By: Geoff Johns (story), Doug Mahnke (art), Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin (inks), Tony Avina & Alex Sinclair (colors)
The Story: It’s a rough day when you get talked down on by an overgrown chipmunk.
The Review: If there’s a reason to be skeptical about Simon Baz as the new Green Lantern, it’s the natural assumption that he’ll prove meaningless and redundant once Hal Jordan returns and retakes his ring. Let’s be frank, here. For decades, it looked as if Kyle Rayner and Wally West would be the default Green Lantern and Flash forever, and then over a few years, both got dethroned by their predecessors. What makes us think Simon will fare any better?
Perhaps because the architect of Kyle and Wally’s dethroning is the same guy who created Simon. And this issue makes it pretty clear that whatever happens when Hal inevitably returns, the hand of fate is on our rookie Lantern. By allowing Simon to accomplish something neither Hal nor even Sinestro (and I do find it interesting that B’dg considers it more amazing Simon can one-up Sinestro rather than Hal), Johns encourages us to put our confidence in the new guy.
Besides the long-term implications, the scene of Simon trying to revive Nazir (his comatose brother-in-law and best friend, apparently) for his sister’s sake is genuinely touching, even if it’s a rather cheap way to appeal to your sentimental side. The scene works largely because of the heartfelt way Simon persists in making the impossible happen, pleading with his ring, “This is all I want, ring, do you understand me? My only wish is for him to wake up.” There’s so much emotional weight to those words: the knowledge that he’ll have to give up the ring at some point and this is his last chance to make things right. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say I think we can all recognize something of ourselves in that moment and in those lines, so we can share in the overwhelming joy and astonishment when Simon actually succeeds.
The astonishment comes mostly from B’dg, who is quickly worming his way into my heart as Simon’s de facto mentor. Forget Keith Giffen’s craven attempts to turn Captain Carrot into DC’s Rocket Racoon; Johns makes B’dg out as such a natural badass in the way he controls the situation without anyone questioning his authority. You get a very strong Obi-Wan vibe from B’dg, but unlike the crusty Jedi, B’dg has plenty of sympathy for his pupil’s confusion.
The only point where B’dg falters is a little shortsightedness in his dedication to the Corps, refusing to even indulge Sinestro’s last request to Simon. I’m not so sure that’s a wise move; Sinestro may be a villain, but perhaps for that reason he perceives the Guardians’ villainy better than anyone else, meaning whatever plan he’s got cooking to destroy them probably has a good chance of success.
While Mahnke doesn’t have the finesse and outright attractiveness in his art as does, say, Ivan Reis, his work is no less cinematic in scope and his organic approach to drawing characters gives them even more emotional weight. Their reactions feel completely true because Mahnke can push them to the very limits of credibility and never go over. In the last few pages the inking gets a bit sketchy and loose, but otherwise, the ink team collaborate well. Avina and Sinclair provide appreciably moody nighttime colors.
Conclusion: A great showing for the latest addition to the Green Lantern family. You may not be sold on him as a superhero yet, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll be sold that he’s a good man.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - So the Third Army creatures can be killed—if not by blasts of willpower, but by some homemade (albeit intense) explosives.
– Dead Lantern Tomar-Re gives us a hint as to the First Lantern’s (Volthoom’s) threat to the universe: an ability to unravel reality and change history as we know it. Intriguing.