Review: Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Well, I thought I was the last person who was ever going to like Green Lantern Corps. But as with Green Lantern Corps: Recharge (read the Collected Editions review), I continue to be impressed with this series. In Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern, Dave Gibbons wisely continues to focus on just a few Corps members (even fewer than the handfull in Recharge), and the close details on their struggles helps to humanize what might otherwise be a heavy-handed science-fiction, plot driven story. With all the excitement over "The Sinestro Corps War," To Be a Lantern is an excellent taste of the quality ahead.

In To Be a Lantern, Guy Gardner assists new Lantern Natu in solving the murder of the partner she abandoned. While Natu deals with anti-Lantern sentiments on her homeworld, Guy tries to take some time off, but is quickly attacked by the bounty hunter Bolphunga. Meanwhile, Lantern Vath tries to overcome his ever-present rage while his partner Kol must decide between the Corps and his mating urge.

Natu, Vath, and Kol are all new characters, and Gibbons works to give them each clear, well-defined struggles. Natu is slowly overcoming her own prejudices about the Corps, only to find that her society is not so forgiving; Vath and Kol have only just started to get along, only for each of them to be haunted by their pasts. There's a strong soap opera feel to each Lanterns' plotline, moreso than in other team books, perhaps because Gibbons seems in no rush to bring any of the stories to a conclusion; in face, Vath and Kol never even encounter Natu and Gardner in the trade. This gives the story a sweeping, epic feel, but the characterization is so strong that it's easy to get caught up.

Gibbons gets the most points in my book, however, for his portrayal of Guy Gardner. I'm a big fan of Gardner as written by Beau Smith; the way Smith redefined "manliness," if you will, such that Guy could be tough without being a jerk, was nothing short of brilliant. (Read Beau Smith's essay, "A Firestorm for Guy Gardner: Warrior" for more. I'm going to write a post on that one of these days.) It's easy for writers to write Guy as a jerk; it's harder--and the sign of a good writer--for writers to write Guy as a complex man with jerky, but also heroic, tendencies. Gibbons accomplishes this, giving Guy just the right amount of humor and bravery (the scene after the prince kills the informant is priceless - "There's no weapon, you lunkhead!" indeed).

If anything--and I can't believe I'm saying this--but it's only after the legendary Dave Gibbons takes over the art chores on the book that To Be a Lantern. Kudos to DC for putting Gibbons out in front, but Patrick Gleason's moody art far more fits this series. Gibbon's Guy Gardner too closely resembles the Justice League International version, and this combined with a looser story--Guy on a Risa-like planet--makes To Be a Lantern seem a little silly. Never fear, though; strong cut-scenes of Natu, Vath, and Kol help the story out.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Gotham Central volume three wins again. What's out there written better than that book?]

So Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern wins my favor, and in all I'm very impressed with DC's resurrection of the Green Lantern mythos. Ion up next, followed by some Green Lantern proper!
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