Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Green Lantern: New Guardians 23, originally released August 21st, 2013.
Drew: There’s an old joke about a man who goes to the doctor, and after running several tests, the doctor returns with his diagnosis written on a piece of paper. He gives the man the paper, but instructs him never to read it, and is then rudely kicked out of the office. The man is similarly shunned when he shows the paper to his boss, his friends, and his family, but each time, they tell him not to read it himself. The joke can build for however long the teller likes, but eventually, the man shows the paper to the pilot of a plane in mid-air, and the pilot insists that the man exit the plane immediately. The man opens the door, and facing certain death, finally decides to read the diagnosis. He pulls it out of the pocket, and it is promptly blown out of his hands and out the door. When done right, we’re lead to believe that there’s an actual punchline, but ultimately, the “joke” is on us — it only exists to fuel our frustrations. I doubt that is what Justin Jordan set out to do in Green Lantern: New Guardians 23, but as Relic begins showing his own piece of paper around, there’s a similar feeling that the story is shutting us (and only us) out of the information that ultimately drives the narrative.
As the issue opens, Relic arrives on Elips, the new hope of the Blue Lantern Corps, just as the blue entity of hope has fled the central power battery. Kyle, Carol, and the new Guardians arrive to assist the few surviving Blue Lanterns, but are essentially powerless against Relic, who proceeds to drain the blue lanterns of their power. Specifically, Relic shows the Guardians why he’s on this mission against the Lantern Corps, and they lose hope. The Guardians then show Kyle, and he also looses hope. Kyle teleports himself, Carol, Saint Walker, and the Guardians back to Oa, leaving the remaining Blue Lanterns to be incinerated by Relic.
I can appreciate that we’re going to get Relic’s full backstory next month, and I can’t really begrudge an antagonist having secrets, but it strikes me as utter bullshit that our protagonist should be motivated by knowledge that we simply aren’t privy to. It’s a tool that writers sometimes employ in flash-forwards to build intrigue about how or why things are different, but to actually show the hero hearing a secret while keeping us at arm’s length is only frustrating. And Jordan does it twice in this issue. The closest thing we get to an explanation is a cryptic, three-panel flashback.
I know that we’re not actually meant to draw any actual conclusions based on these images, but it doesn’t make not knowing any less frustrating.
My own impatience aside, the idea of a villain the Lanterns actually can’t defeat is interesting to me. They’ve never encountered such a thing before, which justifies their confidence here, in spite of Relic’s insistence that there is no hope. Actually, I’m curious what the distinction between “hope” and “confidence” is when characters wield hope as a superpower. Doesn’t the idea of unflappable hope make the Blue Lanterns terrible tacticians? Refusing to accept failure is admirable, refusing to acknowledge imminent failure is dumb. Like, they jumped up to fight Relic because they hoped they could stop him, but there would be more hope of stopping him if they had immediately fled, and lived to fight another day. Their absolute faith in hope in the short term made them utterly hopeless in the long term. I suppose they still contributed to whatever eventual win Kyle et al. survived to be a part of, but they’d all be alive now if they had simply split at the start of the fight.
I don’t know, Spencer. I enjoyed this issue well enough as I read it — particularly Brad Walker’s dynamic and expressive pencils — but the more I think about it, the less there is for me to really grab on to. Did this fare better at all for you?
Spencer: Before I answer you, Drew, I need to address the elephant in the room:
Move over Babar, Warth is one awesome elephant. RIP, buddy.
Anyway, getting back to the issue; I think it did fare a little better for me, Drew, but I still shared some of your frustrations as well. Relic’s big secret is incredibly frustrating for exactly the reasons you gave: because everybody knows but us. Maybe if his motives had been “revealed” just the one time it would’ve been okay, but after repeated uses the tease lost what intriguing elements it had and started to turn into some Three’s Company-esque escalation of needless miscommunication.
I don’t completely blame writer Justin Jordan for the situation, of course. He’s working within a crossover event and probably has a lot of beats he needs to hit laid out for him like a roadmap. While Jordan could have perhaps executed things a little better in this issue, I’m sure it’s not his fault that we have to wait another month for information we probably should have had already. That said, it’s a shame things went down this way. There’s a lot of fun beats and intriguing situations laid out within this issue that someone without my world-famous ability to compartmentalize might overlook due to frustration.
For example, I loved seeing more of the Blue Lanterns. Drew, your musing on their use of hope as a weapon opened a lot of interesting areas to explore. I don’t necessarily think it makes the Blues poor tacticians; I’ve seen Walker keep his head on and fight smart before. I don’t think the idea of “hope” boils down to simply thinking they can win any fight laid before them either. I admit I haven’t read every appearance of the Blues, so I might be missing some origin story here, but regardless, allow me to wax philosophical about them for a minute:
The Blue Lanterns are very obviously modeled after Monks and other, similar spiritual orders. Appropriately, for the Blues hope is a way of life. It doesn’t mean they’ll win every battle they enter, and it doesn’t mean they’ll never die; it simply means that “All Will Be Well.” Perhaps the cavalry will arrive to save them just in the nick of time (as Kyle and company do this issue). If they lose or die, perhaps their defeat will serve the greater good, or allow someone else to rise up and finish their fight for them. Even if that doesn’t happen, they know that something else will arrive to balance the scales. All Will Be Well.
As hard to write that and not realize how fatalistic a worldview they have, but I think that’s kind of the point. The Blues’ hope isn’t confidence, it’s faith, and faith will sustain the Blues even in the blackest of nights. It’s what allows them to sit there and let Relic vaporize them while remaining calm and serene.
That image has power. I mentioned that the Blue Lanterns remind me of Monks earlier, but nowhere is that truer than in this haunting image. And I think this kind of power is something Relic fears, even if he’d never show it.
Early in the issue Kyle theorizes that Relic targeted the Blue Lanterns because of simple tactical reasons–their small numbers and ability to supercharge other rings–but after seeing the Blues devastated first hand, Kyle comes up with a different interpretation.
Yeah, Relic has literally destroyed all hope; things don’t get foreboding than that. But in the process, Relic turned the Blue Lanterns into martyrs, and that just might be the spark needed to reignite our heroes’ hope; at least, that’s what I hope.
Honestly, despite a few missteps in handling Relic’s big secret, this issue was super effective in getting me pumped up for Lights Out. Just this prelude alone has been shocking and exciting, but more than that, I’m genuinely interested in the threats it’s presenting us. Thanks to the Guardians’ actions the universe is turning against the Green Lanterns (and their rainbow colored brethren); Relic is so convinced that the various Corps are evil that he’s been able to sell the Templar Guardians and Kyle on it; even the Entities are dying! I know, I know, I’ve been taking every chance I can get to talk about how it’s too soon for another big Green Lantern crossover, but these are intriguing ideas nonetheless. Even if there’s a few bumps along the way, I can’t wait to see what the Green Lantern team’s got to say in the Corps’ defense.
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?