Review: Green Lantern Corps: Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Green Lantern Corps has been a perennial surprise hit for me -- from Sins of the Star Sapphire to Emerald Eclipse to the Corps volume of Blackest Night, I have enjoyed this title immensely, and every time more than I expected. Unfortunately, new series writer (as least until September's DC Relaunch) Tony Bedard's first outing, Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns, is dull by comparison, lacking both the excitement and nuance of Tomasi's work. It's a good thing Tomasi returns to Green Lantern Corps after the relaunch, else it's possible I might have dropped Corps entirely.

[Contains spoilers]

The "Revolt" story takes Bedard five issues to tell, when I couldn't help but think Tomasi or Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns could have covered the same material in one or two issues. Every step of the story seems to require its own chapter -- an entire chapter for Lantern John Stewart to arrive on the robot planet Grenda, another entire chapter for Kyle Rayner, Soranik Natu, and Ganthet to arrive to rescue him, still another while the heroes hide out from the villain, and so on.

Corps has seen in Emerald Eclipse, for instance, the Green Lanterns take on the issue of capitol punishment as Rayner and Guy Gardner placed their own bodies between the Alpha-Lanterns and villains to be executed. In Revolt, in contrast, the story is black and white with no shades of grey -- Alpha-Lanterns are kidnapped by the evil Cyborg Superman, Stewart and company arrive for the rescue, and they're successful.

When the Lanterns fought the Sinestro Corps's baby-stealing Kryb in Sins of the Star Sapphire, their battle was weird and violent and shocking. Revolt has not the cybernetic Borg-esque horror it could have; rather a good amount of the real nitty-gritty battles with the Cyborg take place in an artificial dream-space. Letting alone that I don't quite get the sci-fi science that lets Alpha-Lantern Boddika and the Cyborg Superman fight it out in their subconsciouses (nor how Boddika can be so sure this kills the Cyborg), this dream fighting lacks the drama "real" fighting might have brought. Revolt's story turns on Boddika and the other Alpha-Lanterns being unable to act for themselves; Boddika's moment to shine has her standing still, and I found this unsatisfying.

Bedard does achieve some nice character moments in the book, especially in regards to Boddika. Boddika is a long-standing, brusque Green Lantern character, and her transformation to an emotionless Alpha-Lantern pained the reader the same as her fellow Lanterns. Bedard has a perfect sense of continuity here, bringing up some of Boddika's greatest moments from stories ten or more years ago and this thrilled me as a fan, as did the two-part spotlight on Boddika by Sterling Gates that closes out this book.

Bedard's focus on new Green Lantern Ganthet is also interesting, including Ganthet forging his own ring, and I very much enjoyed Bedard's depiction of the Cyborg Superman during Blackest Night and the ties this book has to the upcoming War of the Green Lanterns. This is not quite enough to offset the other difficulties of the book -- and I groaned at the silly jealousies Bedard seems to be setting up between Rayner and Natu -- but there are some moments here that Corps fans might want to see.

I had liked artist Ardian Syaf's work on Superman/Batman: Big Noise, but here I felt it came off too dark and rough, often with distorted open-mouthed faces; artist Nelson's faces are equally distorted in Gates's story, with every character wearing a perpetual sneer. I'm not sure if Bedard's story might have shined more if Gleason drew it, but the combination of both unremarkable story and art lead ultimately to a book that doesn't meet its own standard. This is a small thing, but Syaf draws the Red Lantern Atrocitus incorrectly in the first pages, with red fire coming perpetually out of his mouth like a solid cloud hanging around the character, and it's an indication of the kind of extra care this book needed and didn't receive.

Another "care" issue: Gates's Alpha-Lantern story came out five years ago, roundabouts Final Crisis, whereas Bedard's are more recent, but Bedard's are presented first in the book. I don't mind this necessarily -- Bedard's issues are the more important of the volume, though reading Gates's first gives greater insight to the characters -- but there's no indication given to the casual reader to explain the discrepancy. It's not hard to read the beginning of Gates's story as following rather than preceding Bedard's, and a casual reader could certainly be confused.

Also, Gates's story ends with a tag directing the reader to follow the events into Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns, a book which indeed follows Gates's old story, but not Bedard's, essentially moving an uninformed reader backward. In comparison to Green Lantern: Brightest Day, which not only directs the reader to War of the Green Lanterns but even includes a preview of it, Green Lantern Corps: Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns seems an unfortunate slapdash production that doesn't get help from any of its sides. More's the pity, because this is a good series that deserves better.

[Contains original and variant covers]

Let's put this uncharacteristic stumble behind us, however, because up next comes the Collected Editions review of Justice League: Generation Lost Vol. 1. Be there!
Collected Editions 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

3 comments:

  1. I agree this trade wasn't as exciting as Tomasi's run, but I did have high hopes for Bedard after reading all of his released R.E.B.E.L.S trades. I was also hoping for something bigger for the 50th issue...but hey. I don't really think there is anything else to possibly write about the cyborg superman now. And i'm glad to see the next trade focuses on an entirely new character in the Weaponer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Weaponer's arc is a little bit better, but it still suffers from being overly long. Bedard's work on War of the Green Lanterns and its Aftermath are much better, but both still have moments of odd dialogue and plotting that make them feel out of place compared to Tomasi's and Johns' work.

    Tomasi's Emerald Warriors is surprisingly good, though. It picks up all the best GLC regulars, and acts as a better transition into the War of the Green Lanterns.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good point that Bedard writes REBELS, too, which I've liked, though I'd venture that the last trade or so has shown some signs of the malaise that I also note here. I'll be curious to see how Bedard's New Guardians series is.

    Really looking forward to Tomasi's Emerald Warriors. A Green Lantern book by Tomasi that's perhaps even more bloody and out there than his Green Lantern Corps? Sign me up.

    ReplyDelete