By: Robert Venditti (story), Billy Tan (pencils), Rob Hunter (inks), Alex Sinclair (colors)
The Story: Hal leaves his HQ in shambles to chase after a hot crook.
The Review: The New Yorker once held a forum discussing whether likability is a necessary quality for characters in fiction. While the participants ultimately decided, in a sniffing, scoffing sort of way, that likability is a trite non-factor in a character’s value, they were only partially correct. A character doesn’t need to be likable to capture a reader’s imagination, but writers shouldn’t be surprised either if folks would rather not deal with such a character.
The problem here with Venditti’s portrayal of Hal goes beyond being like-versus-unlikable; it’s the fact that the unlikable parts of his personality don’t seem to mesh with his development to date. We can all agree Hal has his share of flaws—he’s cocky and impulsive and frequently just doesn’t get it—but where Venditti got the idea that pure mean-spiritedness is one of them, you have no idea. Surely he understands no one likes to see their superhero act like a total jag for absolutely no reason, right?
Yet Hal’s dismissive treatment of the new recruits have been exactly that inexplicable and undeserved. On the most basic level, his expectation that a rookie can come right out of the gate swinging just makes him look dumb. Aside from that and his superficial underestimation of the recruits based on their youth and looks, he of all people deserves least to make snap judgments about the quality of a Lantern. Let’s try not to put his Corps-killing past that far behind him, shall we? Yes, Parallax and all, but it was his hand that did the deed.
You also don’t quite appreciate Venditti’s attempts to turn Kilowog into a buffoon. No one minds seeing the burly alien involved in some slapstick, but clumsiness has never been part of his makeup, and neither has allowing himself to be subject to humiliation. Seeing him try to balance his big butt on a tiny chair is obviously amusing, but it feels as wrong as seeing Batman do the same. Kilowog would have too much dignity to get onto that chair in the first place, let alone endure a pratfall with a cartoonish exclamation: “Eep!”
Humiliating as Kilowog has it, at least he has something. You may have been excited to see Natu’s appearances at first, considering her long absence from any Green Lantern title since the relaunch, but soon you’ll grow discontented with her role as a pure cipher. Instead of grappling with Hal as a veteran Lantern in her own right, she merely delivers the information he needs, then slinks back out of that splash of spotlight. Is that all Venditti can think of to use her for?
At least the plotting has been decent, albeit confusing and with no sense of priorities whatsoever. On the heels of Larfleeze’s completely pointless attack on Oa, Hal pursues the escaped prisoner Prixiam Nol-Anj as vengeance for the death of a Lantern none of us cared about anyway—probably because we knew him for all of four or five pages total on this series. Apparently, however, avenging your comrade’s death comes second to making sure your estranged girlfriend (who was narratively forced to break up with you) doesn’t perish from any cosmic threats.
Although I can’t say that Tan is necessarily an outstanding artist, the quality of his work is such that he certainly deserves better material to work with than he gets. He has a sleek, punchy approach to Lantern constructs that don’t quite have the substance and organic quality of Doug Mahnke’s, but are still striking to look at on their own, especially with expert Green Lantern colorist Sinclair on board. Occasionally, there’s a slightly awkward stiffness to the characters’ postures or proportions, but otherwise, Tan draws pleasantly and well.
Conclusion: The character work almost completely disregards the cast’s established personas, and there seems little direction or focus to the plotting at all. The artwork deserves better scripting. Dropped.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I love, by the way, how Venditti brings in Saint Walker for a cameo appearance last issue and next thing we know, Walker’s on some adventure with Carol—no transition or explanation whatsoever. And by “love,” I mean I don’t love it at all.