Since their debut in 2009’s Blackest Night (by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis), the Black Lantern Corps has remained one of the DC Universe‘s most memorable and terrifying threats. Acting as the DCU’s stand-ins for zombies, the Black Lantern Corps waged a campaign of fear and destruction across the universe that still haunts many within the DCU to this day.
That being said, an argument could be made that the Black Lantern Corps aren’t quite as evil as they’re made out to be. Although the Black Lantern Corps did commit many horrifying acts against the inhabitants of the DCU, they did so to defend and preserve death, a natural part of life that has lost much of its meaning within comics due to the numerous deaths and subsequent resurrections that various heroes have endured over the years. So, is that truly evil, or is it natural?
On the surface, the Black Lantern Corps is one of the most malevolent organizations in the history of the DCU. Created by Nekron, the physical embodiment of death itself, from the corpses of dead superheroes and villains, the Black Lantern Corps’ sole purpose is to help Nekron return the universe to a state of primordial darkness by destroying all life. To amass the emotional energy needed to allow the incorporeal Nekron to manifest within the physical universe, the members of the Black Lantern Corps harvested the emotionally-charged hearts of their living prey, literally ripping the still-beating organs out of their victims’ chests with their bare hands.
Even more disturbingly, the Black Lanterns went out of their way to ensure that the hearts they gathered were full of raw emotion by tormenting their victims psychologically, using the connections that they shared with their victims in life to sadistically taunt and terrify them before killing them.
Blackest Night is full of horrifying encounters between the living and the Black Lanterns that paint the Black Lantern Corps as nothing more than a force of pure evil bent on the annihilation of everyone and everything in the DCU. However, Nekron and the Black Lantern Corps’ war against the living was about much more than the simple hatred of all life.
Although Nekron’s goal was in many ways malicious, and the methods he utilized to achieve it were certainly brutal, Nekron himself wasn’t motivated by cruelty. Throughout Blackest Night, Nekron never expressed overt glee in the grief and misery he and the Black Lantern Corps were causing, carrying out his mission with an air of stoicism. In Nekron’s eyes, he wasn’t fighting out of malice, but out of necessity; non-existence was the natural order of things, and by returning the universe to nothing, he was reclaiming death’s dignity in a universe that seemed bent on denying it even exists.
In many ways, Nekron’s actions make a lot of sense. Although death isn’t something that should be actively pursued, it isn’t something to be cast out, either. The desire to make the most out of life before death often brings out the best in people, driving them to treat others with kindness. And although death can never be destroyed, the threat of others suffering an untimely one has served as the motivation behind many selfless acts.
Heroism itself is essentially born out of the desire to protect others from death, and the willingness of comic book heroes like Superman to risk their lives, and even sacrifice them if necessary, makes their never-ending struggle against evil even more meaningful. In a universe where death didn’t exist, heroism might not either, and no one would be compelled to help each other.
Even without that idea, there have been plenty of times within the DCU where the power of the Black Lantern Power Rings has been wielded for good. When Volthoom, the first being to ever wield a Power Ring, attempted to conquer the entire universe, it was a recently-deceased Hal Jordan, wielding a Black Lantern Power Ring, who ultimately defeated him in Green Lantern #20 (By Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Alex Sinclair, Dave Sharpe, and others).
More recently, Green Arrow’s former sidekick Roy Harper used the Black Lantern Power Ring that had previously enslaved him to battle Darkseid in Infinite Frontier #6 by Joshua Williamson, Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr, and Tom Napolitano, once again proving that the power of death could be used for good. Members of other Lantern Corps that embody negative emotions, like Rage (Red), Avarice (Orange), and Fear (Yellow), have used their abilities for good, proving that even the worst of our emotions can still be used for good, as long as we keep their worst aspects in check.
Although Nekron and the Black Lantern Corps did cause a great amount of suffering, their motivations shed some light on the importance of death. Without an end, life and all of its struggles would have no meaning at all.
from Ultimate Comic Blog