Green Lantern 13

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing the Green Lantern 13, originally released October 3rd, 2012. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage. 

Drew: Who does a fugitive turn to for help? It’s a question we’ve seen a million times, as characters keep getting wrongly accused and keep needing just one chance to clear their names. It’s a compelling story, but it isn’t exactly the most relatable reason to have a character reach out to someone. With Green Lantern 13, Geoff Johns avoids this issue by recasting the question as the much more relatable “who do you tell when something big happens in your life?” The result is a story that keeps the focus tight on Simon Baz, even as the action continues to balloon.

The issue opens in the White House, of all places, as President Obama calls the Justice League to bring in Simon. Meanwhile, Simon’s ring rejiggers itself, delivering a muddled message from Hal and Sinestro before flying him back to Dearborn to connect with his sister. At home, Simon sees his family suffering the repercussions of his alleged terrorist attack. Simon asks his sister for help to clear his name — she has access to files that might reveal who owned the van with the bomb — and she agrees to meet him later that day. When he shows up for the meeting, however, Simon finds a very angry Justice League. Meanwhile, the Guardians’ third army is growing, and is now coming for Simon.

The main story beats are fairly familiar (Johns’ cinematic writing style adds to this effect), but the charm of this issue lies in Simon’s utterly understandable reactions to the strange events in his life. This starts as his ring “recalibrates,” reviewing his memories in pointed vignettes. The first is of Simon’s fateful drag race with his brother-in-law, but the second is of a much smaller moment, given only the context of being of the place where Simon and Sira used to “hide after school.”

Simon and Sira hideIn focusing on how Simon and Sira cope with their difficulties, Johns erases any fears that focusing on a Muslim family in the years after 9/11 might become exploitative. This story is about the characters and their relationships, not whatever horrible things might have been said to them at school. We got a glimpse of that in the zero, but by eschewing it here, Johns avoids overusing those moments.

The real centerpiece of this issue is the conversation between Simon and Sira. Sira generally trusts her brother, but she’s upset that he was secretly stealing cars rather than telling her he wasn’t making ends meet. Their conversation shifts rapidly from frustration to reservation to curiosity to genuine affection — that is, it feels exactly like a conversation two siblings might have in this situation, which makes her acquiescence to help all the more believable. That scene ends with her considering her phone, and I’m not sure if we’re meant to think that she may have turned Simon in.

Of course, I don’t think I could really talk about this issue without mentioning the Obama cameo. When he appeared in Amazing Spider-Man 583, I remember thinking that it was such a cheap cash-in, but it doesn’t bother me at all here. Part of it might be that it’s perfectly natural — the president is just doing presidential stuff — but I think a bigger part is that there was exactly no buzz about this leading up to this issue. Much like Simon’s family history, in keeping this info out of the press materials, DC has mitigated any suspicions of exploitation. Doug Mahnke could have drawn any guy in a suit, but the fact that he drew Obama adds a fun sense of verisimilitude (though he is saying things like “Have you notified the Justice League?”).

Speaking of Mahnke, his art really shines in this issue. He sells every moment of Simon and Sira’s conversation, as well as delivering some incredible action beats. My favorite moment, though, has to be the closing image of the Justice League.

Okay, if you can't see me, I can't see you. Great! Now Aquaman, if I can just get you to lean in a bit -- Perfect! Smile on three. Are you ready?It’s probably the least dynamic image of the Justice League I’ve ever seen — it looks like it was composed by a Sears portraitist — but their mostly static postures serve to emphasize their place of power. This isn’t a big, exciting action sequence; this is a group of incredibly assured people in absolute control of a situation.

This was an enjoyable — if a bit too brief — issue, one that seems surprisingly removed from the whole rise of the third army thing. Shelby, you cut your comics teeth on massive Green Lantern crossovers — do you see the time this issue spent away from the main action a distraction, or a necessity? I still don’t really know what to expect.

Shelby: I definitely see it as a necessity, especially since Johns needs to establish a new character. If we’re going to care at all about Simon in the sure-to-be huge events in the upcoming months, we need this time now to really get to know him. That being said, I wasn’t one hundred percent sold on this issue. Mahnke’s art was a big reason why. I just didn’t get any emotional connection from the characters. That brooding, stoic, posed look that serves so well for the Justice League reveal? I see that all throughout the issue; I actually thought the conversation between Simon and Sira to be the most wooden.

There’s just no expression there, they seem so vacant. This should be a very emotionally charged moment, and we just get a slightly furrowed brow and dead eyes.

I did like the sequence with the Third Army recruiter. Those things are damned scary; I think it’s the stringy mouth and the buggy, lidless eyes.

Johns just gives us a quick little reminder of that whole giant universe-ending war that’s brewing in space without elbowing in on the character development. That, and the garbled little message from Hal and Sinestro is all we get of the off-world stuff, and I think that’s ok. Simon is an intriguing enough character that I don’t mind fleshing him out, and I think that our connection to the characters is what makes Johns’ stories so rewarding in the end. I am looking forward to seeing what more the Guardians are plotting and where exactly Hal and Sinestro have ended up, and what’s the deal with the glitches in Simon’s ring, but for now I’m glad to take the time to get to know the newest member of the Corps.

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?

20 comments on “Green Lantern 13

  1. This was the first time in a while that I was actually moved by a piece of Doug Mahnke’s art, so I’m surprised to see you decry it so, Shelby. That panel of of Sira taking a moment to cry alone – her back slumped against a wall in the alley and her hand covering her face – really got to me. For me, that single image went a long way toward reminding me that these characters are new to the whole masks and superpowers thing, and for a brief moment, their emotions seemed real.

    • I did appreciate that moment. That whole scene was really moving; I don’t think about the families of bombers and the persecution they face. But just as I was moved by that moment, I was immediately distracted by the lack of expression once Simon showed up.

