Green Lantern 5

Originally Published January 13, 2011

may nobody question our nerddom againDC Comics recently relaunched their entire series, giving curious but uninitiated nerds a convenient entry point.  Fellow blogger Patrick Ehlers and I are two such nerds, and we’ve decided to jump in with a handful of monthly titles.  We really wanted to pull out all the nerd stops, so we’re also going to be writing about them here and on Patrick’s Blog (which you should all be reading anyway) every Friday.  This week, I’m hosting the discussion of Green Lantern, while Patrick is hosting the discussion of Batgirl.

Drew:  Sinestro is the worst. Which is to say, he’s the best, but he’s such a dick about it that you can’t help hoping he loses, or resenting the hell out of him when he wins. He’s always ahead of the curve, and is always a smug asshole about it. His manipulations run so long and deep that you can’t help but be surprised when you finally realize you’ve played exactly into his hand, which is always revealed with an attitude that takes the “ain’t I a stinker?” grin to a whole new level. He’s the worst.

Hal is nothing like this. He can’t even plan what he’s going to do, let alone what anyone else might do. Where Sinestro plans, Hal acts; it’s what makes their villain-hero dynamic interesting, but also makes for a great character study when they’re working together. For a visualization of their differences, you need look no further than the way Doug Mahnke represents their flying postures. Sinestro leads with a flat hand, plam down, dividing the universe into the half below his palm and the half above. This posture is clearly considered; it is not only the most aerodynamic, but also allows him to lead with what he perceives to be his greatest strength: himself. Hal, on the other hand, leads with a clenched fist. Where Sinestro tries to organize the universe, Hal tries to punch it in the face. If Hal has considered this at all, it’s because it looks cool, but it also belies where he believes his strength to lie: his ring. It’s no wonder Sinestro knows more about the ring than Hal; the ring rides him, while Hal rides his ring.

But I’m getting too philosophical; there are aliens to brain! Issue #5 begins where #4 left off: with Sinestro’s newly minted Korugaran GLC ready to exact revenge on Sinestro. Of course, the rings Sinestro made can’t be used against him, leaving the other prisoners no choice but to help Sinestro with his plan (if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly how Sinestro convinced Hal to help in issue #2). This being Sinestro, he reveals that info in the most cold-hearted way possible: telling a jilted Arsona that she was “less than nothing” to him, which may or may not have just been a manipulative “psychological exercise.” Once he has the prisoners’ begrudging cooperation, he calls his lantern to him, grotesquely cleaving that weird clown thing we commented on last month. Hal, Sinestro, and the prisoners bust out of their cells, temporary guns ablazin’. Sinestro and Hal make a bee-line to the yellow central power battery, where Sinestro explains that Hal was only disintegrated because he must have fucked something up (like he always does). They quickly power-down the battery, incapacitating all Sinestro Corps members “nearby.” In the aftermath, Sinestro refuses some accolades from some children, telling them that he doesn’t deserve their trust, which is either genuine or more manipulation. Did I mention he’s the worst? Anyway, on their way to Oa with the prisoners and power battery in tow, Sinestro reveals that the deal he cut with Hal wasn’t what it seemed, and he sends Hal back to Earth powerless (but not ring-less). Back on Earth, Hal makes amends with Carol. Back on Oa, the Guardians are up to some kind of super evil.

Two months ago, when we first wrote-up Green Lantern, my two main issues with this title were the interpersonal business with Carol and Christian Alamy’s inking, neither of which are really bothering me here. Hal’s reunion with Carol is framed as a big moment that has been a lifetime in the making, but it feels totally unearned. That’s okay — it fits with Hal’s character that this moment is brash and impulsive. He’ll let Carol down again just as surely as he’ll fight Sinestro. Hal’s greatest strength is his will, so it’s either ironic or telling that he’s been unable to make his relationship with Carol work for any extended period, or maybe the point is that you can’t will a doomed relationship to work, I don’t know.

The inks this issue didn’t bother me at all, and were a downright asset in the dimly-lit prison scenes. I don’t know if the credit for the improvement goes to Alamy and Keith Champagne, who share cover credits (as they have for the past 3 issues), or to Mark Irwin, who receives higher billing on the issue’s title page. At any rate, it serves Mahnke’s pencils, which I’ve already cited as acutely observed and detailed, very well.

Speaking of acutely observed details in the art, Mahnke carefully manages panel borders this issue to great effect. The strict black and white borders of the early scenes (save one green-bordered panel) seem almost haphazard at first, but give way to beautiful star-scapes in the final confrontation between Hal and Sinestro. White or Black borders are a common tool used by comic book artists to lighten or darken a page, affecting the overall mood of the art, but here, they stand in for naive notions of good and evil. It is not until the blue-gray of swirling galaxies creep into the borders that we hear Sinestro’s “ends justify the means” explanation for his actions. That sounds too on-the-nose when I explain it, but it’s a subtle touch that serves the story well.

