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The Blackest Night Falls: Black Hand

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“They will descend upon our worlds to claim the loved ones we have lost.  They will forever hunger for those that still feel and live.  And if the universe is to survive, willpower and fear must come together because…across the universe, the dead will rise…”

With the Blackest Night descending upon the DC Universe in July, Broken Frontier begins our look at the gathering forces of darkness.  First up, one of the guiding hands behind the Black Lantern Corps…

Black Hand

Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, William Hand made his first appearance in June 1964’s Green Lantern #29.  Rebelling against his well-respected family, Hand was a career criminal, known for his methodical nature and total recall memory.  This black sheep of the Hand family recorded everything he learned about crime in a journal, but even using this as a stepping stone to success, felt unfulfilled.  Using his technological genius, Hand crafted a device capable of absorbing the green energy of Green Lantern’s power ring and became a costumed criminal.  During their first encounter, Hand bested Green Lantern, but was ultimately, defeated when the hero rattled Hand’s confidence.

Throughout the Silver Age, Black Hand continued to be a minor thorn in Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s side.  Despite adapting his device to cast illusions in Green Lantern #39 (September, 1965), Hand proved to be no match for the actual physical prowess of Jordan.  Later conflicts would also bring Hand into conflict with Green Arrow (Green Lantern #84, June 1971) and the Flash (Flash #s 258-259, February/March 1978).  Even from prison (Green Lantern #s 146-147, November/December 1981) Hand attempted to bedevil Jordan, but remained little more than an annoyance.

When Black Hand next appeared, the entire dynamic with Green Lantern shifted thanks to a re-alignment in the Green Lantern Corps.  With the dissolution of the formal Corps, Jordan and several of his fellow Green Lanterns gathered on Earth.  Hand struck against Jordan and the rookie heroine Arisia.  With his attention divided between his rival and his junior charge, Jordan was cleaning defeated for the first time by Hand.  Stealing the green energy from Jordan and Arisia, Hand drained the other Green Lanterns on Earth as well, before finally being once again physically overpowered, this time by the alien Green Lantern, Kilowog (Green Lantern Corps #s 205-206, October-November 1986).

  

Following that defeat, Hand broke down emotionally and retired from his life of crime.  Years later, he resurfaced, operating an adult theatre in New York City.  A chance encounter with brash Green Lantern Guy Gardner further exasperated Hand’s metal breakdown, driving him to once again don his Black Hand costume and weaponry.  Confronting Gardner, Hand activated his device…which promptly failed to activate leading Gardner to dismissively mock the would-be-villain (Justice League America #28, July 1989).  This encounter led to a minor rivalry with Gardner, as the two would clash shortly after the hero was forced to resign from the Green Lantern Corps (Green Lantern #25, June 1992 and Guy Gardner: Reborn #1, 1992).  Soundly trounced, Black Hand remained largely underground, returning briefly and instigating a near fatal conflict with the Starman villain, The Mist (Starman: The Mist, 1998).

His Darkest Hour

This series of humiliating defeats laid the groundwork for Black Hand’s current emotional instability.  In the pages of Green Lantern: Rebirth (#1, December 2004 – interestingly enough, an issue titled ‘Blackest Night.’), Hand encountered both Green Arrow and Hal Jordan.  At this point however, Jordan was the host to The Spectre, God’s Spirit of Vengeance on Earth.  Hand was, of course, quickly thwarted, but rather than being carted off to prison, Spectre/Jordan enacted his own punishment.  Black Hand’s right hand was turned to coal, dissolving into dust, leaving the villain as physically damaged as he already was emotionally.

Once Jordan has returned to his role of Green Lantern, Hand set his sight on re-igniting their feud.  Much darker and dangerous, Hand’s powers were enhanced by aliens (Green Lantern #5-6, November/December 2005), enabling him to directly absorb the life-force of others.  The evolution of the character was foreshadowed not long after, in the final pages of Green Lantern #25 (January 2008) in which the emblem of Black Hand was spotted on the rings of the Black Lantern Corps. 

  

Using the realignment of DC Universe history from Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis as a backboard, Black Hand’s backstory was touched on (with a few adjustments and revisions) in Green Lantern #33-35 (September-November 2008).  Shown to have a preoccupation with death, Hand is confronted by the future Red Lantern, Atrocitus.  Showing an awareness of Hand’s future involvement in “The Blackest Night” prophecy, Atrocitus supplies Hand with his power device. 

The Dead Shall Rise

On the road to the Blackest Night, Black Hand has made two brief, but very significant appearances;  In DC Universe #0 (June 2008), he mysteriously disappeared from Earth, appearing on a dead planet before the Black Lantern power battery, answering a voice only he can hear.  Finally, he appeared in Blackest Night #0 (June 2009), digging up the corpse of Batman.  With the Dark Knight’s body in hand, the Black Hand began speaking the oath of the Black Lantern Corps;

“The Blackest Night falls from the skies;
The darkness grows as all light dies;
We crave your hearts and your demise,
By my black hand –
The dead shall rise!”

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jul 8, 2009 at 8:20am

    Excellent piece Fletch!

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Jul 10, 2009 at 12:20am

    Yes, great job, Fletch! I just read Green Lantern #43. Was there any of that macabre, Edward Gorey feel to Black Hand's previous appearances? If not, it seems like Geoff Johns is getting fast and loose with his retcons these days.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jul 11, 2009 at 10:19am

    Not as far as I remember Eric. In the '90s he was basically played for 100% comedy relief as well...

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