Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Green Lanterns 10, originally released November 2nd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: Writing and critiquing works of fiction can be a tricky thing. Saying things like “I wish it would’ve ended like this” or “they should’ve done things this way” can lead to a whole different discussion than that of the work in front of you. I try not to make those kinds of statements too often when I write, but sometimes the story and the context clues provide what seems like an obvious answer to me that the creators might not have considered. Sometimes I feel like a character on The Sopranos saying “All due respect” before I criticize someone.
After introducing Frank Laminski in the previous issue, Sam Humphries and Eduardo Pansica waste no time in throwing Frank and Volthoom’s plan into action in Green Lanterns 10. The issue opens with Simon trying on the Phantom Ring and going through the powers of the emotional spectrum in a quick blast of energy. While they decide what to do with the dangerous Phantom Ring, Frank devises a distraction for our two Lanterns in the form of a house fire enacted by one well-placed lighter. Simon and Jessica work together to save the family from the burning house, Jessica has her traditional momentary freakout while Volthoom and Frank escape with the Phantom Ring and Rami the Guardian.
I must admit that this seemed like a bit of a step down from Green Lanterns 9. On the plus side, I think that Sam Humphries, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz have really started functioning as an efficient team. Baz is a lot less hard-headed that he was 8 issues ago and Jessica’s a little more coherent as she gets more comfortable in her role as a GL. In fact, Humphies has made me enjoy and appreciate the character more than Geoff Johns ever did. My single favorite moment of Green Lanterns 9 had nothing to do with power rings or willpower at all.
This single square panel had Jessica deliver a one-liner that was simultaneously funny and painfully aware of her character’s crippling anxiety. An example of truly great dialogue is when it unique to the character’s persona and their worldview – this just really struck me. Compare that to the panel just before it where Baz uses the clunky phrase of “Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.” It’s probably just a coincidence but it feels like a strange plug for DC’s other GL title (whose name we here love to refer to as “HJ&tGLC”.
That little character moment worked for me in ways that the rest of the issue didn’t. For starters, let’s talk about the issue’s introduction to the Phantom Ring itself. Without any context or build-up, we open on our titular Green Lanterns as Baz has put on the Phantom Ring and is phasing through the good ‘ol ROYGBIV of emotions. Listen, I’m all for expedient storytelling but it was odd to have Baz try on the ring willy-nilly against Rami’s instructions for no reason it all. In addition to that minor plot-hole, I think that the art was missing something as well. If you examine Eduardo Pansica’s full page of ROYGBIV Baz you’ll notice that despite their colors each panel of Baz’s wonder and awe of the Phantom Ring’s power is exactly the same. Sure there are a few variations in the crackling of the rings’ energy and the required rage blood-spewing but otherwise there are seven identical images on that page.
There are all kinds of editorial possibilities for why this happened, especially with Rebirth’s “twice a month” deadline etc. And I’m not really against that kind of thing – that one repeated panel is probably the most detailed that Pansica puts forth in the book. The problem is that it’s a huge missed opportunity. Simon Baz is going through the gamut of emotional energies as we know them in the Green Lantern universe, yet he retains the same reaction throughout. The opportunity to draw seven different versions of the same character seems like a good chance to flex your artistic muscles to me. Maybe I’m wrong however and it would’ve been a big chore Pansica.
Another artistic choice that isn’t unique to Pansica is how most Green Lanterns artists give Jessica and Simon the hollow white eyes when they are in uniform. White eyes are pretty standard when it comes to our masked GLs like Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner but giving them to the mask-less Jessica is kind of creepy – can you imagine Guy Gardner being his jackass self sans pupils and irises? GL artist vets like Doug Mahnke and Ethan Van Sciver have given us full view of Baz’s baby browns, which I always felt made him more vulnerable and accessible as a character.
Last issue Patrick and I talked about how we were moved by the plight of Frank Laminski – the man who lost himself in his quest for a GL ring. That tragic character seems to have morphed into full on asshole in Green Lanterns 10. Once Frank teams up with Volthoom I guess his sights are solely set on the Phantom Ring – he’ll burn down a house and fuck with a Guardian, no sweat. Obviously Frank is meant to be a pawn in Volthoom’s larger plan but it felt like he went full-on lackey here.
Patrick were you disappointed by this issue like I was? I think the blow was even harder because of that fantastic Ed Benes cover. Did you buy Frank’s “negativity” monologue as his motivation? Does the Phantom Ring come readily-equipped with a cape?
Patrick: The cape is a weird choice, right? I think we mostly see than on Lantern characters are possessed by the spirits of these emotions — Parallax likes a cape, for example — so I like the implication that there’s something more elemental going on with this Phantom Ring. It’s a neat detail, but I also feel a little bit let down by the depiction of the Phantom Lantern (whether it be Baz momentarily or Frank on a more permanent basis), especially considering the more adventurous takes of Benes, and variant cover artists Emanuela Lupacchino and Michael Atiyeh.
Obviously, we’re talking about the kind of creative choices that make more sense on a cover, which favor these sort of powerful abstractions. Pansica is more literal in his depictions, which is strong in a much quieter way. That may ultimately be what Humphries’ story is asking for. Michael kind of tossed it off as a requisite Jessica-is-afraid beat, but I rather liked seeing Cruz zip and kick her way through the burning house to find that little girl. There’s no opportunity to do slash page of the hero comforting a rando, but Pansica makes a meal of the one panel he’s allotted. Look how he plays the whiteness of the gutter against the darkness of the closet, and then halos our hero and her rescue in that great green glow.
It’s a little moment, but an important one. Arguably it’s more important than Volthoom killing Rami or any of that impossibly huge, mythologically loaded nonsense. That’s actually what I take away from Jessica’s comment about not going into space: sure, she is afraid to go up there, but this story values what’s here on Earth. This isn’t an epic zipping through the cosmos, it’s a collection of manageable moments.
Or possibly, not-so-manageable moments. My favorite page in the issue has nothing to do with Frank actually becoming a superpowered bad-ass, and more to do with how he’s making an emotional compromise by slingin’ that Phantom Ring. Pansica drags us through every conceivable emotional beat as Frank handles the ring for the first time, agonizing over the overwhelming feeling of actually achieving his goal. Pansica splits the first image, insisting on making it two separate panels, implying a stretching of time.
That’s probably four seconds of in-universe action, but we’re made to slow down and feel this thing. It’s an awesome move, and even if the result doesn’t cary quite the impact we’d hope for, maybe that’s just because the set-up is so good.
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