Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Green Lantern Corps 21, originally released June 11th, 2013.
Patrick: Any comic series you’re going to read from the Big Two publishers is going to be something of a Frankenstein monster. In an editor-driven system, even the most auteur creators have to construct their stories by committee. And that’s great: there’s no way a single mind would have the time or patience to construct all these stories on their own. Plus, collaboration yields kick-ass art, and the one-man comic creation is the incredibly rare exception. The latest incarnation of Green Lantern Corps has a tall family tree, with prestigious branches like Peter Tomasi and Alan Moore, but it also has a confusing mishmash of fathers — after Josh Fialkov walked off the series, Green Lantern writer Robert Venditti (he’s credited as “co-pilot”) constructed a story for which Van Jensen wrote the script. It’s no wonder that first issue for the new creative team is a jumble of interesting ideas and characters, impossibly focused on both embracing and escaping the past. It’s a mess, but sort of a charming one.
Not surprisingly, the events of this issue run parallel to those of Green Lantern 21. Wracked with guilt over the part he played in… everything the Guardians did, Salaak tries to resign from the Corps, but the New Blues convince him to merely hang up his Grand Administrator spurs and continue to serve the Corps, which is good enough for Salaak. It might not be enough for the other lanterns — you know, those that survived the Guardian’s treachery. My personal favorite Green Lantern, Soranik Natu, steps up to his defense when he’s blamed for the Guardians’ crimes.
Elsewhere, John Stewart and Star Sapphire “Don’t Call Me Fatailty” Yrra discuss their relationship against the backdrop of a nuclear meltdown at a fusion reactor on planet Kosh. But it turns out to be no normal meltdown — this was triggered by a band of shapeshifting aliens stealing the radioactive ruthenium. John and Yrra minimize the damage from the meltdown, but the ‘shifters get away. Just then, all Green Lanterns are called back to Oa to repel Larfleeze and his Orange Corps.
The Green Lantern universe is big enough — and varied enough — that there’s almost always enough story material to sustain multiple series. For the first year of the New 52, none of the Green Lantern titles intersected, and (with a few exceptions) even when they were engaged in the Third Army or First Lantern events, each series addressed the over-arcing problems in different ways, in different locations and with different characters. This is maybe the first time ever that GLC seems like Green Lantern Gaiden – more a side story than an adventure worthy of its own telling. I loved seeing Soranik, but everything we saw on Oa basically happened in last week’s Green Lantern. We just got a little more information about those events. In some cases very little more information. I’m referring, here, to the n00bs:
Starting at the top-right and going clockwise, we’ve got: Jruk the bloodthirsty gladiatorial champion; Feska, the poor-but-supportive single mother; Maro, diminutive outcast from a philosopher / critic society and; Ergann, elderly nomadic horse-man. Together, their real estate in this issue totals four pages. Basically, everyone gets a six panel origin-story. Which is sorta awesome. You could make the argument that there are too many ingredients in the soup already (isn’t Hal also leading around a handful of new recruits right now?), but I find the brevity of their introductions to be refreshing. They’re instantly recognizable archetypes, and any character that develops around them will have to be done through their lives as Lanterns.
Notably absent from this issue is Guy Gardner. Tomasi was always good about tapping the insanely large cast of this series, but he also always kept Guy front and center. It looks like Venditti and Jensen have ceded control of the character to Charles Soule’s Red Lanterns. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but any book that features both Guy Gardner and John Stewart is bound to be tonally muddled. Separating them is the most cohesive decision this issue makes.
Bernard Chang takes over from Fernando Pasarin on art duties. Chang’s style is cartoonier than Pasarin’s, but that cartooniness goes a long way toward making the sheer volume of alien races we’re introduced to in this issue more palatable. Chang is aided by one of my favorite working colorists today, Marcello Maiolo. Maiolo’s colors are beautiful, and he has great instincts for when to emphasize shape and when to just like an image lie flat. He also manages the unwieldy task of dynamically lighting scenes with green and violet constructs (or, in one instance, a mushroom cloud). One change I’m so glad Chang is made: he’s given Yrra her eyes back.
She’s objectively more expressive when her eyes aren’t blank white orbs.
I am a little less enamored with the choice of constructs in this issue. I have no idea who actually ends up making the decisions on how the GLs use their rings (scripter? artist? co-pilot?), but all of those decisions are obvious to the point of being clumsy. John’s an architect so he attacks with… a steal girder. Not actually how his mind works – he’d use his talents to construct a working model of whatever weapon he’d actually want in a fight and then use that, not just generate the first thing he thought of when he thought “construction.” The same goes for Sora, who jumps to Salaak’s side with a giant scalpel?
I get it. She’s a surgeon. Plus she mentions a scalpel in the next panel. They’re not bad decisions, but they don’t add a thing to the narrative.
Mik, these are pretty important issues for the GL books. For me, each one has three issues to hook me. I don’t know if this issue made positive progress in that regard, but it certainly didn’t do anything to dampen my interest. How are you feeling about a Guy-less GLC? And will you go over to Red Lanterns to get your fix?
Mikyzptlk: I do believe that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms my friend, but I will say that I wouldn’t necessarily follow Guy just any old place. I’d have to make sure that Guy was moving on to a place as narratively nurturing as his last “home.” The fact that Charles Soule is taking stewardship of Red Lanterns does quite a bit to assure me of Guy’s safety. So, yeah. I’ll be seeing Guy real soon. You know, it’s funny Patrick. I’ve been reading Green Lantern comics for nearly as long as I’ve been reading comics. At this point, it’s just sort of an automatic thing for me. It’s so automatic that I hadn’t even considered not reading the Green Lantern stable of books.
You’re totally right though Patrick, these first few issues are the new proving grounds for each GL book. Fortunately, Jensen and Venditti do a pretty good job in beginning to convince me that GLC is worth sticking around for. First of all, Tomasi did do a good job of giving us a GLC that starred Guy Gardner and John Stewart. The thing is, it still felt mainly like a Gardner book. Don’t get me wrong, Tomasi did give Stewart plenty to do, but it just seemed like Guy was delved into substantially more, at least during The New 52. I’m excited to see that this book is going to put the spotlight on John Stewart once again. It looks like John’s story will be intertwined with Not-Fatality’s, at least somewhat. I’m cool with that, so long as the exploration of that relationship leads to a deeper understanding of John at some point.
What really sells me on the new chapter of this book is the fact that Soranik Natu and Salaak are going to be main players once again. Sora has been tragically underutilized for far too long, and it’s time that she gets some serious face-time. My favorite thing though, is that is looks like the creators are finally starting to mix things up for Salaak. He’s been cooped up as the Guardians secretary for as long as I can remember, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see him explore a new path. When all is said and done, this issue does a lot to keep me interested in GLC, and I’ll definitely be coming back for more next month.
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?