Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 21, originally released May 24th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Mark: One area where Robert Venditti has excelled in this team-up Green Lantern book is differentiating each of the four Earth-based Green Lanterns and incorporating their unique perspectives into the larger narrative. Like the never-ending debate between Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans over who was the best host of that show, Joel, Mike, and now even Jonah, everyone has their favorite Green Lantern, and you’ll be hard pressed to convince a John Stewart fan of Hal Jordan’s merits. So while the book’s title prominently features the most recognizable of the Green Lanterns, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Venditti’s team-up, each Lantern bringing their best to the game, adding more fuel to the ever-burning debate.
The differences between the Lanterns are summed up neatly in the opening pages as Hal and Rip Hunter head to Sector 563.
Hal doesn’t take a panel to extol his own virtues other than to say “[He] doesn’t lose,” which, I’ll just leave that rather generic pronouncement out to simmer, but having the role of each Lantern clearly defined, and then watching Hal, Guy, Kyle, and John each fulfill their role in turn is one of the issue’s greatest strengths. John rallies the troops into battle, Guy goes gonzo on some willpower-powered Starship Trooper Bugs-looking creatures, and Hal has to correct past mistakes (shocking, I know). Kyle gets the worst of it, finding out that Sarko is actually his son, in a moment that doesn’t hit quite as hard as intended since it’s telegraphed pretty early on. Still, the ramifications of this revelation are bound to be felt down the line, as is Tomar-Tu’s decision to essentially turn his back on his fellow Lanterns, in a moment really sold by penciler V Ken Marion.
Stepping outside of this issue specifically, I’m generally frustrated with DC (and Marvel’s) lack of respect for readers and artists shown by the ever-rotating carousel of creatives assigned to books seemingly at random. In a recent The Atlantic piece diagnosing Marvel’s sagging sales, Asher Elbein mentions,
Another source of instability lies in the way corporate superhero comics have largely moved away from long tenures by creative teams. Artists are now regularly swapped around on titles to meet increased production demands, which devalues their work in the eyes of fans and rarely lets a title build a consistent identity (Imagine a television show using a new cast and crew every few episodes for a sense of how disruptive this is).
Comic books are a visual medium, and readers are attracted to an aesthetic and a mood set by the author’s words and the artist’s images working in harmony; Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo all found success working in tandem. In Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 21, Marion, Dexter Vines, and Dinei Ribeiro do incredibly solid work on pencils, inks, and colors respectively, but it’s a completely different aesthetic from the work of Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Tomeu Morey just one issue before— there’s not even agreement when it comes to which shade of green should represent the Lanterns.
(#20 on the left, #21 on the right)
Both styles work, but it’s jarring to jump from one interpretation to another, especially if you’re catching up on issues like I was (and it can’t be super fun for future trade readers, either). DC and Marvel might make the decision for financial reasons, but constantly switching up creative teams devalues everyone’s work in the long term.
What’d you think, Spencer? Did the emotional beats of the issue work for you? And at this point are we to assume Carol Ferris and Kyle Rayner’s romance is being quietly swept under the rug ala Superman/Wonder Woman now that he’s getting back together with Soranik Natu?
Spencer: Oh man, I had actually completely forgotten about the Kyle/Carol “romance.” Did it ever explicitly progress to that point? I loved their friendship, but found the idea of an actual romance between them a bit strange. Carol’s been defined as “Hal’s girlfriend” for so long, even more prominently than she’s been known as a Star Sapphire, that it was discouraging to see her jump straight from Hal to Kyle. Nothing wrong with romance, but I’d like to see Carol just get to be Carol for a while.
(Where is Carol, anyway? Who’s running Ferris Air back on Earth? When was the last time any of these Lanterns got to visit home? Kyle must be so behind on his deadlines.)
Of course, Venditti seems to be a Kyle/Soranik shipper, and I’m cool with that. Don’t forget, the big revelation this week isn’t just that Kyle is Sarko’s father, it’s that Soranik is his mother as well. In fact, that fact is confirmed long before Kyle’s role is.
Based on these panels, most readers will have figured out Sarko’s true parentage by this point, meaning that the final page cliffhanger likely isn’t meant to be a big shocking moment, but simply a confirmation for any readers who may have missed the hints. Instead, the importance of that page is Kyle’s reaction to the news, and what it will mean for his and Soranik’s future.
At this point, Kyle knows that he and Soranik do eventually get together, and have a son, and that son essentially becomes Kylo Ren, spurning his parents’ dream to revive his grandfather’s legacy instead (in fact, Sarko’s rejection of the composite Green and Yellow Corps is explicitly a rejection of his parent’s union, since Kyle is a Green Lantern and Soranik a member of the Sinestro Corps). What is this knowledge going to do to Kyle and Soranik’s relationship going forward? Will Kyle be able to keep this a secret from her; should he? Will he be able to be with Soranik at all knowing what their child could become? Or will it simply be too painful for him?
Of course, Sarko’s fate opens its own can of timey-wimey worms. If Hal broke and removed the Gauntlet of Krona before Sarko could ever get his hands on it, thereby defeating its constructs via retcon, shouldn’t the same thing happen to Sarko? If Sarko never took the Gauntlet and launched his plan to destroy his Corps in the first place, then technically, the events leading up to his death should have never happened at all, and he should still be alive. Maybe Kyle should keep an eye on Sarko’s body to make sure it doesn’t blink out of existence? Or maybe this gives Kyle an opportunity to change his son’s future: give him a different name, give him a different education, anything to stop him from embracing Sinestro’s legacy. Of course, any efforts on Kyle’s behalf could end up bringing about the very thing he’s trying to stop — or his knowledge of the future could just attract the attention (and ire) of Rip Hunter. I don’t think Kyle has many good options available to him right now.
(Before we move on, I just gotta say, it was a stupid decision on Hal’s part to hide the Gauntlet of Krona instead of destroying it, and it’s a stupid decision on the Corps’ behalf now to again keep the pieces of the Gauntlet stored on Mogo instead of destroying them.)
So yeah, Mark, the emotional beats of this issue worked for me, and really got me speculating. Like you, I was also enamored by Venditti and Marion’s breakdown of the Earth Lanterns, not only because it’s an excellent summation of their individual strengths, but because it reinforces a central tenant of the Green Lantern mythos: it’s not the ring that makes the Lanterns special, it’s the man. The rings may transform their will into pure energy, but it’s up to each Lantern to provide the willpower in the first place, and that courage and strength of conviction can never be stolen from them, even if their rings are.
Superheroes are meant to be aspirational, and although we may never get a chance to wield the greatest weapon in the universe, we can all show the kind of willpower and courage that the Lanterns do, not just this week, but in each and every issue of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.
That’s what makes Tomar-Tu’s failure here so painful. He has that strength inside of him, but he let his fear blind him to it. Not only does he run from a fight and abandon his friends, but he keeps the ring on, hiding behind its power instead of remembering that he’s the strength that fuels his ring, not vice versa. Like with Kyle, Soranik, and Sarko, I’m guessing this is a moment that’s going to continue to haunt Tomar-Tu for a while, and I can’t wait to see how he deals with it. Is Tomar-Tu going to stand up, or will he let his failure come to define him?
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?