You know, when I was given the chance to review these Tales from the Dark Multiverse stories, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to handle “What If?” tales from some of my favourite properties. Knightfall, The Death of Superman, Blackest Night, Infinite Crisis and The Judas Contract – all iconic tales worthy of darker renditions.

You’d think someone who wanted to review their spin-off stories would be smart enough to have read all of them.

In my defense, I’m a big fan of Infinite Crisis and The Judas Contract, and have read both of them… but Knightfall and The Death of Superman are LUDICROUSLY long. I made sure to do my research, of course, and I certainly watched their adaptations, but I couldn’t read their massive tomes from cover-to-cover. Fortunately, those Dark Multiverse issues didn’t require much knowledge of the event when going into it. I had no such excuse for Blackest Night, which is both a recent and relatively short event to read. So, I sat my stupid ass down and read the damn thing. I only read the main issues, so I ended up lacking some context; but it still managed to be a tight, cohesive and solid read, with some genuinely dark moments.

So, where do you go from a story like Blackest Night? How do writer Tim Seeley and penciller Kyle Hotz take a story that’s already rooted in death, and make it even darker?

Well, they add Lobo, of course. Obviously. You idiot.

I have to say, this issue is nothing like what I expected. Fresh off the heals of reading Blackest Night, going from Geoff Johns’ writing to Tim Seeley’s is a little jarring. While there is a noticeable difference in style, neither is bad; I’m actually a huge fan of Seeley’s work. A comic like this is exactly what I should expect from one of the writers behind the excellent Grayson, and more recently, Money Shot (which is exactly what it sounds like, but in space!). Seeley has taken a setting we’re familiar with and brought together a strange, but fitting, cast of characters – the story reminds me a lot of DCeased: A Good Day to Die, and that works to the comic’s favour. Unlike that one-shot, this issue is completely self-contained, so they’re at liberty to do absolutely anything they want with the story. And believe me, they do.

For those of you who don’t know, Blackest Night was a huge, universe-spanning event, wherein three villains, Nekron, Black Hand and Scar, unleash the Black Lantern rings (representing Death) into the Universe, resurrecting pretty much every dead DC character into twisted, zombified versions of themselves. They were stopped by a few characters becoming White Lanterns, representing Life, who managed to reverse the effects of the rings. This story asks what would happen if Sinestro was the only White Lantern, and was unable to stop the Black Lanterns. Where would the story progress? This is where we begin this issue, and we follow Sinestro, Dove, Lobo and Mister Miracle, the only living characters that we know of, as they fight to save the Universe. You can imagine how that works out for them.

Of course, we do get most of this recapped in the beginning of the issue by a Multiversal Celestial named Tempus Fuginaut, who has chronicled each Dark Multiverse story so far.

I’m still not completely sold on his presence, as it so far doesn’t seem to be going anywhere; but his recaps of each event are actually quite useful. They’ll likely add some coherency to the trade edition – for those who have read some, but not all, of the original DC events. His dialogue, however, feels a little too verbose for me, which is a criticism I could launch at the entire book. The dialogue isn’t bad by any means: it does what it wants to do and then some, with Seeley easily differentiating the “voices” of each character.

That said, I could count on one hand how many panels don’t contain a line of dialogue. None of it gets in the way of the art, but there are points in which it feels like the action isn’t allowed to speak for itself. It’s a problem I’ve had with most of the issues in this series so far, and I think that stems from a desire to cram in as much content as possible, in order to flesh out the world we will only be seeing in this comic. That’s why I’ve never hated it that much; while you could certainly make some of the dialogue much more concise, everything that’s being said is new and interesting, and you get a good idea of how things have progressed to where they are when the story starts… and how it ends the way it does.

Lobo is, as always, fun to read, though he certainly falls prey to an overabundance of dialogue as well. Mister Miracle might not be the man you recognize if you only know him from Tom King’s work, but he’s quite believable in his role for most of the story. Dove is mainly a plot device, but you do gain some empathy for her, particularly near the end of her journey. All of these characters have a few moments that I don’t feel would normally fit with their characters, such as Lobo’s connection with Dove and a decision Mister Miracle makes near the end of the story… but when you’re writing a dark alternate universe in the span of one comic, you can’t make everything completely natural. What matters is that Seeley really nails the main character of this comic: Sinestro.

In this comic, Sinestro blames himself for not relinquishing the power of the White Lantern to the heroes, becoming half of a Black Lantern in the process. He is conflicted between his ego and his newfound humility: believing he was the best of the Lanterns, yet grappling with the fact that he alone could not save the Universe. We see him dwelling on this for much of the issue, coming to several conclusions, and facing an appropriate fate for his decisions – Dark Multiverse tales do not have happy endings, and this is no exception. Kyle Hotz should feel proud of his depiction of the villain: his design manages to accurately represent his duality without feeling just like a Two-Face reskin, and you can see that work go into all of his designs here.

Much like the writing, it’s a little awkward jumping straight from Ivan Reis’ artwork to Hotz’s, whose illustrations have a wilder, sharper and more exaggerated style. When the zombies in this story snarl, they don’t just open their mouths – their faces contort beyond recognition, and they form twisted, animal-like poses as they prepare to pounce on the main characters. It’s definitely not an easy transition if you’ve just read the original series, though I imagine it won’t be a problem if the last time you perused it was some time ago. As it stands, Hotz brings a great level of imagination and creative flair to the book, from the new Black Lantern designs (one in particular, regarding Nekron’s new vessel), to the emotion he manages to capture in even something such as Sinestro’s grizzly face.

Regardless of complaints, the Dark Multiverse books don’t need to restrain themselves with continuity, and it makes for stories that are genuinely shocking and enthralling; you DON’T know what’s going to happen on the next page, and I was surprised numerous times as I went deeper into the story… ESPECIALLY by the ending. Your mileage may vary on how you think the characters are handled in each tale, but the novelty of reading stories with these characters that you’ll never see in the main universe is too good to pass up.

Recommended If:

  • Sinestro is a character you love, and you want to see how he handles failure.
  • You enjoyed A Good Day to Die and want to see more ragtag DC groups fighting against hordes of zombies… I guess that’s kind of popular at the moment.
  • Blackest Night is an event you had a lot of fun with, and you want to see the story continue on a more cosmic scale.
  • You want to see one of the weirdest endings to a comic book that I’ve read in a while.
  • “What If?” stories are your jam!

Overall:

I plan to read all of Johns’ Green Lantern run when I have a moment, and I can’t help but wonder if my opinion on this book will change when I revisit Blackest Night and check out its tie-ins. Have I missed something about this book? Not sure! But I’m happy to say that it works either way, and adds another solid entry to an extremely creative assortment of books. If Infinite Crisis and The Judas Contract bring this series home, you’ll have a must-buy trade on your hands.

But only because of Lobo.

Score: 8/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.