I’ve been approaching my Green Lantern comics with cautious optimism over the last couple of months. Five Lantern titles hit the stands in July and although only one of them bore a #1 on its cover they might as well have all been brand new. Every writer and most of the art teams were starting out on their respective book for the very first time. In fact, with the exception Alex Sinclair’s irreproachable brilliance colouring constructs in the main title and a showing from old hands Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis, I didn’t know very much about the creators involved. Having just said goodbye to the previous generation of stalwarts I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this new bunch. Word on the street, or more accurately the internet, was that they were all pretty reliable so I tried to convince myself that I didn’t have any real cause for alarm.
What I did have were questions running around my brain about the future of the franchise. Will it carry on along similar lines to the event laden stories of the last few years? Or will it feel fresh? Will the new teams introduce original concepts and directions? Will the roster of characters remain largely unchanged?
In the first issues (the #21s) the overarching theme of all four titles is reconstructing the Corps. Losses are high and its reputation is in tatters. Their base of operations on the planet Oa lies in rubble. There seems to be an acceptance that the Templar Guardians would take over from their fallen brethren as leaders and advisors to the GLC but the Guardians want to educate themselves to the ways of the universe for a while before they take on the duty of protecting it. I don’t know if I’d automatically want to place my trust in this unknown quantity just because they share heritage with the previous lot. I mean, look at how those guys turned out.
Hal Jordan is chosen to shoulder the responsibility of command in the Templar Guardians absence. He immediately is pulled in all directions and quickly realises his usual ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ attitude isn’t going to cut it. He has to find and train new recruits and rebuild the citadel. At the same time he has to protect his Corpsmen from the Red Lanterns, and he doesn’t trust his new bosses much either. He relies on his closest allies, the Earth Lanterns, to handle the dangers for him. This is the premise of Green Lantern: New Guardians (which has never been more aptly named by the way). Kyle Rayner is enlisted to guide and where necessary contain the new Guardians! Get it? Acting as Hal’s other man-at-arms, Guy Gardner is sent to fill the even less appealing role of an undercover spy in the Red Lantern Corps. That he ends up defeating Atrocitus in combat and leading that Corps instead is on the one hand ‘sooo Guy’, and on the other a mind-boggling new angle that excites and surprises. If all this weren’t enough, Larfleeze unleashes a brutal attack on Oa and all troops are called on to defend the planet. A busy first day on the job.
John Stewart’s place in the shared world of Green Lantern is going to be very interesting in the coming months. He will be the main focus of Green Lantern Corps. Perhaps more so than Hal even, John feels that it is his responsibility to ensure the new recruits receive the training they need to represent the Corps honourably and, more importantly, live to tell the tale. While Hal leads from the front, John is in among the rookies showing them how it’s done. His new purpose is best described with his own words in Green Lantern Corps #22, “Lesson four, Rookie: never leave a lantern behind!”.
I have always appreciated that the Green Lantern titles exist in a shared universe, something that happens in one book impacts on the next. Some readers find this daunting. They would rather have a comic that tells its own story in isolation. To those people I would say it is perfectly possible to pick up any of the four issue #21s and read it by itself without having to worry about missing something. I would then advise them not to! The four books weave together naturally to create a fixed point of reference before kick-starting their own adventures. I very much look forward to them all coming together again down the road. The creative teams have obviously put quite a bit of thought into making sure no book could be considered less relevant. The much publicised new ‘Big Bad’ of the GLU is first introduced in Green Lantern: New Guardians thereby giving it equal weighting to its more famous sister titles. Elsewhere some as yet unknown force is affecting the ring energies of all the coloured Corps and this is picked up through unrelated incidences in more than one book. And having laid a strong foundation in #21, each title strikes out confidently with its own exciting storytelling in #22.
There is more than enough in each of these books to satisfy both old and new readers. While the new creators have undoubtedly given the world we were familiar with a shake-up, they haven’t thrown away everything long-time fans hold dear. One of the first things Hal does as leader is to send out the hundreds of rings belonging to his fallen companions so that they can seek out new Lanterns. There are new faces to get to know in both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. But alongside them we get to spend time with fan favourites like Salaak and Kilowog who have to cope with massive changes to their lives following the fall of the Guardians. The new writers did their research well and succeed in ensuring the personalities of our much loved characters continue to ring true. I was particularly pleased to see Sinestro’s daughter, Lantern Soranik Natu, make her first significant appearance since DC Comics’ ‘New 52’ reboot began back in 2011.
In case anybody reading this blog is trying to decide whether or not to pick up one or all of the Lantern titles for the first time, or after a spell away, I will briefly relate my impression of each. Even for a dedicated fan like myself the Green Lantern books have been quite a slog over the last several months, not because the writing wasn’t good (except possibly Red Lanterns where I have to admit it wasn’t) but because the books have been heavily entrenched in bringing to bear the huge concepts Geoff Johns had been working towards for a number of years. They were not books that you could just pick up randomly at your comic book store and have any real hope understanding what was going on. I enjoyed everything the ‘Wrath of the First Lantern’ crossover had to offer but it has been a breath of fresh air in the last two months to see my favourite characters roll up their sleeves and get back to focusing on the Corps again and having a few swashbuckling space adventures to boot!
Green Lantern #21 & #22 – As the flagship title of the collection and formerly penned by Johns for the best part of a decade all eyes are going to be on this book. Robert Venditti has made a really interesting choice by placing responsibility for the Corps squarely at Hal Jordan’s door. It gives us a chance to explore the character with fresh eyes which I think is important for any new writer taking on a book after his predecessor has been so long at the helm. The last thing I want to read is a poor imitation of what has come before. Issue #21 pitches straight into the action with a flashforward to a battle with Relic that we will do no doubt see more of soon. The scene setting that follows is necessary but does not feel obligatory. Before long we are taken back into the thick of battle as Larfleeze shows up to attack Oa knowing the Corps is at its weakest. With constructs aplenty and new recruits having to learn their trade in the heat of battle there is lots for any GL fan to sink their teeth into. I was particularly interested in the sub-plot of the unrepentant criminal who escapes her sciencell prison with the aid of a Star Sapphire ring. Again, there is plenty to suggest that Venditti intends to tells stories unlike anything we have read before. Like all of the new artists on these books, Billy Tan is still finding his feet but there is enough quality in there to give me confidence that he will be competing with the best of them on Green Lantern in no time at all.
Green Lantern Corps #21 & #22 – This book is a little different to the others in that it is the only one where the main character, John Stewart, does not start out on Oa. Instead we find him on a mission with the Star Sapphire Fatality to save a planet from unidentified thieves whose miscreant actions are about to cause nuclear disaster. In all honesty, despite my professed favouritism for Stewart over the other Earth Lanterns, Green Lantern Corps #21 didn’t work for me as much as I had hoped. I put my misgivings down to two main factors: 1) Van Jensen is still finding his way with the book and his lead character’s voice – suffice to say by #22 this was no longer a problem and I was completely sold on the writer and the direction he and co-plotter Venditti are taking; and 2) Bernard Chang’s art felt ‘off’ to me – I put this purely down to the fact I have been spoiled by Fernando Pasarin’s outstanding contribution on GLC over the last couple of years. Art is a matter of preference and often takes longer to adjust to than writing style so I fully expect to be singing Chang’s praises from the rooftops before very long at all.
The main thing a long time reader should be aware of with the switch in writers is that, thematically speaking, Green Lantern Corps has a new agenda (or seems to at any rate). This title was primarily a war book under Tomasi’s guidance. The Corps was an army marching into battle or dealing with the fallout from a previous skirmish. John Stewart’s most significant contribution was his military court martial. Under Van Jensen the book is much more about what makes people tick. John’s complicated relationship with Fatality is put under the microscope. Salaak’s reaction to the betrayal of the Guardians, and his fellow Corps members’ distrust of him as their closest associate are all put under scrutiny too. And even more interesting are the new recruits that show up in this book. While the rookies in Green Lantern are initially viewed through Hal’s eyes, Green Lantern Corps takes time to understand that each recruit has come from somewhere and has a past that makes them unique. It poses the question of how a diverse group with different motivations and influences can work together to achieve a common goal.
With all of this high-brow soul searching you’d be forgiven for thinking the book might be short on the action department but not a bit of it. Major run-ins with Khunds and Durlans in these two issues mean the book isn’t short on the blood and guts either. All that and the first sight of the Emotional Entities in the New 52 make this a comic book with a whole lot of promise. I am intrigued to discover if it can deliver.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 & #22 - This is another title that is being rebuilt from the ground up by the new creative team of Justin Jordan and Brad Walker. I imagine that Kyle Rayner, the lead figure of the title, could be a very difficult character to write these days. From the very beginning of the New 52 he has been a man apart from the Green Lantern Corps, a renegade on the run from the evil manipulations of the Guardians of the Universe. More recently, with the extraordinary abilities of the White Lantern at his command, there is a real danger that Kyle could suffer from the same foibles as many less than successful Superman stories over the years, namely that he is so powerful there is nothing of interest to challenge him. Luckily this does not seem to be the case. That he is the first Lantern to face off against Relic is not insignificant itself but, more to the point, Justin Jordan gets Kyle. He knows who the man is and what he’s been through. And he manages to write a story that is both a huge cosmic tapestry, very much complimented by Walker’s art, and an intimate personal tail sharing the hallmarks of a well written soap opera (if there is such a thing!).
