Review: War of the Green Lanterns hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Green Lantern is one of those series, as most readers will know, that's continuing virtually unchanged into the DC Comics New 52 relaunch. War of the Green Lanterns, though a crossover, needed not necessarily to be an ending; however, writer Geoff Johns accomplishes both, setting up the next arc while bringing to close, at least in part, his uninterrupted sixty-seven issue run on Green Lantern. As a crossover, War of the Green Lanterns has interesting elements but as a whole feels somewhat tired; hopefully it portends better things to come.

[Contains spoilers]

What is meant to differentiate War of the Green Lanterns from previous Green Lantern crossovers like Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, I'm guessing, is that its focus is the four Earthman Green Lanterns. Though Hal Jordan, Guy Garnder, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner are often in lead roles, in this story they have to battle an entire mind-controlled Corps often without their green rings. This would be a cause for much celebration at the end of the story, cementing the place of these four as the greatest of the Green Lanterns, if not for the pyrrhic nature of their victory -- where both Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night ended in triumph, War of the Green Lanterns ends in victory for the Corps but defeat for our heroes.

I have written before that I'd like to see Johns bring some change to the Corps-leading Guardians of the Universe. It is basically the structure of every Green Lantern story that the Lanterns are sent on a mission by the Guardians for which the Guardians withhold some key piece of information or criticize the Lanterns in the end for some "out of the box" action. Johns has demonstrated any number of betrayals committed by the Guardians that ought have made Hal and the Corps rebel, but after every adventure the Corps returns to status quo.

War is no exception, with the Guardians in command again and Hal censured (stripped of his ring, this time). Perhaps its necessary that Johns bring things back to basics before the start of the New 52 Green Lantern, though I very much wish we might at some point see a story where a democratized Corps must lead itself sans Guardians, because the old patterns are getting repetitive.

Indeed, there's a lot in this crossover between Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, and Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors that did feel repetitive. Johns and fellow writers Peter Tomasi and Tony Bedard divide the crossover so that Johns writes Hal and Tomasi writes Guy while Bedard takes John and Kyle; this leads to at least three issues where the various characters all come to the same conclusions about the mind-controlled Corps, and when John and Kyle split off from Hal and Guy, one knows they'll have to wait until Bedard's turn comes around again two issues hence before the characters will appear again.

I wish DC would structure these crossovers so every writer takes a piece rather than splitting things up so severely; maybe every writer has a character with which they're most comfortable, but it creates a ready experience that seems very predictable and artificial.

Johns and company also use as cliffhanger fodder, once again, the appearance of the sentient planet-Lantern Mogo. Mogo's arrival was a big moment in Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night too, to the point where it lacks the same excitement in War; John Stewart's destruction of Mogo seems too cruel for John's character, famously already living down the destruction of one planet, but I admit to some pleasure in seeing Mogo taken off the table so he can't be a "dramatic" plot point yet a fourth time.

The worst sin, in my opinion, is that War of the Green Lanterns fails to challenge the reader in the way both Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night did. In Sinestro, aside from the story's unprecedented scope, Johns introduced the idea of the Lanterns using lethal force, and the reader had to decide how they felt about it. Blackest Night was a gigantically emotional (and often terrifying story) with the surprise resurrections at the end. Maybe War's big moment is supposed to be the destruction of Mogo, or Hal losing his ring, but neither of those really shocked me; the most that War raised my blood pressure, really, was when Hal and Guy boarded the spaceship not-coincidentally named "Aya" -- pity the thing crashed to pieces just a few pages later.

War does not diminish my estimation for Johns's Green Lantern work as a whole; indeed I chose his expansive, complicated Green Lantern: Brightest Day as one of my best picks for 2011, and I'm eager to see what he does with Sinestro in the new series. War has some fun moments, including a Hal Jordan/Guy Gardner fistfight that reminds me of the Justice League International days, and especially the flashbacks to the early days of the Guardians by Ed Benes are all quite entertaining. At the same time, the writers' characterization of John Stewart, especially, seemed off to me, and the other chapters didn't have the same pizazz that the ones by Johns and artist Doug Mahnke did.

