Review: Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 03, 2011

I've decided at this point I'd read Peter Tomasi's comic book adaptation of the phone book, if he wrote it. Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors is another winner from Tomasi after a string of such on Green Lantern Corps. With the years-long run-up to Blackest Night behind him, Tomasi is able to focus more on the characters in Warriors, teaming up a number of fan-favorites. Emerald Warriors itself is a strange series, almost not a series -- the whats and whys, however, matter far less given the strength of Tomasi's story.

[Contains spoilers]

Emerald Warriors collects the first seven issues of the self-same series; three more issues will appear in the War of the Green Lanterns collection, and then the final three in the Aftermath collection. That makes this volume the first and only singular collection of the Emerald Warriors series, with Peter Tomasi returning to Green Lantern Corps after the DC Comics relaunch. As such, it makes it hard to call Emerald Warriors a series at all, but more like a miniseries that DC Comics didn't want to call a mini so as not to tip off the forthcoming relaunch (not unlike, to an extent, the also-thirteen-issue Flash, the Fastest Man Alive).

This is important because even as I liked Emerald Warriors, in trying to determine whether the book is "successful" on its own it's necessary to determine what Emerald Warriors is and therefore what it tries to accomplish. I reject, really, that Warriors is anything different than Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps, given that both use the same characters and storylines and that Tomasi proceeds right back to Corps after Warriors. Also, despite "Warriors" in the title, this book is no more gory than your average issue of Corps (and those complaining that the DC Relaunch Corps is too bloody obviously weren't watching when Mongul ripped out Sinestro Corpsman Arkillo's tongue or when murder victim's eyeballs rained on the Green Lantern recruits).

Rather, Warriors deviates from Corps in its emphasis on its characters. Sure, Corps has offered considerable building of Lanterns Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner -- including Guy's relationship with girlfriend Ice and Kyle's trauma over his possession by Parallax -- as well as spotlighting Lanterns Natu, Kol, Sarn, Kilowog, Arisia, and Sodam Yat, among others. WIth a stripped-down cast of three, however (plus the irrepressible Red Lantern Bleez), Tomasi has room to hone in on the characters like he hasn't before -- Guy Gardner, guilty over undertaking a secret mission without telling his friends; Kilowog, guilty over the recruits he's trained and watched die; and Arisia, guilty over abandoning her partner Yat.

Of these, Kilowog's struggle is the most compelling, in part because it's the most relatable and in part because Tomasi takes the usually gruff-but-loveable character into emotional territory that's new for the reader. I also appreciated that Tomasi's challenge for Gardner is that Gardner is working to keep his Red Lantern-fueled anger under control and rid himself of an unwanted power source, both of which one can imagine would have been anathema to Gardner just a few iterations ago; it's also nice to see Gardner grow into a leadership role for this erstwhile team. I rate Arisia's conflict only slightly lower because I've never quite been convinced by her love for Yat and wish her struggle could be just because she let down her partner, not because of romance (I've never quite been convinced of Yat's prophecy-foretold potential, frankly, and much prefer him as the villain he emerges at the end of this book).

The Green Lantern Corps as a concept is a team, of course, but we don't think of it as a team book like Justice League; rather appearances of multiple Green Lanterns in Corps is akin to how various members of the Bat-family come and go in Batman. But the triumvirate of Gardner, Arisia, and Kilowog (plus Bleez and maybe Blue Lantern Warth) is so focused as to seem a team and not an ensemble -- the closest analogue I can consider, to some readers' chagrin, is the new DC Relaunch title Red Hood and the Outlaws, also built from three hard-luck heroes teamed together because they have nowhere else to go. It's a compelling recipe, and I enjoyed reading about Green Lanterns brought together on a smaller scale than the Corps, like a Green Lantern espionage squad.

I'm hard-pressed, however, to imagine Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors at issue #100. The group accomplishes their goal, to venture out to the Unknown Sectors and find the source of what's draining power from the green rings; perhaps future issues could follow the team further out into the unknown (like Green Lantern Corps meets Star Trek: Voyager, effectively), but I can't imagine Kilowog, for instance, would find resolution to his conflict completely divorced from the Green Lantern Corps title proper. That is, if Emerald Warriors were just to spotlight these three Lanterns in otherwise normal situations, I'd just as soon see it rolled back into Corps; and if its purpose was to separate these three characters from Corps proper, I'm not convinced that would be sustainable.

As the premiere of its own series, then, Emerald Warriors is strong on characters, but short on the focus necessary to define itself, Tomasi's writing notwithstanding. The villain Zardor is unremarkable, seemingly shoe-horned as a sub-villain into the greater Krona plot going on in Green Lantern. Artist Fernando Pasarin draws some nice sci-fi gore (and a great close-up of a blustering Kilowog) but his figures seem too stiff and "normal" for a Green Lantern book; I wonder if he'll bring the same depth to the post-DC relaunch Green Lantern Corps as previous artist Patrick Gleason did.

This is all to say that while Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors is as entertaining as one would expect a Peter Tomasi-written afternoon with Guy Gardner, Kilowog, and Arisia would be, there's not enough here to justify a third Green Lantern title. These characters, and Tomasi, might better have been left on Green Lantern Corps, continuing that title's string of hits (I wasn't much of a fan of Tomasi's replacement on Green Lantern Corps). Corps fans will find the same quality stories they've come to expect here, however, and it's just as well Tomasi will be back on that title in just a few short trades from now.

[Contains original and variant covers]

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2 comments:

  1. I've said before, and I'll reiterate, that 4 Green Lantern series in the new 52 is too much! I thought it was unnecessary when this series was added as the 3rd, and now they've gone even further with it.

    Your comment about Flash: The Fastest Man Alive got me thinking though...that series (starring Bart Allen as Flash) lasted 13 issues, and the latest Flash series (starring Barry) only lasted 12 (although technically it was interrupted only due to the relaunch, I guess). The re-start of Wally's series (in between those other two) lasted 17 issues. Not much consistency in the last 5-6 years out of one of their highest profile characters (behind the "trinity" and GL, of course).

    Anyway, didn't mean to hijack this GL review to talk about Flash. I plan on reading this soon, and was pleased to read that Tomasi (who I enjoyed on GL Corps) continued with his good work on this title.

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  2. I didn't quite think anyone but Grant Morrison could write Batman and Robin, but I have faith Tomasi can and I'm looking forward to this relaunch title.

    Related to your Flash comment, I hope one day we'll learn what was real and what was hype in relation to the relaunch. Johns talked about Flashpoint as a major event to bring Barry to the forefront of the DC Universe like Hal -- not that it did or didn't, but it hardly seems now like that was the goal of Flashpoint. Was that never DC's intention, or did plans change? Hope one day we'll find out.

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