    • I felt the same way. Mahnke really engrossed me in her sorrow there. I can’t gripe on any art thing with Mahnke but the Justice League reveal didn’t really “do it” for me, on both art and writing fronts.

      • Looking at it with fresh eyes “composed by a Sears portraitist” may actually be kind of generous for that image. I still think it’s effective in having the whole League lording over Simon, but it isn’t a particularly well composed shot. It looks like Batman is about to slam into Cyborg, and I don’t know what’s going on with Wonder Woman.

  2. Guys look! Another basically totally Earth-bound issue of Green Lantern! I like space-operatics as much as the next guy (okay, maybe not that much), but it’s great to spend a little time on the ground. We can let the big silly-space war play out in the other three GL books.

    • Even the last New Guardians was almost entirely on Earth. Centering the action here is going to go a long way towards giving this battle some urgency.

  3. I know I am basically alone on the internet, but Doug Mahnke is my second favorite working artist behind Ivan Reis. I primarily characterize his work as having extremely clean linework and a slightly-squared-off stylization that shouldn’t particularly work for me and yet it does so exceedingly. I get the same sense every time I watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The stylization is blocky but quickly earns itself some authority with me as something familiar and unique that I look forward to each month. These characteristics make him an emphatically terrific comic-book-action guy in my opinion, but the concept that he can pull something off like the first page of GL 0 when he needs to is what rounds him out as a top-tier super hero artist in my opinion. When it comes to facial expressions he’s no Gary Frank – but when it comes to 25 icons fighting in one splash page Gary Frank is no Doug Mahnke. With Doug Mahnke as my second favorite working artist and Gary Frank as my third this leaves Ivan Reis as my first since he is able to do emotional character moments slightly better than Mahnke and character-laden action much better than Frank. Reis’ work also faintly echoes Neal Adams’ bronze age material without actually copying that style (as opposed to, say, Keith Giffen’s frequent ‘homages’ to Jack Kirby) – the Reis style is clearly unique despite this influence. Though, admittedly, my favorite comic artist *ever* is the silver/bronze age artist Curt Swan and my love of comic art is rooted in an era before the existence of the more photo-realistic or painterly artists of today

    • There’s something about Mahnke’s work that’s never quite clicked with me. I’ve often attributed it to his frequent inker, Christian Alamy, but I’m not quite sure. I often like his clean layouts and action shots, but the faces always seem a little off to me — the line work is always just a bit too heavy. I definitely like stylization — I’m still in awe of Francis Manapul’s work on Flash — but I just can’t get on the Mahnke train.

      • Oh yeah, Manapul is top notch to be sure; the linework there is equally clean and the difference in stylization between Mahnke and Manapul to me is simply preference. Manapul clearly has the upper hand in character moments with facial expressions and wins the layouts game easily in my book… it’s just a personal preference that I like insane sci-fi/horror genre elements and Mahnke is the guy to get that from and not Manapul

    • The realism trend in the AAA comics is interesting. Frank, Mahnke and Reis (I’d add Ethan Van Sciver) all do stellar work embracing the more cinematic qualities of Johns’ writing. I can’t IMAGINE how labor intensive it has to be to go for that level of meticulous fucking detail on every page. Ultimately, I think I like more stylized art – it’s easier for me to think of these characters as cartoon characters I care about than live-action characters I care about (and that’s so arbitrary, I’l almost embarrassed to commit it to 1s and 0s here).

      My point here was…. Oh: MAHNKE. Yeah, his monster-filled splash pages are incredible, and I think his acting is also generally pretty good. The deadness-in-the-eyes that Shelbs reports above actually plays the emotions of the scene – disbelief and intentionally keeping one’s distance from the unknown.

      • Yeah, I don’t think there are a ton of people who decry Mahnke as horrible – most would deem him at worst to be servicable; I think my point was that I actually LOOOOOVE his stuff and that seems to be something of a rare opinion

      • Oh yeah, and you’re right about the detail thing, I would compare Reis and Sciver’s meticulous inclusion of 20+ characters in one spread to the very meticulous work Perez was doing for Marv Wolfman in the Crisis series. That’s one visual element from Blackest Night that I really loved was how the sheer number of characters evoked Crisis

        • Oh man – are you talking about that image in BN #4 where Barry is running away from a bunch of Black Lanterns that include like Copper Head and Firestorm and Maxwell Lord and Dr. Light and a Guardian and like a billion other characters? (pages 2-3)

        • Also, holy shit, now that I’ve been reading DC comics regularly for like a year, I need to read Blackest Night again. Just dipping back into it now got me REALLY EXCITED to see so many faces.

        • I’m halfway into a shift at work so I can’t confirm it, but I’m pretty sure that’s what’s coming to mind – it’s been several months since I re-read the series. Some incredible splashes in that main mini

        • Oh! And speaking of Ivan Reis! I’ve got a piece of insider information! There is this artist Paul Pelletier who has been doing Marvel work (I know he did some Wolverine solo recently) and he lives in the same part of Florida that I do. He is close friends with the guys who run my shop to the point that he does monthly signings and sells his original art through the store and is at a lot of their store events. Well, anyway, according to a guy who is close friends with him he is currently renegotiating to work for DC and is picking up Aquaman after Reis starting with #15 (which will still be written by Johns) – the person who told me this went as far as to point out that Previews gives an incorrect artist name for #15 because the solicits went out too early

  4. Man, I am dying to see JL get in on the Third Army fight – I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, but I can just imagine Mahnke drawing something gruesome like Cyborg crusing something’s head in his robotic palm (I’m a horror nut, which goes a long way towards my enjoyment of this series). In the main JL book he’s really been a glorified iPad – not that there isn’t some inherent coolness to that

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