Drew: Last month, Patrick and I expressed our apprehensions about folding this title into the greater Green Lantern mythology playing out in the other GL titles. Character dynamics and breezy fun have been the biggest strengths of this book, and the thought of getting bogged down in universe-spanning details could potentially obscure both of those. It’s a surprise, then, that writer Tony Bedard managed to turn those mythological details into telling character moments. In glimpsing how our characters interact with their own corps, we see how their world views may have shifted in the wake of their first team-up. That’s a very corny-sounding lesson, but Bedard manages not only to make those moments feel earned, but deliver them with the same kind of fun we’ve come to expect of this title.
The issue begins on Odym, where Saint Walker has returned for a quick recharge before joining the rest of the New Guardians to figure out their little Larfleeze problem. His visit is interrupted by an invading army of space-bugs known as the Reach. As the Blue Lanterns battle the invading hordes, Kyle puts out the call to the team. In particular, we see Fatality and Arkillo drop whatever they were doing to help. For Fatality, this means violating a direct order from her superiors; for Arkillo, this means putting his Orrery plans on hold (garnering some macho grumbling from the Weaponer). Meanwhile, back on Odym, the Blue Lantern’s defense strategy is failing, so Saint Walker switches streams and leads a charge in an offensive strike.
We also learn a lot of mythological details: the Star Sapphire Corps has pieced together that Invictus’ arrival may have been designed to destroy Larfleeze, which is likely linked to the troubles all of the other corps seem to be having. The Blue Lanterns now have their own batch of troubles in the form of an enemy that somehow found their cloaked base of operations — could the same person be behind all of this? The sheer amount of information in this issue explains why there is so little plot, which Bedard smartly cuts back in order to make room for character moments, and a fun character study of the Blue Lantern Corps.
When Saint Walker arrives on Odym, he’s a little uncomfortable with the way the new lanterns are worshiping him; calling him “THE Blue Lantern,” and finding something praiseworthy in everything he does. The dynamic of the Blue Lantern Corps, as having one founding lantern is an interesting one, not unlike the Sinestro Corps back when you-know-who was in charge. Of course, Saint Walker is a good deal more modest than Sinestro, but even he can’t control the minds of his adoring disciples. One new recruit, Shon, is less thrilled with the hero worship.
But when the battle begins, Saint Walker proves his worth, fighting nobly, thinking strategically, and — most inspiringly — supplying all the hope the corps needs when the situation looks the most hopeless. Shon could have used that support when he discovers the Reach have already begun their invasion away from the battle, causing him to lose all hope, and thus all control of his ring.
A character dying for having lost hope has the potential to come off heavy-handed, but penciller Tyler Kirkham manages to pull it off believably. That moment actually becomes even more heartbreaking in the next few panels, when his ring returns to the Blue Lanterns, already locked in their last stand against the Reach. Walker’s resolve in spite of that news is a testament to just how powerful he is.
We also get glimpses of Walker’s power when he battles the Reach’s star soldier, Khaji-Ka. Walker uses his hope-beam to begin to heal Khaji, who is apparently slave to his living armor. Walker is interrupted before he can completely separate the parasite from the host, but it’s an interesting idea that I’m sure will play a role as the battle continues. That this enemy is controlled by the weapons they wield is a neat mirror image of the Lantern Coprs, and I’m curious to see how Kirkham addresses the idea moving forward.
I’m also happy to report that this art is much better on the T&A front. It may just be a matter of Bleez and Fatality not getting much space in the issue, but nothing here insulted my intelligence. Fatality’s boobs are still all over the place, but at least her face is still in frame. A costume change wouldn’t hurt, but this is a pretty big step in the right direction for this title.
All in all, I thought this issue delivered exactly what we’re looking for in this title: high-flying space adventures. This title certainly doesn’t have the depth or thematic density of some of our favorites, but it’s a ton of light, breezy fun. It has action, crazy creature designs, and bizarre sci-fi details — all of which this issue delivers at a reliable clip. I feel weird having such a different set of standards for this title, but it’s too enjoyable to not recommend it. It’s space is secure on my pull list, anyway.
Patrick: Certainly more secure than say, Green Lantern Corps, which I think you may have already dropped. It’s interesting that most of what keeps me coming back to GLC (we will be reviewing last week’s issue next week) is my loyalty to the Lantern franchise. New Guardians earns my three precious dollars every damn month by just being so fucking fun. And it does it all on its own terms: that’s what I love most about it. I mean, check it out, Kyle only appears in two panels of this issue. NEVER MIND that the worlds “GREEN LANTERN” stand boldly in front of this title, the series has an appeal all its own.
And that’s largely because all seven members of this group are developed equally. But more than equality, it is the naturalness of the character development that works for me. It’d be so easy to say “okay, this is the hope character – he’s hopeful; this is the fear character – he’s scary.” But Bedard is great at incorporating the characters’ roles within their individual corps (and their individual personalities) into their make-up. This whole idea that Walker sorta half-resents his messiah status is a really neat detail. He’s full of hope, but that doesn’t mean he needs to be a braggart about his chances. I’ve been a fan of Saint Walker for a while now, and it’s really neat to see him so well-explored within the pages of New Guardians.
Another way that this series forges its own identity is by not leaning too heavily on the titles that theoretically support it, like the main Green Lantern series, for example. Last month, we saw Munk disappear so he could participate in GL but besides that, there really hasn’t been any crossover with this series. There are references in this issue to both Blue Beetle and Red Lantern Corps (neither of which I am reading). New Guardians isn’t interested in borrowing the clout from top-selling Geoff Johns series, but it’s happy to fold its mythology in with other bottom-tier stories. That’s a vote of confidence in the material; and that confidence makes me feel really good about the story that they’re telling.
Actually, let’s talk about those two editor’s notes. Since we immersed ourselves in every corner of Batman’s universe, I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to see a note referring to a series or an issue that I didn’t read. I’ve half-thought about picking up the Red Lantern series a couple times (because I like Atrocitus), but I’ve never once considered Blue Beetle. The material here isn’t exactly a revelation, so I won’t be rushing out to get every title mentioned herein, but I have to admit that this sort of in-narrative marketing works REALLY WELL on me.
Hey, stupid question: which of the crazy Blue Lantern designs is your favorite? They are necessarily different in design from the vast majority of the other corps that we ever get to see throngs and throngs of. You know, because they’re not monsters. Army of Red Lanterns? Monsters. Yellow? Monsters? Orange? DEAD MONSTERS. But most of the Blue guys are warm and fuzzy, taking on familiar mammalian forms. It’s a nice change of pace – especially considering most of the really interesting character designs across the DC Universe tend towards the grotesque (I am looking RIGHT AT YOU Swamp Thing and Animal Man)
This issue also comes about as close as I’m ever going to get to having a Blue Lantern Corps series. Last month’s issue had a similar quality, but with the post-Sinestro Yellow Lantern Corps. I hope we get a chance to really see the social dynamics of all the corps on their individual members. I would especially like to spend more time with Glommy, and hopefully understand a little more about his undeadness/servitude.
Feel free to correct me if you disagree, Drew, but this issue could serve as a great place to jump in and start this series without having to read everything that came before it. Sure, you’d have to fill in the gaps of Walker and Arkillo’s friendship for yourself, but everything here is pretty accessible. And yes, I say that even though one alien race attacks another alien race on an invisible planet.
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?