With Rebirth struck down by delays, there’s been a lot of attention shifted to Blackest Night: Flash over the last few months, and now that its here, its interesting to see how ambitious Johns is being here by interlinking Blackest Night, Rebirth and presumably the Flash ongoing series.
Its especially brave, and you have to wonder if the Rebirth delays have had a knock-on effect at any point. Certainly both this and BN: Wonder Woman #1 strike me as issues that should’ve come out last month alongside Blackest Night #4, whereas alongside this month’s Blackest Night #5 they seem to set the story back a step.
However, while maybe seeming like a step backwards for Blackest Night, what I really enjoyed about this issue was the sense of Johns continuing to build the new direction for the Flash franchise. Everything gets a bit timey-wimey with regards to the Reverse Flash (who appears in Rebirth from a point in time after this story takes place, which sees him resurrected as a Black Lantern). While its a bit headache-inducing I do like how Geoff Johns is playing with the time travel aspects to the franchise. In many ways his current work on the Flash builds upon what he setup in the current Booster Gold series (which sees Booster and Rip keeping their identites secret to prevent just the kind of thing Thawne is currently doing to Barry).
Here, the story is helped by feeling like a partial sequel to Rogues Revenge. The Scott Kolins artwork is doubtlessly part of this, but where Johns Flash work has always shined is in the way he redefined the Rogues. Barry’s dialogue here hints towards his very different attitude towards the Rogues compared to Wally, which I don’t doubt is building towards the new ongoing, and the promise of the Rogues versus the Black Lantern Rogues next issue is great, with the Rogues using Mirror Master’s mirrors to move around as usual while its teased that they’ve forgotten about the Black Lantern original Mirror Master who’s also following them around.
Another moment from Rebirth which is picked up again here is Gorilla City. Johns plays with Barry’s long absence from the world well, having him run off to meet Solovar, not realising that Solovar actually died years ago (and thus Barry is running into a trap before Wally can warn him). However a key moment is Barry discovering the cave paintings of the Flash family, which we last saw depicting Barry as the Black Flash in the early issues of Rebirth, and is now updated to reflect the revamped Flash family seen in Rebirth #5. While I’m unsure where this connection between the Flashes and Gorilla City is actually going, its tantalising to have Johns leaving these little hints and teases around.
This issue leads us up nicely to the events of Blackest Night #5, so it’ll be interesting to see how the next issues are impacted by the main series. The previous tie-in miniseries all took place in a fairly isolated window, benefiting from taking place while the story was still ramping up. Here we assume the outcome of Barry running from the Black Ring, and Bart being turned into a Black Lantern will have a more obvious impact in this tie-in.
Overall, I’d imagine this tie-in issue probably doesn’t quite work as well as some of the previous ones in terms of the Blackest Night storyline. The shock of seeing old characters return as Black Lanterns has been a mainstay of the last 5 months or so, so has lost its edge somewhat. However where I think this mini-series really works, is as a bridge between the events of Rebirth and Blackest Night, and the upcoming Flash ongoing series. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in issues 2 and 3 and specifically how the issue of Bart will be addressed.