Drew: We often talk about “close readings” in our discussions, but the most rewarding works of art are interesting from far away, too. When zoomed out, you can appreciate the broader form and plotting, while when zoomed in, you can appreciate the moment-to-moment mechanics that make those larger parts work. Indeed, it’s this scalability that allows stories to remain interesting in spite of our familiarity with Joseph Campbell’s monomyth — at some scales, the non-essential details don’t matter at all, but at other scales, they’re the only thing that matters. Any halfway decent discussion of a work of art needs to focus on multiple scales, but certain works of art strongly suggest one scale over the other. More formulaic stories — an episode of Law & Order, for example — tend to offer more rewards for those looking at the details (and certain boredom for anyone looking at form). I’d argue that the controversy of LOST‘s finale stems largely from confusion over the suggested scale — is this a show about a weird island, or about the people who encounter it? — which may have changed from episode to episode. I’d argue that that ever-shifting scale is part of what made that show so great, but there’s no denying that abruptly changing gears can bring discomfort, even if it reaps the kinds of rewards we see in Green Lantern 29.
Hal Jordan has returned home to Coast City just long enough to see his brother and tell him that he no longer has time for doing things like stopping by Coast City to see his brother. Instead, he awkwardly introduces Simon Baz and then heads back to Mogo to strategize for the coming war with the Khund. He and his inner circle (Salakk, Kilowog, and Two-Six) devise a plan of attack, which starts by retaking Gwottle, a heretofore peaceful planet that is now serving as the Khund armory. They quickly take down the operation (which was apparently just one shipment and about a half-dozen dudes), but leave the Gwottlens in hopes that not imprisoning them will earn him some brownie points.
This ends up being a fun, single-mission story, but it kicks off in the most awkward way possible. I appreciate Robert Venditti wanting to show the toll not being able to see his family will have on him, but — and I mean this in all seriousness — when did Hal ever have time to see his family? I’ve read 29 issues of this series, and this is the first time I’ve ever even heard of Hal having a brother.
I get that there’s nothing sadder than kids who just want to see their uncle more often, but it’s a miracle these kids have seen Hal enough to even recognize him in the first place. Ultimately, I suppose this scene is just to show on a personal level how Hal has been affected by his poor planning, but it still feels like something out of a different series.
Whatever motivates Hal to change, I absolutely love this issue’s tight focus on executing a single plan. I know “meticulously planned mission that goes off without a hitch” isn’t the most exciting pitch, but I’ve been longing for a case-of-the-week procedural from the Green Lanterns for a long time, and this is one of the best we’ve seen. It’s a straight-ahead as can be, but it makes for a clean slate for addressing the politics of arresting cooperators in an occupied country. How much of a say did the Gwottlens have in their situation? It sure seemed like they were sympathetic to the Khund’s uprising, but as Hal points out, the alternative of letting them go is to make the Lanterns look like tyrants. Consider this the lesser of two evils.
This issue has a much smaller scale than this series has as a whole, and while getting down to this size may have made Coast City the weirdest scene in this issue, it’s much appreciated. The scope of the Durlans’ influence seemed to be growing endlessly — they have agents on Mogo, amongst the Khund, heck, they even impersonated a little kid so they could throw a tin can at Hal. Like LOST‘s numbers, Venditti seemed to be setting up a mythology that was becoming too connected to make any sense of anymore. This issue largely steps away from the Durlans, but it does pointedly remind us about the one that is still somewhere on Mogo. I’m still not sure why Mogo can’t just find him, but whatever: MukMuk found the Durlan’s supply of morphing juice (while scanning Mogo’s holes for “inconsistencies” — the planetary version of a colonoscopy), so it’s just a matter of time before he…shoot, I can’t remember what happens to Durlans if they don’t drink that juice. Probably something bad, right?
Spencer! I had enough fun with Hal’s little victories here to overlook the weirdness with his family, but I could see feeling basically the opposite if I was more invested in the larger story with the Durlans. Were you relieved to take a step back from all of that impossibly complex mythology here, or did this feel like an unnecessary detour? Also, now I’m just suspicious that everyone has nieces and nephews I don’t know about. What’s your deal on that front?
