Blackest Night, the latest DC Comics mega-event, starts today with Blackest Night #1. If you're looking for some kickass undead superhero action but haven't been diligently memorizing every obscure tidbit of Green Lantern continuity, here's everything you need to know.
I may just be an eternal optimist (or, you know, a fool), but Blackest Night might just be the comic book event that actually delivers on all the hype. It's got what is fundamentally a compelling, straightforward premise (every dead superhero - scratch that, every dead character rises from the grave). The backdrop is suitably epic (a war between eight different Lantern Corps). The creative team has an encouraging track record (main writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have been doing some of DC's best stuff in recent years, and the art is being handled by the likes of Ivan Reis and Ed Benes). And, if nothing else, Blackest Night is the conclusion of what has thus far been a very satisfying trilogy, with both Green Lantern: Rebirth and Sinestro Corps War standing as bright spots in DC's recent history.
All that said, it's probably not going to be the easiest event to pick up without any background knowledge. After all, this is the culmination of a story at least five years in the making, and there are at least two dozen plot lines already in motion before the series even begins. So here's our Blackest Night primer, which will attempt to cover all the basics as well as highlight a few of the more obscure details that might just prove crucial to the entire epic.
How did we get to this point?
You could trace the roots of Blackest Night to a whole lot of places. Obviously, there's Green Lantern: Rebirth and Sinestro Corps War, Geoff Johns's two previous epics that both laid important groundwork for what's going to play out over the next eight months. There's also "Tygers", Alan Moore's 1986 story from Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2, which prophesied much of what Geoff Johns brought to pass in Sinestro Corps War and has provided (with some minor revisions) one of Blackest Night's major antagonists. But, for my money, all of this really goes back to the death of Superman.
What are the different Lantern Corps, and what do they want?
Even if you've got a good handle on the admittedly complicated backstory to Blackest Night, that still leaves seven new Corps to keep track of. The colors themselves are actually fairly easy to remember, as they're the same as the colors of the rainbow. That's right - it's time to bust out the old ROY G BIV mnemonic, because it's pretty much the entire key to Blackest Night. Well, that and the black light of the Black Lantern Corps. That's probably important as well.
Who's coming back to life?
It would probably be easier to list which dead characters aren't coming back as Black Lanterns. If I had to guess, maybe Jor-El is safe, if only because Krypton's explosion probably didn't leave a body behind. Everybody else? They're all fair game. (And honestly, I'm not all that sure about Jor-El either.)
What roles are the various human Green Lanterns going to play?
Since the "mantle" of Green Lantern is actually a position in an intergalactic police force, it makes sense that there are so many active claimants to the title. With five human Green Lanterns currently operating (only the four Flashes come close to matching this), Blackest Night has the difficult job of giving all of them something to do. Fortunately, the preceding arcs in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps (not to mention some peeks ahead at DC's solicitations for the next few months) provide a good sense of what we can expect for each Green Lantern.
With all that in mind, what books do I actually need to read?
DC Comics has gotten into a good habit in recent years in making its events fairly easy to follow, with one main book and a limited group of supporting titles. Final Crisis, for instance, was pretty much completely contained to books that actually carried the "Final Crisis" banner, and Blackest Night will be similar.