In closing Green Lantern, Johns provides a partial answer to why Hal Jordan, who seemingly respects no authority, should be a member of the Green Lantern Corps. "I fight for what's right," Hal struggles to say as the mad Guardian Krona chokes him. "I fight for the ideals the Corps embodies." It's ironic that the Guardians should take Hal's ring given that Hal is perhaps their more loyal Corpsman -- fighting for the Corps not because of the Guardians, but despite them. It made me wonder: if Hal were not a Green Lantern, would he find himself a Legion flight ring and still be a superhero? Heroics seem to be in Hal's blood, and though I know Johns has other plans for the new Green Lantern series, I'd have been interested to see this explored.

War of the Green Lanterns is not the best conclusion for what's been a ground-breaking Green Lantern series ("This isn't how it's supposed to end," for sure); for a series credited with returning Hal Jordan to greatness, this final crossover felt mostly like paint-by-numbers. Green Lantern: Brightest Day was great, though, and I have no doubt Green Lantern can be great again; this stumble just makes me more eager for the relaunch volume to come.

[Includes original and variant covers. Printed on glossy paper]

Next week, we'll take a look at some Superman books. Also there's a DC TPB Timeline update lurking around here somewhere ...
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5 comments:

  1. I am a little caught off guard by your review. I think your opinion might be a little different if you read Rebirth right before this trade. It seemed to me like the two made pretty good bookends. Both books brought out the personalities of the four Earth Green Lanterns and how they attack problems differently. I was really happy with the characterizations of all four GLs. There weren't the "dude" moments you didn't like from Kyle in The Weaponer". I thought John Stewarts actions were a hint at what lies ahead with the Indigo Tribe. Would John have made the decision to be responsible for the destruction of another planet have happened if he wasn't under the influence of the different rings? Is there a better character to harness the power of love and hate than Guy Gardner? You brought up Hal flying the spaceship-that definitely was a highlight (bringing things back to a bookend-Hal and Guy fly the spaceship to save the Corps, in Rebirth Kyle flew Hal's body in a spaceship to save the Corps). I read this when it came out, so I've already forgotten some of it, but I loved it. Hopefully some other people can back me up.

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  2. Your points, Nate, are entirely compelling -- indeed the reason the four Earth Lanterns can save the day here is exactly because of the circumstances of their "first" adventure in Rebirth. If these ties were indeed intentional (I'm with you on the point above, less with you on the spaceship tie), I would have wished Johns made it slightly more explicit, like someone saying "Never fear" or something, or a more direct reference to Rebirth a la the Spectre adventure in Green Lantern #50. But you have opened up a reading of this book I didn't consider.

    Not to belabor, but that does not change the fact that I found this book just dull, and perhaps that's even worse if this was meant to reflect back to one of the series's finest moments, Rebirth. In regards to John Stewart, I remember when he was an architect, and a Darkstar, and had left behind much of his angry past for a more sanguine approach, more like how people see Kyle. This angsty "John the sharpshooter" characterization seems a messy attaching of John's cartoon Justice League Unlimited persona; it's not *my* John Stewart. Agreed that sacrificing Mogo goes to what we've seen of the Indigo Tribe, but having John run around with a gun in that ridiculous purple camouflage garb was just too much for me.

    Appreciate your thoughtful comment. Other takes on this book?

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  3. Ya, the spaceship was a stretch, and yes, the camo was lame. Hopefully in Aftermath we'll see John dealing with his actions.

    By the way, I always enjoy the site!

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  4. I completely agree with you. The franchise is exhausted after so many events. The issues blurred together. I don't recall much character development, and that's what I have to enjoy most from Johns.
    I don't buy current comics, I always wait for the trades, so am very curious for the first reboot trade!

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  5. Personally I had a lot of fun reading this book :)
    Maybe that's because I don't read too deeply into it and just enjoy it for the all out action packed adventure that I thought it was. The conflicts between the characters eg hal and guy felt very convinving to me and well-written, and I felt that was important to make those scenes work, both characters have valid things to say.
    It was weird because at the time I had just watched the first episode of the new green lantern animated series which I thought was pretty cool, and it featured none other than the spaceship which I thought was pretty awesome actually, in both the episode i watched and this story imparticular, reminding us that Hal is a great pilot.
    Having said that I like the point about it bookending the series along with rebirth, thats a view I didn't see before, now for the aftermath collection sans hal jordan!

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