By: Robert Venditti (story), Billy Tan (pencils), Richard Friend (inks), Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina (colors)

The Story: The Corps now has serious reason to consider switching to a democratic leadership.

The Review: If DC has just lost its seminal writer on the most important title in one of its biggest franchises, then probably they want to replace him with someone just as capable of bringing the same level of game.  Call me crazy, but that’s my logic.  So it sort of puzzles me why they ended up choosing Venditti to be that replacement, when his only mark on the DCU to date has been the benign and soon-to-be-axed Demon Knights (#155 on Comichron in April).

Of course, DC happens to have a dearth of big-name writers of Geoff Johns’ caliber as of late; Scott Snyder can’t write everything, and Green Lantern seems to be out of Grant Morrison, Gail Simone, and Brian Azzarello’s alleys.  And it’s not like Venditti hasn’t proven himself capable of sci-fi action on X-O Manowar, a relatively acclaimed small-press title.  But reading this issue makes me wonder if DC editorial actually paid attention when reading his initial scripts.

Venditti obviously wants to pave his own way on the series without Johns’ shadow looming over him—and he should.  But surely some respect must be paid to the story Johns has already lain down, especially if it’s recent.  So it seems an ill omen indeed that one of Venditti’s first big moves in his debut issue is to revive the Carol-Hal tension.  Talk about beating a horse not only dead but long buried, especially since last we saw them together, Hal was giving his sincerest, and most dedicated effort to being a good partner for her.  Carol doesn’t even offer a very good reason for her sudden weariness of the relationship; it was Sinestro who coerced Hal back into Lantern duty when he left Carol last time, and it seems churlish of her to hold his recent financial setbacks against him.  I just groan thinking of having to deal with this geriatric material again.

There are other questionable storytelling choices in this issue, not all of which are properly explained or motivated other than change for the sake of having change.  We’re informed after the fact that Salaak has just resigned his post—no reason given, no protest from anyone—and that Kilowog, of all people, has taken place.  Kilowog suddenly makes an about-face in character, emphasizing infrastructure over recruitment, as if he feels he must abandon his former boldness in favor of caution in his new position.

The pace of the issue itself is a noticeable problem.  Venditti demonstrated on Demon Knights that he likes to move fast, but there are downsides to rushing a story along.  Not only do you often fail to explore other possible plotlines beyond the chosen course, but you tend to neglect the necessary groundwork and development to sell a given moment.  Larfleeze’s appearance comes literally out of the blue and seems motivated by only the most superficial understanding of his character (“Mine!  Steal everything and make it mine!”).  And when the latest baby-faced recruits appear, mere moments after Hal sent out for them, Venditti seems to ignore the fact that one must not only be worthy of the ring; one must accept it as well.

If Venditti is proving that he’s not exactly another Johns, at least Tan shows that he has the chops to properly replace Doug Mahnke on this series.  Tan is the kind of penciller who really needs the perfect complement of inkers and colorists to strut his stuff, and he definitely gets them with Friend’s lush, satiny blacks, along with Sinclair and Avina’s usually spectacular lighting and coloring effects.  Tan isn’t the most profound expressionist; his lines are a bit too delicate most of the time to reach the emotional levels Mahke previously brought, but there’s no lack of it either in the issue.

Conclusion: The art proves to be a worthy successor to what came before, but the writing does not, making missteps in its attempt to do something new and in the process trampling on what came before.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Kilowog also seems to be given to major exaggeration now.  I hardly think sending out the rings for fresh blood counts as “throw[ing] the planet off its axis.”

– Cocky Hal I may not like, but I think I may hate melancholy even less: “The rings of the fallen.  Just when I think I can’t feel any worse…so many.”

– Kyle’s kind of a jag for bringing up the whole Parallax thing while the Templar Guardians consider Hal for leadership, huh?