Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing the Green Lantern Corps 13, originally released October 10th, 2012. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Patrick: For months, Green Lantern fans have been asking themselves “what are those rascally Guardians up to this time?” Their track record with regard to all the life in the universe has ranged from casually negligent to downright evil. In the Guardians’ defense, there is usually some amount of misinformation or good intentions that sets off the worst of their actions. Their latest endeavor employs an army of body-snatchers to replace the Green Lanterns (along with all the other colors of lanterns corps). Where it goes from there is still sorta anyone’s guess — I don’t recall where, but I think it’s been suggested that they will go on to DESTROY ALL LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE. And that’s evil as shit, no doubt, but it’s their effort to psychologically ruin Guy Gardner that intrigues me the most. Yeah, yeah, yeah, wiping out life in the universe can wait, we’ve got an ego to dismantle.
Subscribing to the “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” school, the Guardians bestow upon Guy Gardner the title of “Lantern Sentinel” — that’s an honor they invented just for him (because he’s so awesome). Guy’s first mission as Sentinel is to lead a team of his choosing to escort ambassadors from an alien planet to Oa, so that they may negotiate peace with the Guardians’ mediation. Never mind that the Guardians are hardly an authority on peace, the mission is deemed extra dangerous because radicals from either side of this whatever-conflict are eager to get the fighting going again. Guy assembles a team of his favorites, but the Guardians call John Stewart off the squad at the last minute. The Green Lantern bros decide it’s no big deal and they’ll catch up over a beer later.
But it is a big deal: the Guardians have sabotaged the mission by releasing Xar (a baddie Guy helped apprehend during the zero issue). When Guy discovers that there’s a homicidal alien on the loose that may or may not be gunning for his family, he ditches the cakewalk escort mission and heads toward Earth. With half of his original squad in tow, Guy encounters some Third Army dudes, and looks on hopelessly as they murder some random Lantern.
Now, maybe that’s unfair of me. Vandor’s not just “some random Lantern.” He’s been bopping around in the background of this series since its first story arc. Peter Tomasi doesn’t so much characterize him in any meaningful way in this issue, but the character is moved to a more prominent position as to make his death mean something. But this doesn’t actually work, and Vandor becomes nothing more than a redshirt — narrative canon-fodder. Which isn’t to say that the body snatching sequence isn’t horrifying — it is. The method by which these things claim a body is impressively graphic and original.
Guest artist Cafu does such a great job of selling the horror of this situation, that it’s kind of a bummer that it is spoiled earlier in the issue. Not only to we see a slightly less coherent version of this same body-take-over process on pages 2 and 3, there’s a large panel that just shows the monsters in all their weird glory. I know we’ve seen them before in other series, but it would have been nice to just play this one a little closer to the chest, and make the reveal at the end of the issue count for something.
(Incidentally, we need a name for these things. Collectively, they’re The Third Army, but what do you call one of them? Also, is it just me or do their eyes make anyone else sad? Every other part of their bodies are like sharp, lean murdering machines, but the gentleness of their hosts’ eyes remain. One of the Guardians mentions that this is sorta creepy in the Green Lantern Annual, but I just wanted to echo that in the confines of this parenthetical observation.)
So, none of that’s new. We’ve been registering the complaints “I don’t care about the deaths of random Green Lanterns” and “the Guardians seem too evil” since Drew and I first wrote up this series almost a year ago. I’ll be honest, when both Peter and Shelby were more-or-less happy to write about this series every month, my own readings were reduced to casual skimmings; I didn’t want to miss anything in case it got good, but I also didn’t really care about what was happening anymore (call it the Dexter effect). I think this might be the series “getting good” — it is certainly the series getting smarter and more exciting.
The storytelling is smarter because this issue was able to successfully incorporate information from the zero issue in a meaningful, emotional way. Not only is that baddie a carry-over from last month, Guy’s relationship to those he believes to be in danger — his family — was also just explored last month. So while I had a tough time empathizing with Vandor as his flesh was ripped away, I did have a gut reaction to Guy’s family being in peril. He may not have the best relationship with those people, but they helped shape him, and damn it: they’re family.
It’s a set of emotions complicated enough to justify that gnarled grimace on Guy’s face. Issue 13 sorta retroactively justifies issue 0 in a way I hadn’t expected, and that’s pretty cool.
It also helps that the two central Green Lanterns are both given missions that play to some emotion other than honor and duty. Yes, there’s nobility in service; yes, soldiers are emotionally connected to their work. But too often, this series gets mired in doing things “for the corps.” Anchoring this (and future) stories in motivations more personal should do wonders for the series. Take, for example, John Stewart’s mission to rebuild Mogo. Dude needs a win, and redemption for killing everyone’s favorite sentient planet would certainly count as such.
What’d you think Drew? Does this feel like a bit of a sea change for you or just more of the same Oan nonsense?
Drew: I like Peter Tomasi. I spent a good portion of yesterday’s write-up of Batman and Robin 13 talking about how thankless his job is. He’s helming two titles that are essentially cogs in much larger franchises, but he regularly finds ways to transcend those workaday parameters, delivering issues that stand on their own just fine. Of course, when a franchise-wide crossover happens, this becomes significantly more difficult, as the required narrative beats are given over to a much larger whole. In these situations, Tomasi smartly tightens the focus on his characters, counting on our interest in them to carry us through stories we may not otherwise care about. Unfortunately, those instincts end up highlighting the fact that John and Guy don’t really have a role in this crossover.
As Patrick pointed out, it doesn’t really make sense that the Guardian’s would go out of their way to fuck with Guy if their ultimate plan is to just sic the Third Army on him. At the very least, there’s no reason to send him on the bogus escort mission if they wanted to corner him unsuspecting on the way back to Earth. I’m also not sure why they’re having Xar attack the Ambassadors when they already have an army of creatures that COMMUNICATE DIRECTLY WITH THEIR BRAINS. Why are they delegating this important task to a murdering psychopath? Oh, right; it’s because they’re trying to restore order to the Universe.
But Patrick’s also right to point out that, while the events don’t make sense narratively, they do make sense emotionally. Tomasi is right to seek the emotional connection for John and Guy in all of this, it’s just too bad the crossover hasn’t given him much to work with. This particular crossover is mired in mythology, which means some juicy emotional hooks for Hal and Kyle (and even Simon, the newcomer), but leaves John and Guy out in the cold. Unfortunately, Tomasi can’t even rely on the insanely high stakes of this threat, since desensitization to insanely huge threats was another complaint of mine early in the series. That leaves Tomasi to do all kinds of acrobatics to get John and Guy personally invested in the events of the issue, even if it doesn’t totally make sense.
Guy gets a slipshod villain and an assumed threat to his family — not the most original tension-builders. John’s role feels a bit more natural, but it remains to be seen whether the reforming of Mogo actually has anything to do with the Third Army, or if this is just Tomasi planting the seeds for a post-crossover storyline. Watching a planet form probably isn’t the most exciting thing, but the mission may put John alone in an area of very low visibility, which could make for an exciting set piece.
So, to answer your question, Patrick, I saw this as a mixed bag. Tomasi is clearly doing his darnedest to ground this issue emotionally, but the machinations of the crossover really seem to be getting in his way. This title is so removed from the heavy mythologizing going on in the other GL titles, it feels fairly low-stakes in this crossover, yet as the most Oa-centric of the titles, it should be at the very heart of what’s going on. Like I said; I like Tomasi — I’m just not sure I like this title.
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