Review: Green Lantern #21

Well. Here we are, folks; standing together at the dawn of a Green Lantern re-rebirth. Wanna hold hands? Yes indeed, there’s a brand new bulb lighting the way at one of DC’s most (read: only) successful titles, but with Johns gone and Vendittiaquí, does the future of the franchise look bright or has this thing already started to burn out? The answer is decidedly ... somewhere in the middle. Before getting into the particulars of this book, I would first advise prudence, and I mean that as a reminder for myself, too. Geoff Johns’ run was always going to be a tough act to follow, if for no other reason than its longevity, and I think we as fans owe it to Venditti to give him a few issues to find his swing ... or ring, as the case may be. Saying that, I’m going to spoil the ending of this review right now, so you know what you’re getting into. I gave it a 3 out of 5. Now, I don’t mean that to be a bad score, but it does reflect some of the growing pains we can expect going forward.

The book kicks off on Oa at some point “Soon” in the future, and as per usual, the Corps is short on power and under attack, this time by the much-hyped new villain, Relic, who here only appears to be wrecking shit in the distance. However, the big difference here is that the Lanterns’ central battery appears to be, inexplicably and almost impossibly, doused!

Back in the present and before these woes commence, Hal is left to yet again patch things up with Carol (sigh) before being summoned to Oa by the new Templar Guardians, who are being babysat by Kyle Rayner. These much more adorable little blue bastards are clearly not as ornery as their recently deceased brethren, and, as we have been expecting for some time now, promote Hal Jordan to leader of the Green Lantern Corps before fucking off to learn more about the universe or whatever.

Amidst more upheaval, which also sees Kilowog inheriting Salaak’s role as chief Corps pencil-pusher and Hal’s first edict to replace the fallen Lanterns from their most recent crisis with new recruits, Oa gets a rather feisty visit from an old friend, The Orange Lantern, Larfleeze. And that’s about it, really. There is a ton of foreshadowing in this book already, and it’s almost entirely set-up, presenting some intriguing future beats. But, as a long-time fan, I’m not sure I dig where this is going...

GL-Cv21-ds-56a47Let me first say that while he is far from my favorite GL, I like Hal as a Guardian-anointed and very reluctant leader. Although it doesn’t exactly suit his character, I think it’s that very contrast of this hot-headed, anti-establishment figure suddenly being thrust into a position of recognized power that is an interesting thread to follow. At the same time, though, I would have liked to have seen more inner conflict developed, even at this early stage, around the “heavy is the head that wears the crown” aspect of his reign at the top. I know this is one of those things that deserves time to play out, but everyone’s acceptance of this new move feels a bit too ... easy, I guess.

As for the other changes, Kilowog as the new protocol officer is a real iffy fit for me. I want him either shouting at noobs or punching stuff in the face on the front lines, which, admittedly, he does in this issue a bit, so hopefully his new role is only cursory. Okay, and what’s with this having to refill each personal battery thing? Those batteries have always been direct pipelines to the central one on Oa, and never before needed refilling. I guess this is Venditti’s first contribution to the new state of play in his GL run, but I’m not sure I like another limitation to the emerald energy; the ring’s power limit is enough of a crutch.

I think Venditti is kind of on the right path in focusing on core Corps building here, but I don’t know if he’s going about it in the right way, or at least not in the way I personally would have liked to see it develop. Sure, it’s early days from its most recent dismemberment, but this would have been the perfect time for the new creative team to have reestablished the structure of the Corps from the inside-out, making its hierarchy feel more tangible, with Hal at its nucleus. The Green Lantern mythos works best when set firmly within its “police force in space” framework, but this feels empty and rudderless. Something as simple as a couple more weeks in between the changing of the guard could have catalyzed this process, giving Venditti’s run a thicker buffer from Johns’, not to mention a bit more time to establish a direction with more guts beneath its skin.

One of the other things I don’t like is arguably not Venditti’s fault. Am I the only one sick of this Carol/Hal dynamic? It’s a strained relationship that may never fully recover from its immersion within the world of superheroes and villains. We get it. But this tortured love affair just needs to stop, or at least evolve in another direction. Why not just put them together without the caveat that they’re constantly on the brink of meltdown, just to drudge up some kind of conflict? If, however, DC demands such friction, redirect it into something different, like, I dunno, addressing the need to reconcile their relationship as the fulcrum of peace between their respective corps, since technically they are now the heads of each?

Finally, Larfleeze’s unprovoked attack is, even for this greedy antagonist, out of character at this point. I’m hoping this is just some kind of distraction, which will set up Relic’s involvement, but this felt like it was ignoring all of these characters’ recent history together.

In the end, this isn’t a bad start, but as of now, it doesn’t feel like the flagship Green lantern title. Especially with the “not great but serviceable” art from Tan, this reads and looks more like a secondary Lantern book. I’m still going to stick with it because I am intrigued with Relic and what he has done to the Corps’ power, but this is going to have to develop a whole lot more to stay at the top of my mainstream pull list.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Robert Venditti

Artist: Billy Tan

Colorist: Richard Friend

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $3.99

Release Date: 6/5/13