Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 9, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: One of the greatest appeals of the Green Lantern Corps is that there’s a limitless cast of characters to explore. The Green Lanterns are too numerous to count, and that’s not even getting into new recruits or the other Corps. Each of these Lanterns bring something different to the table, and the best writers are able to mine these characters for all they’re worth, figuring out how and when to best deploy their casts’ various abilities and relationships in order to best serve their story. In Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 9, Robert Venditti and Rafa Sandoval put on a clinic in this regard, not only taking full advantage of the mass of characters they’ve trapped together beneath Brainiac’s dome, but pulling out a few big surprise appearances from the franchise’s past as well.
Probably the most obvious example comes from how John Stewart defeats Starro — he instructs Rot Lop Fan (a blind Lantern with astounding hearing) to identify and disable the sub-aural wavelength Starro is using to communicate with its drones. I honestly couldn’t tell you if Rot Lop Fan has appeared in this title previously or not, but as a character he’s existed since the eighties, so there’s nothing weird about his suddenly popping up at the just the right moment to save the day. It’s John Stewart making smart use of his resources, and likewise, Venditti making smart use of the Lanterns available to him. If you’re not only going to have the Corps star in a title, but trap their full roster under a dome, you might as well take full advantage of as many of those characters as possible, right?
That isn’t limited to these characters’ abilities either (though Fan’s hearing, Soranik Natu’s medical skills, and Salaak’s encyclopedic knowledge of the universe all come into play this issue), but also includes their relationships. This is the first real opportunity Venditti and Sandoval have had to dig into the B-List and below Lanterns, and it’s clear that they think it’s important to give these characters their moment in the limelight, even if it’s a brief one. There’s several instances throughout Hal Jordan and the Green Lanterns Corps 9 where the narrative pauses for just a few panels in order to allow a couple of characters to interact — Guy and Tomar-Tu, Soranik and Io, Tomar and his mother, etc. None of these interactions are central to the plot (or effect it at all, really), but they do allow Venditti and Sandoval to show off their vast cast, and thus make the Corps feel more human.
I think my favorite of these interactions is the one between Soranik and Io, simply because it’s so brief. Two old friends find a moment to commiserate on the battlefield before they must move on — it just rings true. It also allows this issue to pass the Bechdel Test (two named female characters must talk to each other about something other than a man), which isn’t often something the Green Lantern franchise can boast about. Passing the Bechdel Test doesn’t always mean that a piece of media is necessarily feminist or even good, but in this particular case, it means that the creative team cares quite a bit about even their most minor characters. Venditti and Sandoval clearly have a lot of love for the Green Lanterns Corps and their history, and that love absolutely shines through in the finished product.
In fact, this entire storyline seems to be about how great it is to have the entire Green Lantern Corps assembled together in one location, and that even extends to the villains. After all, Starro wants to bring the entire Corps under the sway of his hivemind, and even more significantly, Brainiac’s goal is to trap them within a dome and preserve them there forever. Neither entity quite seems to grasp the aspect of free will that makes the Corps so great, but both understand that there’s something to be gained by having them all together in one place, just as their creators and readers do.
Venditti and Sandoval’s love of Green Lantern lore and continuity also comes through in the issue’s big guest stars. Kyle Rayner is an obvious choice (and I quite look forward to seeing him back in action and reunited with his friends for the first time in quite a while), but Abin Sur is a far greater surprise.
The past decade or so of Green Lantern stories have attempted to give Sur more of a backstory and personality, but to my knowledge, this is the first time he and Jordan have been able to interact since Sur’s death, correct? Sur doesn’t even know that Sinestro’s betrayed the Corps! There’s quite a few opportunities here for Jordan to learn a bit more about himself and for all of us to discover a bit more about the Corps, and that seems like an opportunity worth taking. If nothing else, this twist continues to showcase the creative team’s love for, and dedication to, the history of the Green Lantern Corps.
Patrick, I continue to be impressed by Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps — how about you? And you always seem to find something really insightful in Sandoval’s art and layouts — anything that stood out to you this time?
Patrick: Actually yes! One of the moments of this issue that stood out to me as a particularly strong character beat was Guy’s attempt to blast the mysterious barrier with raw ring energy. John had already been drilling away at it with a small army of construct-generated construction equipment, but Guy’s hubris wins out and he just unloads a totally ill-formed beam of energy at it. (In typical GLC fashion, Guy celebrates the chaos by shouting “BLAST A HOLE IN IT!” while John tries to get everyone to safety and Kilowog calls him an idiot.) The blast ricochets off the barrier and becomes something of a menace as it zips back and forth across the page, frying part of Tomar-Tu’s fin and grazing Sora’s hair. I’m not totally clear on the size or shape of the bottle that the Lanterns are in, and Sandoval might cheat it a little in order to get as much zig-zag as he can on the page.
Sandoval lets that cross-cross aesthetic drive all of the action sequences. It becomes the visual language of fighting inside this test-tube shaped bottle, and all those layouts employ panels at crisp, irregular angles to each other.
There are two points of contrast to the zig-zag — and one is hinted at in the panel dividers of the page I posted above. While Hal is in the Emerald Space, the panel dividers take a different shape, curving and originating from the left side of the page. The dividers retain the light green of Guy’s beam, but the effect is like turning the pages of a book.
That plays into the fascination with history that Spencer was alluding to in his piece. But it also sets this layout apart from the scenes on the other side of the universe. It’s simple stuff, but it feels absolutely perfect.
I’m trying to think if Hal and Abin Sur have been able to interact at all since Sur died, but I’m afraid my Green Lantern memory banks are failing me a little bit here. I believe Hal encountered Black Lantern Abin Sur during Blackest Night, but that’s really more of a parasite possessing Sur’s body and memory, so maybe it doesn’t count. I do think Venditti and Sandoval have a long row to hoe if they’re going to attempt to build a relationship between the two. Despite attempts to develop Sur (he did have his own Flashpoint mini-series), no creator has done a good job of conveying the dude’s personality. In fact, I’m not even sure what to think of his relationship with Hal – does Hal look up to him? Does Hal resent him for having to follow in his shoes? Does Hal suspect that Sur and Sinestro were too similar?
And it’s that last little bit that sticks in my brain. Forgive the speculation: I think it’s possible that Venditti is setting us up for a Abin Sur heel turn. Just like Sinestro did with the Yellow Light, Abin Sur was developing the power of a light outside the GLC. The Indigo Lanterns were his invention, and the while the Indigo Light was generally a force for good in the life of its bearers, there’s no denying that the rings controlled the users more than either the Green or Yellow Light did. Sinestro might be a fascist in practice, but Abin Sur’s base tool-set takes away individuality, effectively brainwashing Lanterns and replacing their names with serial numbers.
Obviously, I’m still totally engaged with this story, and it’s nice to see the roots of this saga stretching back so damn far. I love that that’s become a cornerstone of the Green Lantern brand: everything counts and continuity goes on forever. It is, after all, an enormous universe out there, and it should feel like it stretches on beyond the individual issue.
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This may be my favorite book of the DC line (up there with Superman, Batman and the Flash) I’m SHOCKED this is the same writer.
Venditti sure has seemed to turn it around. I’m not sure what to attribute that to – it’s not even like he’s telling different KINDS of stories, they’re all just tighter. I wonder if double-shipping has helped him focus on it or something.