Spencer: I’m an only child, so no nieces or nephews here, Drew (my cousins’ kids fill that role in my family, and by that I mean they’re the kids I spoil and rile up then hand back to their parents when they get too bratty). Hal’s family didn’t come as a surprise to me, as they were pretty prominent in Blackest Night, but it’s been so long since we’ve seen them that I did quite appreciate being reminded that they exist. While I suppose the series could have gone on without this scene, I think it’s smart to not only address some of the plot points that haven’t been referenced since prior to Venditti’s era, but to show us just what Hal’s leaving behind. Hal’s family have never exactly been the deepest characters, but they’re important to Hal, and Venditti and penciller Martin Coccolo bring the scene to life in a way that perfectly captures the family’s joy upon seeing Hal again.
First, just let me start out by saying how much I absolutely adore that second panel; the unique perspective is not only a lot of fun, but is a wonderful peek into the way the world must look to this kid. The rest of this scene just resonated with me in a really personal way; I feel like I’ve lived this scene many times myself via visits to distant relatives. As much drama and heartbreak as family can bring, there’s a certain energy that exists when loved ones see each other after a long absence that can’t be found anywhere else. Sure, you could make an argument that Hal sees his family so little that his exile ultimately makes no difference, but I’d disagree. Hal’s family is his only remaining tether to his past and his life on Earth, and his ability to pop in on them and receive love and adulation no matter how long he’s been away has to be one of the only consistent aspects of Hal’s tumultuous existence. I dunno, I feel for the guy.
Anyway, as you can probably tell by how long I’ve gone on about this one scene, I really enjoyed this issue. Then again, I’m always into it when books take a step back and give their characters a chance to breathe; some of my favorite issues are often the ones that come between arcs and feature almost no action, so maybe I’m just a weirdo. I do appreciate that there was still action in this issue and that the Durlan story moved forward, even if just a tiny bit, but mostly I feel like this was a perfect time to take a breather. By doing so, Venditti gave Hal a chance to slow down and actually think his actions through, and that was sorely needed.
Hal used that chance to think about his leadership skills, and he found them lacking. Sure, I can laugh at how, even now, he’s using army and Jesus metaphors that fly right over the heads of his fellow Lanterns, but ultimately, Hal bares his soul and comes up with a plan and a group of advisors that are surprisingly well thought-out.
That panel’s the real kicker, though. How often do you ever see Hal Jordan ask for help? This shows genuine growth from Hal, and it’s growth we might not have seen had the book not slowed down for half an issue and given him a chance to think instead of just react.
I also agree with Drew that the action in the issue’s second half was a lot of fun. There’s something refreshing about fitting a complete mission into that little space, but there were just enough small touches to make the battle memorable. The issue’s other penciller, Billy Tan gets a chance to try out a few fun lantern constructs, and Venditti and Tan’s use of Lantern Gorin-Sunn — who apparently is some sort of energy being who found it more useful to just dissolve and destroy the Khund’s trigger from the inside-out — is just the perfect type of one-of-a-kind weirdness I look for in Green Lantern.
Unfortunately, the book’s art doesn’t always quite live up to the quality of Venditti’s ideas. Tan loves to plaster the same grit-teeth, angsty, slightly constipated-looking expressions on his characters, and there’s one sequence in Coccolo’s pages that’s almost impossible to follow.
Seriously, can somebody explain to me what happens in these panels? I’m guessing the screens are flickering on and off, but it took me a good ten minutes of poring over these panels to reach that conclusion. That head-on panel of Hal staring at the screens as they vanish doesn’t work — it makes it look like Hal did something to break them — and the panel of Kilowog’s foot is strangely laid-out as well. I dunno, there’s just an odd disconnect between the writing and the art here that gives the entire thing a jarring feeling. Even the “cliffhanger” from the previous page — Hal entering the room saying “I have an idea” — gets completely ignored on this page.
Fortunately, this is the exception, and most of this issue works surprisingly well. I’ve been impressed by the amount of ideas and world-building Venditti has brought to Green Lantern since the beginning of his run, but it’s also been a run defined by forward motion, giving us very little chance to see our characters reacting to the constant upheaval or their continually changing status quo. Green Lantern 29 finally gave us that break, and it was just what the space-doctor ordered.
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