By: Van Jensen & Robert Venditti (story), Bernard Chang (art), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)
The Story: No time for homesick crying—there’s Lantern work to be done!
The Review: In Green Lantern #22, I took offense at Hal Jordan’s insensitive berating of several frightened recruits dragged against their will to the middle of a Lantern battle. Even in context it seemed unnatural because of how out-of-character it was for Hal. Since when was he such a militaristic jerk? At his worst, he’s stubborn and arrogant, not mean. The fact Venditti failed to recognize this basic premise of Hal’s character says volumes about his respect for continuity.
If anything, Venditti paired with Jensen produces even worse results, which is truly unfortunate, as John Stewart has been mishandled so much already that he can ill afford any more writing defects. In Jensens-Venditti’s attempts to liven up John’s personality, they make him seem like—and pardon my French here—a complete douchebag. Again, this is not to say a superhero can’t have an awful personality, but just not when it contradicts the personality he had before.
For my evidence, let me take you back to GLC #6, where John has to deal with fellow Lantern Kirrt’s weakness in the face of torture. Granted, John wasn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy at the end of that ordeal, but even under extreme stress and pain, he had compassion for Kirrt’s suffering. Not so much here, when he encounters a new face on Oa being treated for injuries by Soranik Natu. “What’s wrong with the recruit?” he asks dismissively.
Quite reasonably, Natu asks him to take it easy on the stricken rookie, a request John ignores: “What, one skirmish and he has P.T.S.D.?” Well, gee, John, maybe you can murder planets without flinching, but not everyone can have your stone-cold fortitude. The thing is, John has never been portrayed as this callous—reserved, yes, but not closed to others’ feelings. Surely you don’t remember him being this appalling to the disabled, either: “The only thing Rhoonians are good at is orating, and we recruit one who can’t talk?”*
But then every Corpsman seems to be suffering under Jensen-Venditti’s pen these days. Salaak, in contrast to his days as a Guardians loyalist, has now moved on from suspicious to downright paranoid (“We cannot trust the Guardians,” he mutters in a worrying way. “We cannot trust anything they touched…”). And quite frankly, you much preferred it when Kilowog didn’t speak except to scream, Sergeant Hulka style, that everyone was a bunch of “poozers.” You don’t care much for this touchy-feely Kilowog, who actually plays good cop to John’s bad.
In that sense, maybe having no personality is better than getting your personality botched on this title. It was rather ambitious for Jensen-Venditti to bring in four brand-new Lanterns to the main cast, but not out of the question, as Pete Tomasi did something similar when he relaunched this title. Unlike Isamot, Sheriff Mardin, and Vandor, however, these latest recruits display little individuality to begin with and you don’t even know most of their names. Instead, you spend most of the issue thinking of them in lame generalities: the mute, the geezer, the single mom, etc.
Aside from the problems with the characters (and the dismaying stupidity of the Lanterns for not taking the inexplicable shutoff of their rings much, much more seriously), the story at hand has plenty worthy exploring: the growing discord against the various Lantern corps, the involvement of several major alien races (e.g., the Khund and the Durlans), and the mysterious weakening of the various Lantern entities.
Chang’s art is, of course, adaptable to pretty much anything, so he tucks into this title without missing a beat. He’s particularly talented at drawing subtleties in facial expressions, and his tight paneling style works very well for the more intense, faster-paced sequences. The only problem is that a space opera like this one really prospers the more detail that’s put in, and Chang’s scrubbed-clean figurework often disappoints in this respect. Every arrival on a new planet, from Nellewel 3 to the third moon above planet Cheorg, should be treated to a breathtaking landcape, and instead, Chang squeezes settings into small spaces, leaving our vision narrow and unengaging.
Conclusion: It’s a shame the character work is so poor on this title, as the plotting and art aren’t so bad at all. But I have no desire to read my favorite superheroes when they’re unrecognizable. Dropped.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * If John had been this bad back in #6, I’m sure we would have had a whole sequence of him bitching Kirrt out for his weakness then telling the Keepers to twist the electric screws a little tighter because that’s all a coward deserves.
– Much as I appreciate Yrra figuring out instantly that her boyfriend was a doppelganger, I hate that the discovery turned on the use of the word, “babe.”