Well, if no one else will say it, I’m calling it here:

The Question #37 — hands-down best Blackest Night tie-in.

Now, while I realize my perspective is somewhat skewed by my not actually reading BN or hardly any of its tie-ins (acquiring my knowledge of them piecemeal and second-hand via inernet), but just taking the book for what it is, it was damn good and pretty satisfying.

One factor that definitely helped was the distance from BN proper, which is a major obstacle for those tie-ins not “important” enough to be handled by Johns and actually do meaningful things with the plot, but still sharing major characters with the main story. BN: Wonder Woman, for instance, I’m given to understand was a lackluster dud with little of consequence happening in the book and all the story points dictated by the larger BN setting/writers. Which is a goddamn shame given that the creative team (Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott) are people who’s other work I’ve enjoyed greatly and I’d love to see them collaborate on a decent project.

I’ll give partial credit to the Suicide Squad/Secret Six crossover, which hasn’t yet finished and may yet still be mind-breakingly awesome, but which I suspect will stay in the “good but not great” category in my mind. Some great Bane & Scandal theater in the first part, some other fun jokes and character moments (par for the course with the Six–it’s nice being spoiled like that), but overall it’s a confusion of too many ensembles and too many things happening in too many different places all at the same time. This is another problem that The Question neatly sidesteps. (I do take comfort in noticing that, unless something really weird happens in the end of the arc, Knockout will not be making a zombified return, as I had feared. I liked Knockout, but Scandal dealing with her grief and moving on with her life has been a joy to read (OMG! CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!), and it would be a shame to ruin that.)

Instead, as the book opens, we find Renee and Tot chilling at home. They’re not out dicking around with superpowered, unkillable zombies because that would be fucking stupid and a good way to get killed. So, safely away from major action, “important” super characters, and all the attendant Green Lantern/Rainbow Rangers silliness, this sad little horror story can unfold.

So, we open with a nicely done, three page recap of relevant points for those who may not have read the twenty-year-old Question series or 52. I am amused to note that Rucka has Tot baldly state here why Charlie chose Renee–it was made pretty evident in 52, but apparently not having someone declaim itemized reasons in stilted dialog was too subtle for the drooling fanboy troll crowd, from some of the bitching I’ve read online. Anyway, point succinctly made and we move on.

To Renee and Tot having a disagreement. And for once Renee is the one in the right. Even wise old mentors can have their blind spots. Then next page…Yay! Lady Shiva shows up for no particular reason and challenges Renee to a fight. Renee is snarky but eventually humors her. I’ve been looking forward to this scene, and it more or less plays out exactly the way I’d imagined. Renee ultimately loses–she’s good, but certainly not at Shiva’s level–but puts in a good showing. Then the bad shit starts happening.

Evil-zombie-Charlie appears! (Though, to be accurate, it’s not an actual proper zombie, but rather an evil, magical simulacrum.) I find it hilarious that the most hurtful things it could possibly say to Shiva was, in essence, “You suck.” Now, here the story gives our characters some credit, as neither Renee nor Shiva is taken in by the creature’s appearance, while Tot seems to do so only out of willful self-delusion and unprocessed grief. This makes a nice change from what I gather (perhaps incorrectly) some of the other books went with, with tearful, angsty “OH NOES!YOU WERE MY BEST FRIEND!HOW COULD YOU SAY SUCH THINGS!!!” or worse “I know you’re all evil and dead and zombified, but mind if I mack on you?” (What can I say, not a Titans fan.)

So, after some tense action and dramatic bits, Shiva figures out a way to cock-block the zombies, they all manage to pull it off, despite the emotional toll, and the creature leaves in a huff. The end is somewhat unresolved, in that “OK, so this will be continued in the…next…issue…of which there won’t be one…” kind of way, but I think I’m OK with it, as that part’s not necessarily an exciting story that needs telling. Renee still wouldn’t be able to kill the damn thing even if she caught up to it–that will just have to wait until Hal Jordan’s apotheosis in last issue of the main book when all the zombies will be banished away. (C’mon, we all know it’s coming.)

So what we have here is a nicely self-contained story, only loosely connected to the massive crossover and its frequent and frenetic silliness; a chamber piece (there’s only four players) that conforms to the classical unities of time, place, and action. (Hey, the Greeks got it right sometimes.) While it’s not without its flaws, it managed to avoid the pitfalls I had feared it would fall into, and I was certainly entertained, which is probably the only measure that really matters in the end.