by Geoff Johns (writer), Doug Mahnke (art), Randy Mayor (colors), and Rob Leigh (letters)

The Story: Parallax returns to battle the Black Lantern Spectre.

What’s Good: This is a really, really fun issue.  A lot of this is thanks to the twists and turns that Johns provides with the emotional spectrum.  One such twist, involving the Spectre and Atrocitus, is particularly well-played and is, at least for a moment, absolutely jaw-dropping in a “why didn’t I think of that” kind of way.

Then there’s the real star of the issue, Parallax.  Johns writes the character as well as he ever did, sounding absolutely monstrous with just the right amount of sneer.  The great thing about Parallax’s presence though is how Johns essentially writes the character as if he was pulled out of a timewarp from back issues.  Suddenly the old Spectre/Parallax conflict takes centre stage, as the two characters almost forget the Blackest Night around them.  The total disconnect of these two characters, Parallax in particular, from their current surroundings in favour of their old animosity feels clever and a little surreal, as though things are put on hold.

Another highlight is the grappling between Lex Luthor and Larfleeze that we all knew was inevitable.  Suffice it to say, the dynamic between the two is about as much fun as expected.  Hearing Luthor dress down, contemptuously deride, and belittle Larfleeze is comic gold, particularly since the latter never seems to really understand Luthor.

Then there’s Dough Mahnke’s artwork.  This issue is visually awesome.  The level of detail Mahnke manages to pack into the book while still completely maintaining traditional comic sensibilities is truly a sight to behold.  He’s able to pack a great deal onto the page while never having it become overwhelming, while also delivering the massive, iconic images that make a comic like Green Lantern great.  Truly, his Spectre looks amazing and his Parallax looks about as insidious as I can imagine a character being.

It also bears being said that this issue is the first to give us some real hints as to where Johns intends Green Lantern to go after Blackest Night, as he plants some very ominous seeds, one involving Atrocitus and another regarding Parallax’s fate.

What’s No So Good: With the exception of Luthor, the newly minted Lanterns are pretty much not present this month.  In fact, I don’t think Wonder Woman or Flash have a single line and I don’t recall even seeing Scarecrow.  It’s sort of strange seeing such newly-introduced and powered characters be so quickly inconsequential.  I’m sure that’s not going to be permanent, but as far as this issue goes, it’s a little weird.

Also, the Spectre isn’t particularly well-written as he basically suffers like many such uber-powerful characters do when forced to centerstage.  Frankly, to actually move the plot along and ensure that Blackest Night doesn’t end in anti-climactic fashion, Johns turns arguably the most powerful entity in the DC universe into a giant wimp.  Characters cower in fear about him, but he never really does anything. Each time he actually attempts to take action, he fails miserably.  It’s just so out of character to see the Spectre as a paper tiger.

Conclusion: A little comedy and a lot of action, this was big, epic fun.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans