda quiet and same-ish" without it being a little weird? And what does it look like when you try?

  15. @Jimski, I’ve been wondering the same thing about these kinds of events. Let’s just take the current ones for example. Let’s say the heroes beat death (duh.) What does that mean for the universe? What does that make the status quo? Does this open more storytelling possibilities or close them off? Dark Reign: The heroes topple the madman with the bad haircut. Wouldn’t the public still be somewhat against them? The world is "back to normal"? Isn’t that a little boring?

     I for one like all the turmoil we’ve been in. So what if we haven’t gotten a lot of "Spidey swings in and beats up the muggers" types of stories? We’ve seen those hundreds if not thousands of times before. Keep messing with the status quo! Keep "damaging" characters. (i’ll never understand that phrase) The number one thing: KEEP PISSING OFF FANBOYS! (it leads to the best storytelling.) 

  16. @IroncladMerc


  17. Great Article. I think for DC we’re going to see a number of "mini-Events" that are contained to a single title or a family of titles. I know Post-Blackest Night there’s a Superman event that book end’s New Krypton. The supposed Batman event that will happen after Batman & Robin #12. Probably a Flash/Kid Flash crossover. And I actually think that model will work better for a time.

    Marvel has kind of adopted it too. 2009 was supposed to be Marvel’s year without an event. Only you had War of Kings running through the summer, Realm of Kings starting up and such. I’m sure there’s a Post-Siege event coming ("Day Like No Other…" maybe?). What it will be. 

    While both events/"stati quo" have their pros and cons, I think the issue with "Dark Reign" fatigue comes from the portrayal of Norman outside the scope of Dark/New Avengers.  

    @Neb Joke Fail: Final Night was already a DC event. 😉

    @anson17 Actually, I think you’re forgetting that Geoff Johns’ writing tends to be very fanboy-appeasing. 😉 

  18. Your Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty comment makes me think of how difficult a time I had getting Michael Keaton out of my head as Bruce Wayne. 

    I’m tempted to set GL down after Blackest Night (and I love Johns run on GL), but this is beginning to feel like that point where the story just has to end "for me". If Hal’s recent talks with Sinestro indicate anything, it’s that he’ll be leaving the Corps after Blackest Night and I just don’t know if that’s a story I can get into.   

  19. FACE: Hal ain’t leaving the Corps; he’s taking over. 🙂

    TNC: I can’t think of anything more horrible to happen to Captain Marvel than Grant Morrison.

    Jimski: Great article. 🙂


  20. @Prax. That actually kinda bothers me. People bitch and moan anytime any writer kills or maims or does something "out of character" with someone, but Johns tends to get a free pass. Why? 

    Personally, I think "character damage" is a good thing. Anytime you make a fanboy bitch and moan about character choices that tends to mean you’re trying something different. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that fanboys fear change.

  21. @Diabhol: Actually their is something worse; it could be Judd Winni…oh!

  22. GREAT article, Jimski.  Every Monday, your contribution to this site is (for me, sorry other writers) the top non-podcast portion of iFanboy.

    I hope that what both companies will be going for is quality, more self-contained stories all of which are fighting for attention.  If everything is really good on it’s own, we as readers will still want to buy everything.  Thus the sales continue to stay high.  The goal appears to be to simulate what would happen if Miller’s Daredevil, Claremont’s X-Men, Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four, McFarlane’s Spider-Man, David’s Hulk, and a combination of Bendis’ Avengers and Busiek/Perez Avengers are all happening simultaneously.  This kind of autonomous line-wide greatness should theoretically keep sales high.

  23. I’m not sure if bringing these over-arching storylines to a close necessarily means sweeping everything under the rug. There’s going to be fallout from both events and, as with the likes of Secret Invasion, Civil War or the Criseseses before them, writers that want to explore the ramifications will probably do so in their respective books. The Avengers titles have been so driven by these major events since Civil War (arguably before even that event with Disassembled sowing the seeds for Secret Invasion), that I can’t imagine Bendis not wanting to touch on anything arising out of Siege. Ditto Geoff Johns and Green Lantern, which is slightly different in that it has been the main driving force behind Blackest Night.

  24. I think anyone fearing the end (for now) of universe wide events should look at Spider-Man. That book benefits from being out 3 times a month, but it has been almost entirely self contained and baring 1 or 2 arcs has been superb. 

    When Jimski asks, what next? I think we should all be expecting something like spider-man, where there are villains and developments and REAL status quo changes. Its been so long since we had a "Normal" universe that it hard to spot it.

    I for one am looking forward to no events. I can buy my usual titles without worrying about whether I am missing out on some larger story and have fun with the characters I love, in a world where their actions matter.

  25. free ideas…

     Start writing love stories between super heroes, make a few of them gay. 

     Tackle social issues like why are all heroes white.

    Have them complain why some of them have health care and others don’t. 

    Have them do their rounds and complain all day why their job sucks, so I can relate to them.

    My fav: Have the heroes stop evil looking villians (goateed and mustached ones)from robbing a bank, smack right at lunch time! All while trying to maintain their secret identity from their love interest!

    I’ll call it the Gold (plated) Age.

  26. Jimski, they’re topping this by having Geoff Johns and Kurt Vonnegut (recently resurrected during issue 7 of Blackest Night) write the New Avengers title, tentatively titled Dark Origin of The Secret Reigh, as well as having Brian Michael Bendis, Joss Whedon, and William Shakespeare (who, as any B+ level lit student can tell you was a mutant, and therefore eligible to be brought back during Necrosha) write an enormous crossover between the Green Lantern Corps, Harry Potter, the Twilight franchise, Batman, the X-Men, and Futurama.  These events will be so brain shattering that they’ll have no choice but to follow those events with Archie comic crossovers written by Danielle Steele, and penciled by Rob Liefeld’s three year old nephew (who, draws feet much better than you’d imagine).

     Great article, by the way, how many inkers did you use on this one?

  27. "Let’s not try to follow these events right away. How about a radical idea and let us have a status-quo for a couple of years.  Let’s explore the ramifications of these events and at least let us have a semblance of normality to catch our breaths before the next big event."

    I fully endorse this.