by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Superheroes are locked in a permanent state of adventure, so their stories never really end. For that reason, it might seem absurd to apply narrative structures like Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” to superhero narratives, as there is little hope of “return,” and notions of “known” and “unknown” start to break down once the hero has been around for a while. But I’ll be damned if the first few beats of any Superhero origin doesn’t more or less follow the first few beats of the Hero’s Journey — especially if the “hero” undergoing the journey happens to be a supporting character. Such is the case in Sam Humphries and Eduardo Pansica’s Green Lanterns 29, which finds all of the original Green Lanterns (OGLs) refusing the call to adventure before ultimately deciding that they have no choice.
I’m far from a Campbell scholar, so I don’t want to get too into the weeds on the Hero’s Journey (though I am intrigued that the “supernatural aid” portion, which tends to include a little old man giving the hero amulets of protection, falls right around this point in Campell’s reckoning), but I am happy to draw parallels to one of the clearest heuristics of Campbell’s form: Star Wars. This issue opens more or less at Obi-Wan’s hut, as Jessica and Simon try to begin training the Lanterns in earnest. But, of course, they refuse the call, insisting that their duties to their homes preclude any such adventuring. It’s self-effacing when Luke does it, but comes across maybe a shade too harshly when repeated by each of the OGLs, making them seem less meek and more selfish.
Fortunately, Humphries immediately follows the refusal with the picture of the true horrors inaction might bring. For Luke, the damage inflicted by the Empire was personal, but for the OGLs, its enough to see Volthoom destroy a planet they have no connection to. Panisca sells the hell out of the moment, offering just a bit of misdirection in the form of a heroic image of the Lanterns rushing into battle before yanking the rug out from under us:
This is the image that finally brings the OGLs together (albeit for reasons that still often come off as selfish), finally putting them in a position to actually do something about Volthoom. Jessica and Simon finally have their team, putting them all in position to journey even further into the unknown together. It’s the rousing part of any Hero’s Journey, and Humphries and Pansica clearly have that form firm enough in hand that it should be truly thrilling.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?