This week saw the release of Green Lantern #16 by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke, as well as Green Lantern Corps #16, by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin. The Green Lantern books are some of DC’s most popular, but recently seem to have fallen out of the spotlight, off doing their own thing while the rest of the DC Universe intermingles and becomes incestuous. So! Let’s take a look, and see what’s going on with the space cops…
Catch-up: These issues are set during the ‘Rise of The Third Army’ storyline, which sees the Green Lanterns replaced with a new initiative called ‘the third army’. The third army are mindless drones who assimilate enemies into themselves, Matrix-style. They are controlled by The Guardians, who have finally decided to turn evil. Hal Jordan and Sinestro are trapped, Guy Gardner is stripped of his powers and thrown into prison on Earth, and the only remaining Green Lantern on Earth is Simon Baz, who only just got his powers. John Stewart is mucking around in space, doing something or other, and there’s also something going on with the Red Lanterns and Kyle Rayner — but I have no idea what.
Green Lantern #16 is to be read before Green Lantern Corps #16, if you want a complete story. However, the Green Lantern books as a whole have tended to be very well handled in terms of crossover, with it possible for the reader to pick up either book on their own and get a story. This is mainly due to the fact that the franchise is anchored by only a few characters, and they’re very well defined indeed.
Green Lantern Corps has Guy Gardner and John Stewart as co-leads, and their personalities are so well defined now that Tomasi can resort to broad strokes when writing them. Green Lantern has the new lantern Simon Baz, who is becoming stronger with each issue, as well as small cameo parts for Hal Jordan and Sinestro – again, strong personalities to write about.
Strong personalities means that each book has a different perspective on the central storyline, which is fairly simple. Green Lantern #16 spends a little time setting up the narrative, but most attention is on the character of Simon Baz, wrapping up his stories on Earth in order to start telling cosmic stories with the character. This is a fairly successful piece of work from Johns, who seems far more comfortable with solo titles than team books.
One of the smartest things about the Green Lantern franchise is that any random character can be drafted into a story at any moment, and disposed of whenever – there’s a tolling recruitment policy, and a new character will take their place. Johns has made good use of this over the years, and again he mainly defines his protagonist through their interaction with a random member of the corps.
Issue #16 tells a single tale building up Baz, whilst Green Lantern Corps #16 spends most time with Guy Gardner. The stories are closely connected and follow on from each other, but the focus on a strong central character means that either can be read alone, without any harm to the overall narrative. This week, however, Tomasi’s characterisation is somewhat sloppy, with Guy Gardner in grumpy self-pitying form.
The dialogue is fairly weak for Gardner, with Tomasi never getting beneath the surface of whatever the character is thinking. We know he’s grumpy and self-pitying because other characters respond to him as such, but his own actions seem disjointed and thoroughly uneven. Instead of bouncing off the secondary characters, here we have the main character being defined via the exposition of the secondary characters, and that’s less interesting to read about. This is an issue where Gardner fights aliens alongside his equally headstrong brother and sister – but it’s not as dynamic or entertaining as you’d hope.
I also have little to no idea what is going on in John Stewart’s storyline, which takes up a few pages of this book and is fairly uninteresting.
Doug Mahnke’s work in Green Lantern #16 is assisted by five inkers and two colourists, suggesting that clearly there was a rush for time here. And the issue reflects that, with some typically solid Mahnke body language and expression followed by fragmented art and uneven anatomy. The book certainly falters during scenes set in a hospital, in which the colouring increasingly has to cover up a lack of detail in the pencils. The storytelling remains decent throughout.
The same is true for Green Lantern Corps, which brings me to something — when this book was first relaunched, Dave Gibbons played a key role in the story and artwork for the series. Ever since he left (years ago), it’s felt a little like successive artists have been doing their best to match his style, to uneven results. Pasarin is more successful than most, although he’s let down a little by the colouring, which is somewhat flat and lifeless. The characters are well coloured, but the scenery is dull.
These issues clearly take a step away from the main event story in order to wrap up the character arcs and assemble the various protagonists before a final battle next month. It’s straightforward work, fairly unremarkable, but a decent read. I haven’t been following the main storyline, so I don’t know how the event as a whole has been going – but I enjoyed these issues well enough.