Patrick: Thaal Sinestro is a complicated character, driven by exactly as many conflicting emotions and values as the Great Hal Jordan. While the yellow ring-slingers bear his name, he was always underserved by that characterization. Sinestro is no monster, but the Sinestro Corps is nothing but. He’s a Green Lantern. He’s a patriot. He’s a hero. Cullen Bunn and Dale Eaglesham take the first issue of their new series to explore the gulf between what Sinestro is and what Sinestro is supposed to be.
Having exiled himself to a life of wresting centipede-white-tigers on some jungle planet, it looks like Sinestro was taking this retirement thing seriously. That is, until Lyssa Drak, former keeper of the Book of Parallax, arrives and calls him to action. Her reason is that Arkillo has mismanaged the Corps, but she knows that’s not enough to sway Sinestro’s heart, so she lets it slip that there are still Korugarans alive out in the universe. With the help of Drak, who appears to have turned her own body into both the Book of Parallax and a yellow lantern, Sinestro suits back up in the color of fear.
Before we move any further, I want to explore the role of Lyssa Drak just a little bit. She’s a prominent female member of the group, but she’s always been removed from the fighting, acting as the Corps’ record keeper and mascot. Her relationship to the Book of Parallax has always made the character something of an audience surrogate — we share her passion for the story being told. But there is no more Book of Parallax, and now the prophecies and legends are inked all up and down her body. Lyssa has transformed from fan of Yellow Lantern stories into author of Yellow Lantern stories. I’m assuming that makes her Cullen Bunn, whose name I’ve never seen on the cover of a Green Lantern comic before. Anyone who writes one of these long-running characters for DC is going to have this experience of transitioning from fan to creator, and Bunn’s just lucky enough — and smart enough — to notice that can take one of those characters along on the exact same ride.
The Lyssa Drak situation isn’t totally empowering, however. For as dark and weird and mysterious as she is, there’s always been a “what the fuck is she wearing?” problem. That issue persists here, but now it’s retroactively justified: her bare skin needs to glow with letters of her prophecies. But, like, if that’s the case, why is she wearing these gloves? They seem to be needlessly covering up some primo prophecy!
Lyssa’s touch also recharges Sinestro’s long-dormant ring. These are the ways that Lyssa demonstrates her value to Sinestro: her body is the new Book; her body can recharge him. All the while, Sinestro’s voiceover is careful to remind us that Lyssa is a psycho hose beast. It sounds so much like Sinestro is describing an ex-girlfriend that he doesn’t want to hook back up with, but, like, he’s totally going to anyway. That’s not a particularly healthy attitude towards the strongest female presence in the issue, and the final page reveal suggests that we can expect to see women used as plot devices and motivating forces, but not as dynamic characters with agency.
I’m jumping ahead a little bit there. Lyssa guides Sinestro to a space station that is sacrificing whatever cryogenically-frozen bodies they encounter to appease the “Pale Vicars.” Not only is that the name of my new sludge-metal band, but it’s also a reference to the religion of Anti-Emotion that Lyssa mentioned in her glowy body-prophecy. Sinestro seems unconcerned with the greater ramifications, and rescues only the five frozen Korugarans before killing the crew and leaving the non-Korugaran frozies to drift through space forever like Ellen Ripley. The safest harbor at this point is a asteroid in the Formoire Belt, current home of the Arkillo-lead Sinestro Corps. Sinestro believes he’s going to be able to re-conquer his people’s hearts and minds, no problem. No; PROBLEM! Arkillo’s captured Soranik Natu — Sinestro’s daughter.
As much as that last story beat turns my stomach, it is impressively handled from a storytelling perspective. Those not super familiar with Sinestro’s history might not remember his relationship to Sora — hell, it’s something I forget and she’s one of my favorites — but Eaglesham is careful to stage the flashback with her so that double-triangle marking under left eye is prominently displayed. Check it out, everything about this panel is meant to draw your attention to that detail so you’ll recognize it 14 pages later.
However, that’s not a reminder I needed. Like I said, I love that character. Shelby, I know you do too. How do you feel about seeing her immediately marginalized like this? I suppose it’s too soon to speak to her character’s role in the series, but it’s not a good sign that she’s introduced in bondage, and as a bargaining chip for the male characters to use.
Shelby: I was actually kind of pissed to see Sora at the end of the book, both because she was used as a cheap trick to shock us, and because she had the exact effect Bunn was aiming for. Of course I’m going to keep reading if this is the only way I’m going to see one of my favorites in the New 52. I was thoroughly ready to forget all about this mediocre introduction to Thaal Sinestro, until that last page.
I’m pretty sure I exclaimed, “son of a bitch” out loud by myself in my apartment when I saw that page. Sinestro is a complicated, intriguing character; he does not need a cheap plot device like this to tell a compelling story. And Soranik deserves more as a character than to be a cheap plot device. And there’s nothing quite like seeing a character you love who hasn’t been in a book for a while introduced bound, spread-eagle, after being tortured. It would be frustrating regardless the gender of the character in question. Of course, the history of women getting fridged in comics just adds a ton of extra baggage to this already crappy turn of events. I could understand there not being a lot of prominent women in this book; the title character is a man, and it’s the first book. What’s concerning to me is that all the women are used only to further Sinestro’s story; they have zero agency of their own. They are both powerful, compelling characters in their own rights, to see them used this way is not promising.
Dale Eaglesham’s art isn’t off to an especially promising start, either. We’ve already talked about the issues with Drak’s costume, and the upsetting nature of Soranik’s pose, but Sinestro looks kind of awful as well. Sinestro has always had a comic book man build, but he’s always struck me as a man who’s power lies in his charisma, not his muscles. But he must have been really hitting the gym since his self-imposed exile, because he is fucking jacked.
I generally just don’t care for this over-exaggerated muscle man style. Not only that, but it just doesn’t suit Sinestro’s character. He should’t be some hulking mass of muscle punching his way through situations; that’s Guy Gardner’s schtick. Sinestro is dignified, elegant, and charismatic. So where does that leave us? A number of compelling characters being completely underutilized, topped with a cherry of women used as plot points only. Not an especially promising start.
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?