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Blackest Night: Batman #2
writer: Peter J. Tomasi
artists: Adrian Syaf and John Dell

Reading this issue brings home how cookie-cutter superhero motivations have become. Better armchair psychologists than I could explain Freudian or Jungian impulses that boil down to, as Scott Kurtz once put it in an on-line Batman story, "MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!"

Think I'm shooting in the dark here? Geoff Johns reinvigorated/recreated the motivations of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen by doing what? Retconning a dead parent. In fact, Barry now carries the guilt of believing that his father was wrongly incarcerated for the murder of his mother. That beacon of hope and light has an even more screwed up motivation than Bruce Wayne, if you think about it too much. But if sales are any indication, we eat it up.

Yet it's kind of odd to process that every single male member of the Batman Family has that drive. Granted, we know that Damian Wayne will sooner or later be reunited with his presumed dead father, but right now, he's the only person who has worn the mantle of Robin with a living parent. Even Jason Todd, not appearing in this issue, lost both parents on his way to becoming Batman's sidekick.

As for those who do appear here, we've got a grotesque family reunion here. The Flying Graysons take their name to a whole new level of meaning with their Black Lantern rings, and though it doesn't seem that long ago that Tim Drake would have done anything to see his parents again, he's sorry he ever wished it.

Luckily at least one Batfamily member has living parents; Barbara Gordon cannot be attacked by the actualization of survivor's guilt. She and her father take a lone stand against an onslaught of undead villains, one of which again raises the question of what exactly the Black Lanterns are.

Moreso than the main series, Blackest Night: Batman keeps accidentally delving into their nature. In the first issue, it becomes clear that no matter what Geoff Johns thinks, at least one writer believes that the Black Lanterns are not literally the resurrection of dead DC characters. Boston Brand aka Deadman has allied himself with the Batfamily, possessing characters and helping them run from the Black Lanterns - which makes for a great sequence with the Gordons. However, there's also a Black Lantern version of Deadman running around.

Here, too, is a Black Lantern Ventriloquist, with several avatars of Scarface. The thing sticking in my craw here is that Scarface isn't quite dead and isn't quite alive - and if you're arguing with me that he's just a wooden dummy anyway, then you haven't been keeping up. There's powerful magic in that doll, and even Zatanna doesn't like him.

Lest anybody think I'm nitpicking, let me get on the record that the Blackest Night crossovers have so far been a surprise to me for not being a waste of money. Tomasi is a good writer, solid with both characterization and pacing. A lot happens here, and he can get into the heads of his heroes in a way that the main book, with its more epic scope, simply can't as a matter of space.

That said, here's my final question raised with this book - unlike other crossovers where reality just sort of rights itself at the end of the Crisis, Blackest Night sets up a disturbing status quo that just can't be satisfyingly undone. Reading the main book, I thought Black Lanterns were only going after superheroes and villains; here, they're taking out cops. And if they're taking out cops, they're really taking out everybody.

Zombie movies end without really exploring the aftermath; what kind of world is left after the dead rose and you got rid of them? It's hard to imagine that after this event, you wouldn't have a severely depopulated Earth with a majority of the population suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. At the LEAST.

You could wish it away - or perhaps hope it away - but that seems more and more like a cheat as the stakes get higher and higher. So what is DC going to do, except perhaps create a lot more superheroes with so many ordinary citizens suffering the devastating loss of their parents.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think!

Derek McCaw


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