Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Green Lantern Corps 4-5, originally released December 21st, 2011 and January 11th, 2012.
Shelby: When it comes to comic books, I have a sort of traditional archetype in mind of the “classic comic book.” You’ve got action action action, a lost battle where someone from our side is captured, a villain monologue that reveals the plan while a rescue is coordinated, and a big final battle. It’s a very aggressive, masculine style of story-telling, and GLC fits into this stereotype perfectly. It could be because we haven’t met any of the awesome lady Lanterns I know to be out there (Soranik Natu, where are you?), but I think it mostly has to do with Guy Gardner. Oh, Guy; you are the douchebag frat boy that I can’t help but love. Maybe it’s those moments where you see his toughboy act is just that: an act meant to cover up the fact that he’s just a guy (ha!) trying to get by.
When last we left our intrepid heroes and redshirts, Guy and most of the Lanterns had been teleported back to Oa, while John and a handful of others were left behind with the mystery villains. A lot of them. They take the Lanterns prisoner, after killing one to send a message, I guess, and away they go. Meanwhile, back on Oa, Guy is dealing with a prisoner of his own, and we get our first look at who exactly we’re dealing with.
While Guy tries to play good cop/bad cop with Salaak (with just as much success as you would expect), John and the others are transported to a barren world and marched across a field of lantern-shaped holes, named the “Emerald Fields.” Jump back to Oa, where Guy gets some interrogation help from … Martian Manhunter! J’onn reaches into our prisoners head (literally), and we find out they are called The Keepers, and they used to be in charge of tending after the Lanterns’ …er, lanterns. More on that in a bit. Also, we learn the ultimate plot: The Keepers want to steal Oa’s central power battery!
On to Issue 5, which opens with Kilowog, one of my favorite members of the Corps. After a disappointingly brief converstaion, we find out Guy is looking for some super in a secret basement they tunneled underneath Guy’s bar. Guy convinces them to come fight, and we get a little briefing from Martian Manhunter on the background of The Keepers. Unsuprisingly, the Guardians messed everything up up by backing out of an arrangement and not thinking about the consequences of their actions. J’onn explains to us while the leader of The Keepers explains to John and the other prisoners: the Lanterns used to be able to summon their batteries from anywhere by some sort of space magic because they were kept on The Keepers’ planet. Because the batteries were there, the planet flourished and The Keepers eventually absorbed some of the great force of will from the lanterns themselves. Then the Guardians decided it was time the Lanterns were responsible for their own toys, so they yanked every battery from The Keepers world, returning it to the shitty hunk of rock it used to be. The Keepers are pissed, they want to be avenged, etc., etc.
Things get a little weird with the Lanterns’ game plan for dealing with this threat. Guy figures they need to find a way to make these creatures of willpower fear … something. One of the Badass Lanterns says they need a “fear bomb and a lot of guns.” I thought that might be a metaphor for something Oan, especially the guns part, but that is literally what they get. Guy grabs a couple Sinestro Corps members from the sciencells who apparently exude fear gas, and then the gang raids an arms deal to arm themselves to the teeth.
So…Green Lanterns fighting with guns. I guess it makes sense; the Keepers are sort of immune to constructs because they have will power in their blood. Literally. There’s something about that seems a little forced; this is turning into The Expendables of story arcs. And really, that’s kind of how I have been interpreting GLC: as an action story romp. I don’t mean that in a negative way, not at all. A good action story has not only good action, but enough character development to keep me interested in the story. Tomasi (and Pasarin, really) has a great way of revealing character traits in just a few panels. As Hannu breaks apart a canyon after they are teleported to Oa, he shouts, “I will never leave a fellow lantern behind again.” Even if you weren’t familiar with Hannu’s history of being presumed dead and left in the void of space, this is a simple and effective way to show us his unwavering loyalty to his teammates. Not the Corps, necessarily, but his teammates. Oh, and I cannot WAIT for Isamot’s limbs to grow back all the way; as cool as tongue/tail ring-slinging is, his little half grown arms and legs are mega creepy and I hate them.
There is one thing I’m a little confused about, and that is the Martian Manhunter. Why does Guy not know who he is? What is Stormwatch? Clearly there is some chunk of timeline that I am missing; Patrick, can you fill me in?
Patrick: Happy to fill in the parts I understand! Stormwatch is a team of super heroes that monitors the activities of other meta-humans on Earth. The team itself is being borrowed from one of DC’s subsidiary lines. Remember how John Constantine showed up at the very very very end of Brightest Day? He and Stormwatch and a handful of others were introduced to the DC Universe proper at around the same time. The reason Martian Manhunter is part of the group is that Geoff Johns didn’t want him in the Justice League. With Grant Morrison’s new characterization of Superman as more of an outsider, the Manhunter seemed redundant in that group. So he got shuffled around and eventually found a home in Stormwatch, which has its own series in the New 52.
As to why Guy doesn’t know J’on; I’d guess that relationship is a victim of the relaunch. I don’t really like this – it bothers me something fierce when events are implied to have both happened and not happened. Take Blackest Night and Brightest Day, if one of them is part of the continuity, then surely the other one is too. Isamot talks about giving his legs to his partner after he lost them during Blackest Night. Similarly, Salaak tells Guy that Saaren was killed on Ryut, which also happened during Blackest Night. But in Brightest Day, Guy Gardner brings J’on some oreos. Now, I’m working really hard to not let that kind of piddly, nerdy-nerd-nerd stuff bother me, but there are so many other things that bug me in this title.
You point out that it seems a little… unimaginative to make the Green Lanterns fight with guns. Doesn’t it also seem overly dickish of them to steal them from space pirates? I mean, sure, it’s pirates, but come on – theft? This is going to be me harping on continuity again, but in the War of the Green Lanterns (which concluded just before the relaunch) Hal, John, Guy and Kyle all wear different power rings because their will power is rendered ineffective. And again, you can tell me “No, Patrick, that was before the relaunch” but I know damn well that the War of the Green Lanterns happened because issue #1 of Green Lantern starts with a ringless Hal Jordan – a direct result of the War.
You and I have read a lot of Green Lantern Corps in our days, and I can’t help but feel that the series is empty with its current leads. John Stewart and Guy Gardner are fine, but too many of my favorites are relegated to the sidelines (Kilowog, Isomat, Hannu) while some seem to have disappeared (I’ll sing a refrain of “Soranik Natu, Where Are You?”). I can understand where Tomasi wants to introduce some fresh faces, but beyond the Mean Machine, most of these faces are forgettable. And when I’m being honest, those grizzled old jerks all seem the same to me.
So, yeah, I’ve been complaining a lot about this series, but that’s only because I long for the rough-and-tumble days of Ring Quest, or the Sinestro Corps War. Without being as invested here as I was in earlier arcs, I find that there’s not really enough human drama to overcome the silliness of the science fiction mumbo-jumbo. But your Expendables comparison is damn apt. I can’t really say that I like The Expendables, but I did enjoy watching it. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I enjoy reading about the ringslingers even when I think their adventures are dumb.
Because I like to leave on a positive note, I would like to say that I like the design of Fat Man and Little Boy, the fear gas producing Sinestro Corps members. They were scary and goofy at the same time, and I like that characters with those names are going to serve as bombs. GET IT?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?