Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin have moved from Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors to the newest Green Lantern Corps volume, and they’ve brought Guy Gardner back with them. I didn’t follow Emerald Warriors; it was simply one Green Lantern title too many for me, but the quality of this issue has me wondering if I dropped the wrong series.
Green Lantern Corps #1 begins with a nice introduction to the Green Lantern concept: a pair of partner GLs have apprehended a criminal in their sector, and mention is made of the Sciencells and Oa right there on the first page. The Corps is established as a team of space police, mostly just through echoing of typical police-story dialogue tropes. It’s a nice touch, and sets the tone nicely.
The next page, somewhat unfortunately, upsets that tone. We’ve never really had a Green-Lanterns-as-police-procedural book, so far as I can remember, and I think that’d be an interesting angle. Instead, we get the slightly more conventional “mysterious world-destroying threat,” in the form of an unseen enemy who dismembers both Lanterns and their prisoner in short order. Gory dismemberments and decapitations have become almost a running gag at DC, and it’s kind of a shame to see it pop up here, again, on the second page of a new book. The intent is clearly to show what a terrible threat this new enemy is, but with the sheer number of nameless Green Lanterns who have died in the last few years, it serves mostly to show that the most powerful weapon in the universe still can’t prevent most of its wearers from being cannon fodder.
The Justice League animated series went through a period early on where Superman would be taken out by the villain first, to show what kind of threat the League was up against. After awhile, though, it stopped showing that the villain was a major threat, and started showing that Superman was a weakling. Every time I read “Green Lantern deceased. Scan for replacement initiated,” it’s another step in that direction. What’s worse is that it’s a clear example of how having a name makes a fictional character invincible; you never see Salaak or Kilowog or Kyle Rayner getting decapitated or cut in half, and when a named Lantern dies, it’s a big deal — while the nameless ones get slaughtered left and right. It’s a problem, largely because it represents shortcut storytelling, the kind of lazy scripting that has plagued DC’s events for years and now seems to be creeping in everywhere else as well. The more this kind of technique is used, the less shocking it becomes, and the less effective it is.
And in this issue, it’s largely unnecessary. By the end, the villain has committed global genocide and killed another four Lanterns. We get it. This villain is bad news. Now, what are you going to do in the next arc to make that villain seem like a threat? Kill two planets? Dismember twelve Lanterns? Or maybe we could find out how dangerous the villain is through, like, characterization or something. Just a suggestion.
The rest of the issue fares a lot better, largely because of a greater focus on character than on violent murder. Guy Gardner and John Stewart are both trying to fit into normal life on Earth, but being Green Lanterns prevents it, in different ways. It’s a nice couple of scenes, allowing us to see John and Guy’s personalities and philosophies, while also providing some introduction and exposition regarding the Green Lantern Corps, how the rings work, and so forth. It’s a nearly pitch-perfect example of how to do a first issue in a larger universe. There are a couple of clunky bits of expositional dialogue, but otherwise it works quite well in introducing the concepts without resetting everything or resorting to talk-at-the-reader narration. Legion Lost could have learned quite a bit from this issue.
It’s also our first real look in the New 52 at superheroes being generally accepted by members of the public. We’ve seen plenty of mistrust and fear in other titles, but outside of a few citizens back in Action Comics, the civilians in this issue seem like the first people who feel comfortable — even safer — with superheroes around.
John and Guy eventually return to Oa and quickly get embroiled in the Lantern massacres in Sector 3599. They assemble a team (of named Lanterns!) and investigate, only to find an ocean world that has been totally stripped of water, killing all its aquatic inhabitants — and a few impaled Green Lanterns.
Overall, Green Lantern Corps is an entertaining book, giving a far better introduction to the Green Lanterns than the flagship title did. Guy Gardner and John Stewart are probably the most interesting of the main Lanterns, and that alone would probably be enough to keep me reading. I’m curious to see who and what the new villain is, and which of the named characters won’t make it through the arc. I wish DC’s writers would learn some new ways of making villains seem threatening, and I’d certainly like to see a moratorium on decapitation and dismemberment for, oh, at least a month or two. Otherwise, it’s a solid book, and so far a better read than the solo Green Lantern title.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more