How do you solve a problem like Green Lantern? Many have tried since Geoff Johns famously abdicated control of the books a few years back. But will this latest incarnation by Tom Taylor and returning artist Ethan Van Sciver lead to a new brightest day for the title, or are old fans and new still lost in our longstanding blackest night? Carrying on from the book’s latest arc, which saw the Green Lantern Corps shunted into and trapped within an alternate, temporally-displaced and dying universe, Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #1 follows John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kilowog, Salaak, Arisia, Mogo and other “second-tier” ring slingers as they rally their lost fellow Lanterns and make one last-ditch effort to return home.
On their way out, however, the Lanterns are met by two gigantic beings with similar missions to escape the terminal dimension, and in the process, save the hodgepodge world of evacuees over which they serve as self-appointed “guardians.” As the remaining members of the Green Lantern Corps debate the merits and perils of helping the giants and their charges, a clandestine insurgency from within the world proves to have deadly intentions for our heroes.
Despite many pitfalls, Edge of Oblivion has a few things going for it, conceptually-speaking. One of these intriguing little hits is the name of the male cosmic giant: Dismas. As any good Sunday School dropout knows, that was also the name of “The Penitent Thief,” who was crucified beside, and defended the divinity of, Jesus H. Christ. I’m not sure what, if anything, that will mean to this story, but I thought it was, at very least, an interesting choice, and I’m looking-forward to seeing where Taylor might take that idea. I, for one, think that this Dismas, and his sister(?), Ausras, could be the collective New 52 version of Pariah, but that’s just fanboy conjecture.
That all notwithstanding, the most readily apparent thematic drive this issue is, of course, the way the book addresses the all-too-topical subject of refugees. Sure, that discussion in this first issue comes off as a bit on-the-nose, but in its defense, that’s historically been the case with the staggering amount of times Green Lantern titles have been inspired by the politics of the day. And yet, while Taylor does a decent enough job giving every Lantern his, her or its logical voice (Guy is steadfastly conservative, Salaak is uncompromisingly logical, Kilowog is all heart and motivated by the apparently still-canonical loss of his homeworld), the argument they have yet lacks the depth that may have made it more profound.
Saying that, this is only the first issue, and we owe it to the creative team to (hopefully) flesh out the refugee discussion into something more deft and thought-provoking in issues hence; otherwise, this thread has the danger of being “topical” only because it barely scratches the surface of what it could.
My biggest problem with Edge of Oblivion #1 is that it is mired in the perpetual loop of sameness that all Green Lantern books have been stuck in since the end of the Sinestro Corps Wars. How many times are we going to see a bunch of Lanterns alternatively standing, floating or fighting around some huge, vaguely perilous cosmic entity? With few exceptions, we’ve gotten that same model for years, whether it was Parallax, the Anti-Monitor, Nekron, Volthoom, Relic or even The New Gods. That slavish commitment to one kind of conflict seems like such a waste of a mythos that lends itself beautifully to multifaceted, character-based storytelling. Again, a more nuanced approach is hinted at here, but it lasts for all of two or three non-consecutive pages, wherein the Lanterns are poised as talking-head set pieces rather than what feels like living, breathing characters.
What made the Green Lantern books by Johns, Van Sciver, Gibbons and Gleason (among others) so effective back between 2005 and 2007(ish) was the collective focus of both the creators and the editorial teams to make something new and fresh, something that emphasized the strength of the Green Lantern Corps as both a single-minded chorus and a collection of individual voices. Now, however, we just get sweeping wide shots of the same calamity, over and over, acted out by slightly different players; an over-plundered well that is now as shallow as the apparently finite emotional spectrum (another lackluster concept, this time from the Green Lantern: Lights Out arc).
What makes this all the more frustrating is what the creative team behind this book have been capable of in the past. Tom Taylor, who admittedly articulates some fun, even at times funny dialogue this issue, seems like he is holding back by comparison to what he has achieved in his long-running stewardship of the Injustice titles: inarguably the most compelling Elseworlds books DC has put out in years. I could be wrong here, but to me, this by-the-numbers storytelling smacks of tight editorial hand-holding and stringent guidelines, which are stifling Taylor’s otherwise entertainingly iconoclastic narrative approach and the general depth of Green Lantern storytelling.
Likewise, Ethan Van Sciver, who is the visual architect of Green Lantern’s Rebirth, and as such, helped usher him/them back into prominence, seems to be phoning this one in. Don’t get me wrong, he still peoples his panels with instantly-recognizable, even iconic (if a bit stiff) figure work, but apart from one bout of action and impetus, they feel aimless, shuffling their feet against barely-there backgrounds that are made up of little more than sparse tree lines and rubble; a dearth that, at least in my review copy, isn’t alleviated by Jason Wright’s sometimes erringly phosphorescent palette. I get that emptiness is thematic -- this does take place in a dying universe, after all -- but given Van Sciver’s lush attention to detail in the past, this was underwhelming.
And yet, perhaps because I’m a glutton for punishment when it comes to my beloved Green Lantern Corps, or because I still believe that this team has it in them to make something great, I’m going to stick with Green Lantern: Edge of Oblivion... for now, at least. This “lost amalgam world of refugees” setup could be interesting to see unfold, and it does hint at the possible resurgence of a Green Lantern: Mosaic-type title. In the right hands, that could be fucking brilliant, and just the shot in the arm the GLC concept needs to retake its spot atop DC’s currently hurting library. Only time will tell, of course, but if something doesn’t change, then like the dying universe in which this book is set, my time for Green Lanterns is in danger of finally running out.
Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #1 Writer: Tom Taylor Artist: Ethan van Sciver Colorist: Jason Wright Publisher: DC Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/13/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital