Admittedly, in the long wait for the Blackest Night collections and uncharacteristically lackluster Green Lantern: Agent Orange, I'd begun to feel just the slightest bit of event fatigue for Blackest Night before I'd even read the series. However, as the next in a string of great collections, writer Peter Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps: Emerald Eclipse is nothing short of outstanding, possibly the best trade paperback I've read all year, and if this book reflects the quality of Blackest Night to come, I'm excited all over again.
From the beginning of the second chapter, when Daxamite Green Lantern Sodam Yat confronts the xenophobic mother who nearly exiled him from his home planet, Tomasi places Emerald Eclipse a cut above the rest. There's plenty of cosmic action in this book (and that's great, too) but largely the conflicts are between individual characters, and it brings a unique richness to the story. Yat, for instance, has been so far something of a cypher for me, but when Tomasi lets Yat's pent-up anger boil up to the surface in the face of his mother's racism, it's so powerful as to forever define the character. The Daxamites brainwashed Yat and murdered his alien friend, but they're now asking him to save their lives, and the moments when Yat weighs his rage versus his duty as a Green Lantern are simply electric.
Similarly, at the end of the book we find Green Lanterns Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner planting themselves squarely between some of their worst enemies and a firing squad, trying to prevent the Guardians and Alpha Lanterns from committing mass murder. This scene brings to a head some of the most interesting aspects of the new Green Lantern mythos -- the Lanterns have had to consider if they can still be effective without using lethal force in the face of murderous enemies, and now the Guardians have taken this to the extreme, executing even captured foes. Tomasi does well tying this to real-world issues -- if we murder our prisoners, Kyle asks, what will our enemies do to us? -- and creates palpable tension as the Alpha Lanterns pick off well-known bad guys one-by-one before the reader.
There's a number of these great moments in Emerald Eclipse, whether quiet ones like the verbal sparring between Lantern Soranik Natu and Sinestro, Natu's burgeoning relationship with Kyle Rayner, and the interactions between Rayner and Gardner or Natu and her Lantern partner Princess Iolande; or giant, loud ones like the knock-down fight between Mongul and Arkillo for control of the Sinestro Corps; or the massive, I-can't-believe-this-wasn't-its-own-crossover jailbreak of the Sinestro Corps from the Oan Sciencells, and kudos to artist Patrick Gleason for clear cosmic art in scenes of both type. That Sciencell battle, too, helped define the Red Lantern Corps for me; I wasn't entirely clear on their powers from Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns, but now I see the threat they pose (especially, that their spit can melt Green Lantern constructs!).
I remain only mildly confused by the end of Emerald Eclipse, but I suspect that confusion is on purpose. Yat released the power of Ion to turn Daxam's sun yellow -- did this kill Yat, or does he now exist for some reason, as the last scene suggests, in the sun (or is Yat's image meant to be Arisia's fond remembrance)? And with all the pushing and pulling that the Guardian Scar did to make the shield over the planet Oa explode (yet another fantastic, could-have-been-its-own-event moment), I was surprised to see all the Black Lantern Corps rings explode out of ... a little meteor. This final page felt anti-climactic to me after a book full of wonders, but I can most certainly forgive this after everything else in this book.
Constant Collected Editions readers will remember I was none too pleased that DC Comics switched Green Lantern Corps from paperback to hardcover with this volume, in a way that suggested to me trying to unfairly capitalize on the excitement over Blackest Night. Green Lantern Corps has only been in paperback before, but now if a reader wants to be caught up for Blackest Night, they have to read the Emerald Eclipse hardcover or else wait until November to get the paperback. Well, I didn't want to wait and delay reading Blackest Night, and was lucky enough to find someone willing to lend me their Emerald Eclipse hardcover, but it doesn't change my feelings on the situation -- I think this was a bad time for Green Lantern Corps to go hardcover, and if it remains that way after Blackest Night, I'll be waiting for the paperback then, too.
That said ... Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have done themselves remarkably proud with Green Lantern: Emerald Eclipse. It's a shame Tomasi won't be staying on this book much longer, but he's won himself a fan and I'll be eager for his other Green Lantern work.
[Contains full and variant covers]
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