5 Jun 2013

Cover To Cover: GREEN LANTERN #21

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Billy Tan, Richard Friend, Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina
DC $2.99

Stewart R: With the old Guardians now gone, the First Lantern defeated, Sinestro off the board for the time being and Geoff Johns looking elsewhere within DC’s catalogue for his next project, a new era begins for the Green Lantern Corps and Hal Jordan and with it a terrific opportunity for DC to do something new with one of its most promising and creatively diverse properties. Robert Venditti is in the writing duty hot seat and Billy Tan picks up his pencil to lead the artistic charge into this new day and the adventures beyond.

Unfortunately, on the basis of this opening chapter of Venditti’s run, he’s not too inclined to throw us into anything new or deliver any fresh ideas straight off the bat and this comes across like a practise run to convince the ongoing audience that he can handle many of the elements that Johns (and the likes of Peter Tomasi) crafted for us over the past decade. While the opening sequence suggests a perilous time somewhere up the road, what follows just seems to be leading us through the latest copy of ‘How To Write A Hal Jordan: Green Lantern Issue In 5 Easy Steps’ and it’s a little disappointing as a result.

Hal in his pilot gear, on Earth, trying to convince Carol that they are okay and should be together? Check. Hal doubting his abilities to be a leader? Check. An old enemy/antagonist turning up unannounced to wreak temporary havoc? Check. A greater subplot involving dangerous prisoners who may not remain contained for long? Check. Possible issues with Lantern rings and their ability to draw power? Check. It’s quite formulaic with only small flashes that tease that something slightly different may be ahead.

The New 52 soft reboot of this title seemed to allude to the fact that Hal Jordan’s story had fallen close to that seen in the pedestrian live action Green Lantern movie yet remained thankfully close to all that Johns had put into his work up until that point. Rather worryingly here, there are little nods that point towards the box office flop once again. Hal’s cocky interaction with Carol echoes a man from years ago who seems to have learned nothing (or experienced little?) and suggests that their relationship has had little development despite all that has occurred. His reluctance to lead also feels out of place considering everything he’s been through and every barnstorming, universe-threatening event he’s managed to lead the Corps to victory in, time after time.

Having come out the other side of the Blackest Night and having been the top Black Lantern briefly, you’d have thought that Venditti would have a hardened, confident man to steer and knock back with challenges as he sees fit, but it just feels like some strange New 52 reboot ring has captured Hal in its grasp and is dampening his character growth. Some might say that I’m digging too deep, but even Tan has Hal mount the same, dang anti-aircraft gun used in the film which just reinforced my concerns even more!

The inclusion of Larfleeze would usually bring me cause for a smile as he too had shown some character growth under Johns’ hand, yet he’s clearly identifiable here as a simple, one-dimensional plot element used to bring some action to the opening chapter and where I usually like Kilowog’s involvement he too appears to be thrust forward to help ease us into the ‘Green Lantern School’ story that it appears we might be heading towards. Keeping Salaak in the picture and spending a little more time looking at the details and motives of moving the Corps forward and what it should be would have possibly been a better transition and played with some fundamental ideas but then explosions, ring battling and excitement probably sell more books.

So it’s not what I expected hoped for and it’s a little one note, yet it does contain some good moments. Venditti handles Carol well and the concept of her Star Sapphire powers being dependent on her feelings for Hal are something I’d like him to look at in more depth. There always seems to be some problem with the Lantern powers and though it’s getting a little tired as a premise there’s enough intrigue set out in the initial flash forward and at odd moments to be tickling my interest further. The art from Tan is decent with Friend’s lighter hand on the inking side giving his linework a look that I’ve not often seen before and it certainly has that recognisable feel of a Green Lantern book that I’m now used to.

I suspect that many Green Lantern readers who enjoyed the universe that Johns crafted and expanded, yet were always hungry for Hal to get out of his periods of exile and bizarre questing and get back to space policing, working with and steering the Corps, will find something that appeals to them here and Green Lantern #21 is no flop, it’s just the green is a little dull and looking a little tired these days at a time when we were supposed to be a getting fresh and vibrant emerald delivery. A shame, but this is a by the numbers 5/10

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