Green Lantern #5

Green Lantern #5

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SPOILERS AHOY.

Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke’s Green Lantern deserves a lot of complimentary adjectives, but I think “surprising” is probably right there at the top. Like many comic readers surely jaded by overhyped advertising ploys, I was positive that longtime villain Sinestro’s championed role as lead character in this book would be undone in a couple issues, or at least by the end of the first story arc. But here in “Sinestro” part 5 the first arc wraps up fairly cleanly, and the book is pretty unambiguous about the fact that going forward Sinestro will continue to be our main character, at least for awhile.

Now, there’s no way that Hal Jordan (the guy I’m guessing most readers probably want to see starring in this title) is gone from the book completely. If nothing else, a nice dangling plot thread from this first arc referenced in a conversation between Hal and Sinestro (“What’d [the battery] do to me?” “Nothing… harmful. We’ll deal with that later”) lets us know that writer Johns isn’t done with him yet. Still, with one arc down the surprising status quo that launched this series hasn’t been undone. In fact, this first arc made some pretty sweeping changes to the mythology of the Green Lantern universe, especially in the way of Sinestro taking steps to eliminate his rogue Yellow Lantern corps, as in this issue our two heroes wipe out their base of operations on Korugar. I’m happy to see such forward progress from this book; when you’re dealing with a major property like Green Lantern, I imagine it’s tempting to keep things at a baseline of recognizability most of the time (that’s why Bruce went back to being Batman, right?), but this book seems to have loftier aspirations.

That wouldn’t work if Sinestro wasn’t a main character worth following. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. In fact, in these preceding five issues I’d say Johns has made Sinestro a more compelling character than Hal Jordan by a longshot. Hal’s brash, his life’s in shambles and he’s a bit whiny. Sinestro, on the other hand, oozes confidence. More than once in this first arc we’ve seen his plans supposedly foiled, only to find out that the “setback” has played into his larger schemes. It’s a lot of fun to watch a character like that; seemingly nothing’s outside the scope of his intellect. He’s also incredibly powerful, and he pushes the limits of his power in each new issue. We’ve seen him do things with a Green Lantern ring that haven’t really been explored in 70-some years of the character being around. I hope that willingness to push a GL’s power set continues, because it’s already one of the most interesting in comics given its potential. I have a feeling it will; Johns typically excels at building the minutiae of a superhero’s world.

If I’m being honest, though, the main reason I picked up this book was for the art. Doug Mahnke’s one of my all-time favorite superhero artists, and here he doesn’t disappoint. His work here does seem like it has more of a sheen to it, and I’m not sure why (I believe he’s with his usual inking team) — perhaps he’s just adapting his more grotesque style to the sci-fi/action demands of Green Lantern. But still, it’s excellent. Characters’ faces are full of life-like detail, action sequences pop. It was a ton of fun seeing Mahnke’s different takes on the various alien life-forms that comprised the Sinestro Corps, but sadly they may not be around much longer to gawk at.

Though there are lots of reasons to keep reading Green Lantern after this first arc, I think the best is this: there’s no easy guessing where this series is going. The next issue tease promises “a day in the life of Sinestro.” Are we going to check up on him as he performs the more mundane, day-to-day tasks of a Green Lantern? Will he set off into the galaxy to track down the rest of his errant Corps? How will Hal Jordan, who’s now back on Earth with a girlfriend, factor in to all this? And what are the Guardians up to? Superhero comics are sometimes referred to as “soap opera for boys” with vitriol, but I think this book is one that capitalizes on at least one aspect of that comparison in a positive way — its shaky status quo keeps us guessing, and it keeps us invested.

tags: doug mahnke, geoff johns, green lantern

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