Nekron is an old Green Lantern foe dating back to one of DC’s very earliest mini-series, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps (1981). It was actually one of the earliest DC series I ever read, though long since lost from my collection. Nekron rules the Realm of the Dead, a nebulously-defined region of cosmic real-estate that’s not quite Limbo, not quite Purgatory, where the souls of the dead await passage to either Heaven or Hell. Nekron was content enough to lord over the spirits in waiting until Krona arrived, opening a rift to the universe of the living. Krona was an immortal, so when he “died”, the paradox ripped open the wall between Nekron’s grim domain and the living universe:
Scans from Green Lantern Annual #7 by Steve Vance and Ron Lim
Peeking through the rift, Nekron decided he wanted some of that action, and sent Krona and an army of dead Green lanterns to kill the Guardians of the Universe and widen the rift to allow his escape. Hal Jordan and the living lanterns managed to beat back the invasion, but Nekron hasn’t been the same since. His appearances since then have been variations on the same “raise the dead to invade the living world” trick, and it seems that Blackest Night is his biggest, most ambitious plot yet.
The revolving-door nature of death in the DC Universe is itself a major theme of Blackest Night, so I suspect that Nekron’s ambitions are going to end up being the reason for that instability. We don’t know how or why he was made ruler of the afterlife, but for a time, he was only one aspect of death in the DCU. As told in some Captain Atom comics I last read 17 years ago and in Nekron’s Wikipedia entry:
“Captain Atom has a run-in with Nekron in the pages of Captain Atom #42 and #43 (June-July 1990), in which he is described as "Death as the Ultimate Opponent." Black Racer, also making an appearance, is coined "Death as an Inevitability," while Death (prominently known from her appearances in Vertigo titles) represents "Death as the Release, as Mercy, as Compassion."Death and the Black Racer are both out of the picture these days, with Vertigo characters famously off-limits to the DCU and the New Gods characters having been exported to an alternate Earth, so that may leave Nekron as “the” Limbo/Purgatory gatekeeper. We can probably assume, then, that Nekron has a purpose; to process and usher dead souls into the afterlife. It appears he’s been hoarding the souls of the dead heroes and villains all these years, planning Blackest Night, and as a result, it’s been much easier for dead souls to come and go. If so, Nekron is a cosmic-level slacker who hasn’t been doing his job at all. Like a disgruntled worker surfing "Monster.com" on company time, Nekron spends all of his time scheming to conquer the realm of the living, while letting his “IN” box fill up. I don’t know if he’s been doing the same piss-poor job with civilians, but all signs point to “Yes" at least as far as deceased supporting cast members are concerned.
This idea even fits in pretty well with publishing history, since the majority of Black Lanterns we’ve seen died after Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, which lines up approximately with Nekron’s debut (and discovery of the living realm) in 1981. In other words, so far, we haven’t seen any Black Lanterns who died before Nekron got ambitious and started paying attention.
Meta, isn’t it?
If so, his defeat (we assume!) at the end of Blackest Night could lead to a sacking and change of management in Limbo. Maybe the Spectre will get the job. Presumably, that would also lead to a slate of redemptive resurrections and/or passages to the afterlife. I could see a mass resurrection, with a few characters electing to go to their final reward peacefully, knowing that they will pass forever. I always enjoy seeing obscure characters get dug up and dusted off, and I actually have read all of his previous appearances, so I’m interested to see Nekron’s big push after all these years. Whatever happens, the metaphysical implications are pretty staggering for the DCU, and should make for good reading.