Review: Green Lantern Corps: Ring Quest trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hot on the heels of the Sinestro Corps War (which, let me amend, I absolutely adored reading the second time around), new Green Lantern Corps writer Peter Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason deliver a weird and wild story in Ring Quest--one where, I'd venture, Gleason draws career-defining work. After the momentous events of the Sinestro Corps War, Green Lantern Corps: Ring Quest does offer the characters some downtime, but it's also suspenseful, revealing -- and bloody.

Following the Sinestro Corps War, no one would blame either of the Green Lantern titles for taking a more character-driven breather. Indeed, Ring Quest does start rather slowly, with two issues that consist of a lot of Lanterns Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner contemplating their navels, enough so that I began to worry the entire collection might be this soft. Instead, Ring Quest is a roller coaster right that moves slowly up the hill and then rockets toward the finish, in a way that makes the slow start that much more valuable.

Tomasi presents both Guy and Kyle at a crossroads -- Kyle with no ties left on Earth, and Guy spurned once again by his once-lost love Ice. I'm not a bit fan of the transition to Oa for either of these characters. It pained me to see Guy seemingly reverting to the old immature Guy around Ice, and I'm not sure I agree that these characters wouldn't get along especially as much as Guy has matured. Kyle, on the other hand, has always been an earthbound character, with a fully-realized home and career during the Ron Marz days; it's hard to picture him, too, moving to Oa. Still, Guy and Kyle as neighbors on Oa has an almost sitcom-like appeal; I like their friendship, and that drives me to continue with this title.

But the calm in Ring Quest, to be sure, swiftly gives way to a raucous alien bloodbath. Our ten (count 'em, ten) main characters travel to what turns out to be the homeworld of the infamous Black Mercy plant, orbited by decaying carcases from a hundred different worlds, at which point said planet tries to eat them alive. Gleason's artwork is violent to say the least, building on some of the far-out deaths he drew in the Sinestro Corps War, similar in many ways to the cartoony violence of artist Doug Mahnke. This sci-fi violence, if you like that sort of thing, goes a long way toward modernizing Green Lantern Corps, bringing this vestiage of the 1980s firmly into the twenty-first century. Hardly can I myself believe that Green Lantern Corps is one of my favorite titles; fans of Dead Space and other sci-fi/horror hybrids would find much to like here, too.

Gleason's art, of course, works hand-in-hand with Tomasi's first independent Green Lantern arc, and I was especially impressed with how Tomasi defines and differentiates the ten different Lanterns in this story. Over twenty-five issues, we've learned a lot about Vath, Kol, Natu, and the others, and Tomasi continues to make us care about each of them. The ability for Lanterns to kill now with their rings adds an interesting wrinkle, and I was riveted when the Lanterns debated whether to kill the "Mother Mercy" plant; we've learned so much about these characters that the reader knows where each is coming from and why they believe what they do about the controversy.

If I had one concern in all this, it's the continued use of the Sinestro Corps and the fabled emotional spectrum, even after the end of the Sinestro Corps War series. This story could undoubtably have been told even without the villain Mongul finding a Sinestro Corps ring in the beginning; does Mongul -- like the Cyborg Superman, Amon Sur, and others -- really need to be a Sinestro corpsman? It begins to feel like the Green Lanterns face the same threat in every story, and I wonder if this will get old; I'm doubly concerned where the Green Lantern titles will go, and whether Geoff Johns will stick around, after the vaunted Blackest Night story ends. The Green Lantern titles have more than a right to their own hype after the Sinestro Corps War, but I fear sometimes whether they can live up to it.

[Contains full covers.]

We continue our Green Lantern jaunt with Green Lantern: Secret Origin, coming up next. Stay tuned!
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