Kyle feels a weight of responsibility on his shoulders surpassing even his own great gifts and when Hal asks him to accompany the Templar Guardians on their mission of learning he turns the new Green Lantern leader down flat. The last thing he needs is to waste his time on a baby-sitting job when there is so much good he could be doing in the universe. It is only when Hal points out that the Guardians are too powerful for anyone else to deal with if they stray onto the path of their evil predecessors that Kyle relents.
Something that caught my attention in GL:NG was Kyle’s “connection” with Carol Ferris, a fact neither hero seems to be consciously aware of. The book doesn’t go into to detail on what this might mean yet but I get the feeling that the Star Sapphire is going to be a regular feature in the book and I can’t be alone in speculating that Hal Jordan might have a little competition on his hands on the relationship front. With a track record of being unlucky in love these two look to be a great fit for one another at the moment. If giant space sharks and villains from another universe aren’t enough to grab your attention then surely the possibility of a little bit of romantic tension is going to bring you back for more.
Red Lanterns #21 & #22 - Truth be told these issues were going to be make or break for me. Peter Milligan's run was not ticking my boxes at all and since I am no longer doing regular weekly reviews here on Flodo's Page there was really nothing to keep me on the book except a masochistic Lantern completism. What it also meant, however, was that this was the switch up I was feeling most positive about.
As it is, all this positivity came crashing down around me when I opened issue #21 and was greeting with a maudlin Atrocitus spouting the same old theatrical nonsense he had for the previous 20 issues. Luckily, it transpired this was just Charles Soule attempting to bridge the gap between old and new. Red Lanterns continues to have its faults; the art is a little shaky and if I were to nitpick I could wonder why Dex-Starr has the ability to create construct bubbles in the same issue the Reds make it clear only Rankorr possesses this ability. But I will not nitpick. Instead I will tell you to go out and buy this book. NOW.
Soule has managed to capture the voice of Guy Gardner at his most, well ...’Guy-like’. While the premise is that Guy is undercover in the Red Lantern Corps, it’s not long before we wonder if this isn’t where the angry man of the Greens should be in the first place. There certainly weren't any complaints coming from this corner when he deposed Atrocitus and beat him to within an inch of his wretched life. Guy brings a moral code to the RLs that they were missing previously but a question for the reader is how long will it be before the deliciously unfettered and unrepentant thirst for revenge overcomes him completely, and will anyone care? We are only two issues in but already Red Lanterns is shaping up to be the no holds barred action thriller we had all hoped for way back in issue #1.
Larfleeze #21 & #22 – I haven’t a whole lot to say about these books really. If you were a fan of Keith Giffen and J.M Dematteis’ run on Justice League International or in the mini-series Formerly Known as the Justice League you’ll like Larfleeze. If you are into comic books that are tongue-in-cheek or kooky you’ll like Larfleeze. If you like your humor falling firmly in the realm of purile and pushing on the boundaries of good taste you will like Larfleeze. And to be fair I like all of those things. This is a funny book. But if you want to read a Lantern book that has any consideration for previous continuity or has a bearing on the future of the GL universe Larfleeze is NOT the book for you. In issue #21 the keeper of the light of avarice gives a version of his own back-story and even he admits it’s not exactly accurate! So until DC Comics confirm any different I will take it that this title sits outside of the New 52 DCU. I prefer to think of it as a bawdy romp for the sake of rompery all alone in its own little world. And isn’t that how Larfleeze would want it in any case?
If you’re hoping to read a version of Larfleeze that pays its dues to Geoff Johns’ original ‘Agent Orange’ storyline you are better off sticking with Green Lantern #21 and #22 and leaving the revelry to somebody with a bit less nerd in their DNA…
So there you have it. The rookies have landed and bar none they have made their mark on Green Lantern in one way or another. And although there may be a few teething problems while writers and artists get to know their subjects in the same depth as many of us have had the pleasure of for a good many years, I think it is safe to say that the that the legacy of Green Lantern is in a safe hands. Big, green safe hands.