The obvious draw on this title, though, is Geoff Johns. Our experiences with his other titles may try our patience (sometimes beyond the breaking point), but he earned your trust on Green Lantern, and it’s clear why. Johns long-game approach fits both Sinestro and the Guardians perfectly, and the fact that we’re following short-sighted Hal justifies doling it out slowly. More importantly, Johns has dropped all kinds of titillating hints about what is to come. Sure, the talk about the “first lantern” leading the “third army” to replace the GLC is intriguing, but I’m more interested in Sinestro’s pledge to hunt down the rest of his Corps, or the fact that Hal’s disintegration was something that needs to be dealt with later. These are the threads I’m interested in, and they were arrived at without the kind of distracting broadcasting and exposition that made Aquaman so unreadable. I know you were having some issues last month, but all of my complaints have been resolved. This issue sold me on this title for the long haul. What’d you think?

Patrick:  Between reading issue #4 and #5, Christmas happened. My little sister got for me the last chunk of the Green Lantern saga before the relaunch – War of the Green Lanterns. As you know, Johns’ Green Lantern was my entry point for the DC Universe, and much of what I hope for in picking up monthlies is that chance to recreate the feeling of reading his reinvention of Green Lantern. The New 52 has managed to surprise me in a lot of ways and it has delivered pleasures more subtle and refined than the Rebirth-War Green Lantern, but I don’t think anything has been as exciting or epic. And I mean epic in its most literal, non-abused-by-the-internet sense; a grandiose space opera that spanned space and time, life and death.

As you could intuit, the War of the Green Lanterns ends with Hal getting stripped of his powers and Sinestro being reinstated in the corps – just where the relaunch picked up. Before I had this context, it seemed like an interesting zero-point to work from, forcing Hal to first reflect on his relationships on Earth before making him play buddy-buddy with his oldest enemy. But now I see it as a rug-pulled-out-from-under-you move. As a starting point, it makes sense that Hal might be powerless, but as another step on the journey, it’s destabilizing, and kind of exciting. For Hal, issue #5 ends where issue #1 started: on Earth with no hope of getting back in the Green. I just think that’s neat, and reading it now after having the complete story under my belt, I find that whole journey very satisfying.

Maybe it was reading all those Lantern stories in a collection, or maybe Johns has re-hit his stride, but I find myself excited about this series again. It’s nice to see the end of Hal and Sinestro’s adventures on Korugar dovetail so nicely with all of the foreshadowed future-menace. One of the things that’s always drawn me to Green Lantern is that the biggest threats to the universe always seem to come from within the peacekeeping organization. Obviously, this run is no exception, as the Guardians are plotting to overthrow their own policing force with a mysterious “third army.” The first army, for the record, was comprised of Manhunter robots, that were eventually made to kill all lifeforms in sector 666 (excepting, of course, Atrocitus, future leader of the Red Lanterns). The second army is the Green Lantern Corps, which the Guardians frequently express dissatisfaction with. Within recent continuity, they created cyborg lanterns called the Alpha Lanterns to do a little bit of watching the watchmen, but that was put to rest after Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, highjacked them for his own purposes. Now, I’m not even clear on whether or not Cyborg Superman even exists since the relaunch, so it’s possible that the Alpha Lanterns were retconned out of existence.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I am interested to see what form this third army will take. I am similarly intrigued by the “first lantern” that will lead said army. Renegade Guardian, Krona, was the first to develop a weapon similar to the rings that channeled his willpower into energy. But Krona turned against the Guardians and has since been killed… so… I’m not sure to what they are referring. Here’s the thing though: I want to find out. For probably the first time since the relaunch, I am engaged with the impossibly huge mythology of the Green Lantern Corps. It is both right and appropriate that the series’ focus has been on the characters of Hal and Sinestro, and what makes them so pointedly different. So while this may have thrown me a little bit in the early go, I recognize now that Johns and Mahnke have struck an impressive balance of both the personal and the mythological.

To finally answer your question: yes, my issues have been resolved. I think I just needed to see the conclusion of Sinestro using Hal to achieve his own ends. Sinestro is the man with the plan, and it’s always intriguing to watch those kinds of characters succeed. It’s also cool that while we just saw him wrap up his “clean up Korugar” plan, we don’t really have any sense of what his end-game is. He still views the Guardians as the biggest threat in the universe, but what does he plan on doing about it? God, I hope he can revive all those Sinestro Corps members on Oa and lead his yellow army again. Come to think of it – could that be the third army?

Oh and there’s the stuff you mention about Hal reconnecting with Carol. You’re totally right that it feels unearned. I would like to see this relationship built around a little more than the reader’s expectation that they end up together. She’s such a strong, dynamic character that it’s frustrating to see her show up for 2 pages where she doesn’t really say anything except to take Hal back for no reason. I’m holding out hope down the line that we’ll see a Star Sapphire series featuring Carol – maybe then the character will have the space she needs to grow. Right now, she’s just the chick and that’s a damn shame.

All things in time, I suppose. We’ve successfully reintroduced Hal and Sinestro and the Guardians, now it’s time to watch Johns set ‘em up and knock ‘em down over and over again.

Here’s a list of what we’re reading.  The list is Batman heavy, and we’re not going to write about everything.  That being said, feedback and suggestions on what to read and discuss are welcome.  Overlapping books in bold:

Animal Man, Batgirl, Batman, Batwoman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League, Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Batman and Robin

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