Today, Shelby and guest Mike are discussing Green Lantern 22, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Shelby: There’s a lot of baggage to be had with the way women are depicted in most forms of media. Comic books get it especially hard, as they existed for so long as a form of entertainment drawn by men for a male audience. Robert Venditti is only on his second issue as writer of Green Lantern, but already I find myself slightly uncomfortable with his depictions of the women in the book. I have a sneaking suspicion it is more a result of the pervasive attitude towards women in comics and their role in the Green Lantern universe as a whole, and less a reflection of the creative team’s own attitudes, but that doesn’t make me have any more fun reading this title.
Larfleeze’s attack on Oa continues, and things are not looking good for Hal et al. Even a surprise visit from Saint Walker and a Star Sapphire can’t help turn the tide as Oa looks to be overrun by Agent Orange. Suddenly, Larfleeze’s ring and construct army short out; Hal is excited, until he and the rest of the Lanterns realize all the rings have shorted out. They all power back up just as suddenly, and the reappearance of Larfleeze’s corps catches everyone off guard, resulting in the death of the Star Sapphire. Her ring finds a new bearer in Nol-Anj, the prisoner Cossite is so enamored with. When she convinces him to let her out so they can be together forever, she claims the violet ring and kills Cossite, saying her love is for her people, not any one being. Meanwhile, back on the surface, Hal tricks Larfleeze off the planet, and is left to deal with the death of a Lantern (two counting the Star Sapphire) and a prisoner escape.
This isn’t a terrible issue, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth because of the way it depicts women. There are two main ladies: the unnamed Star Sapphire, and Nol-Anj. The Sapphire doesn’t seem to have a name because she exists solely to be fridged before the issue is over. I don’t think it makes a difference that she was killed as a plot device to further the story of another female character, she was still anonymously introduced for the sole purpose of being killed.
There is something super disconcerting about this group of constructs grabbing this woman, shouting “gimme” and “take.” There’s a lot of icky baggage about men who feel they can take what they want from women that comes with something like this. I would hope that Venditti and artist Billy Tan weren’t intentionally trying to summon up that baggage; maybe they should have thought a little more carefully before showing that squid-y guy copping a feel.
Next up is Nol-Anj, who’s here to trick men into doing what she wants. The Manipulative Seductress trope is an old one, and pretty much offensive to everyone. It assumes that women are selfish and sly, and that men are dumb and/or horny enough to fall for it. I feel like Venditti is trying to demonstrate that Nol-Anj is a woman of power, a queen and all that, but the only way he can show her power is by having her manipulate the love of Cossite. Much like Carol’s “I only have power thru my unhealthy love of Hal” nonsense, Nol-Anj shows Venditti’s approach for writing the Star Sapphires is going to focus on some pretty negative ideas about women and love.
But, that may be more a problem with the Star Sapphire Corps as a whole than Venditti’s ideas towards it. When talking about the emotional spectrum, the idea is the further you get from the middle point of Green and Will, the less control the corps members have over that particular emotion. Violet and Love is furthest from Green as you can get; it’s opposite is Red and Rage, and we all know what sort of control the Red Lanterns have. While I like the idea of love being potentially as dangerous to the person feeling it as rage, having the corps of love be only women creates some problems. So many of the negative impacts of love are associated with stereotypes about women that a group of women who are powered by those negative impacts just seems like a mean joke. It would be the same sort of thing if the Red Lantern Corps were only men; the way the corps uses rage would feed into the existing stereotypes of men and mindless aggression. But there are women Red Lanterns, so that leaves me with bigger issues about the Sapphires as a whole, issues that I don’t believe Venditti will be addressing.
With that massive tangent, I’m going to turn things over to guest writer Mike. Mike, I understand you were reading Green Lantern under Geoff Johns; how do you feel about the direction Venditti is taking it? Do you have any issues with the way the Star Sapphires are being depicted? Does it weird you out that the new recruits kind of look like children? It definitely weirds me out. Mike: Shelby, I feel embarrassed to say that I overlooked just how ridiculous these glaring examples of “Women in Refrigerators” were, especially since I recently took an online class called “Gender Through Comic Books.” Regardless, thank you for pointing those out, especially the orange constructs grabbing at the Sapphire – yikes. I am very familiar with Geoff Johns Green Lantern run; I’m actually more than halfway through re-reading it. So it’s with a storytelling-lens that I approach this new chapter for the Green Lantern Corps under Venditti.
Let’s start with the Star Sapphire in this issue and the entire Sapphire Corps in general. Her inclusion and her swift death is such a thinly-veiled plot device it is almost laughable. Why was she with Saint Walker? Why did they so conveniently come to Oa at just the right moment? Simply because they knew Oa would be vulnerable? This nameless Star Sapphire and her subsequent demise were a pretty weak way of moving the story along and giving a ring to this prisoner Nol-Anj.
As for the Star Sapphire Corps, they have always been these envious, mostly-spiteful swimsuit models. Even when reading Johns’ run, I shake my head every time Carol Ferris pops up with her spacesuit bikini (though she has recently covered up a bit in The New 52). Also, besides the instance of when the Predator entity latched onto an Earth man, I’m not sure if there have been any instances of males becoming Star Sapphires. If Venditti and the other GL writers truly want to forge a new era, they should ditch the swimsuits and throw some more diversity the Star Sapphires’ way. A little character development wouldn’t hurt either.
One critique I have to give Venditti’s GL book so far is that the science of the rings seems to be a bit vague. I know its fiction and the last thing I want is an overly complicated explanation of how a piece of sci-fi tech works (have you ever READ a Star Trek or Star Wars novel? Exhausting.) but the way that Venditti is portraying the rings’ functions thus far seems fuzzy.
Reason #1) Hal asks Saint Walker to use his “blue mojo” to boost the GL rings. Shouldn’t that automatically be the case when Saint Walker comes on the scene? Reason #2) When all of the colored rings turn off (which is most definitely a teaser for the upcoming “Lights Out” event) everyone can still understand one another. The ring is supposed to translate alien languages; that’s why they all understand what each other is saying. There was a great episode about this on Green Lantern: The Animated Series (R.I.P.)
Reason #3) Besides Hal tricking Larfleeze, the way that the Green Lanterns beat the Orange Lanterns is basically by “trying harder.” While it’s true that the GL rings run on willpower, the effort of “giving them everything we got” seemed empty. It reminded me of the magic battles in the Harry Potter films, which just boiled down to one ball of energy moving back and forth between the two opposing wands as the wizards grunted and “pushed harder.” Besides, the first time that the Corps came up against Larfleeze he pretty much smacked them all down; with his ring charging all the way up to 7839%. Granted, as Larfleeze retreated, Graf Toren did comment that it was strange that “Green superseded Orange.” Maybe Venditti will touch on this later on?
So far, Venditti’s take on Green Lantern is just average to me, which is disappointing. I want the Green Lantern books to maintain the status that Geoff Johns and Pete Tomasi brought it up to. I suppose the fact that there are still so many GL-titles is something to brag about, but we’ll see if that lasts for long. I’m not going to drop off just yet, but I’m hoping that things improve. We’ll see where Relic and “Lights Out” takes us.
And yes: it is kind of weird that the new recruits look like children. I guess I don’t mind it so much because I now realize that they subconsciously remind me of Jedi younglings? Either way: it is odd. I would however be cool with some kind of Damian Wayne-like Green Lantern, being a little badass space warrior etc. Also, where is Sodam Yat at in any GL book? That guy needs to make a comeback.
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?