Green Lantern: Sinestro, Geoff Johns brings Green Lantern into the DC New 52 with a story that doesn't rely too heavily on previous continuity and serves as a good introduction to the Green Lantern universe. Dedicated readers, however, will find themselves in almost inexplicably familiar territory, with a status quo that's been stretched well beyond believability.
Now that the twin hurdles of the Blackest Night crossover and the DC New 52 relaunch have passed, I'd like to see Johns do something new with Green Lantern instead of variations on the same old thing.
[Review contains spoilers]
The best thing about Green Lantern: Sinestro is, of course, Sinestro. Geoff Johns has, especially since Green Lantern: Secret Origin and Rage of the Red Lanterns, written a fantastic "buddy comedy" in his scenes with Sinestro and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Sinestro is the stubborn, by-the-book straight man while Hal is the laid-back upstart that always grabs the glory in the end. It's the formula of Men in Black's Agents K and J, or Psych's Detective Lassiter and Shawn Spencer, except more like the Smallville portrayal of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent -- Hal and Sinestro are mortal enemies, but the reader senses their ire comes strongest from the two former friends' hurt over no longer seeing eye to eye.
With Sinestro, Johns is able to reduce Hal back to a pseudo-Secret Origin status -- it's not as though Hal Jordan is a neophyte nor has lost any of his previous adventures, but he's once again Sinestro's student, taking Sinestro's orders. Even Hal's DC 52 costume can be explained away as a construct of the ring given to him by new Green Lantern Sinestro. Much as Hal distrusts Sinestro, it's a joy for the reader to watch Hal slowly have to come around to advocating Sinestro's leadership in order to rally fellow prisoners to help free them all from an alien prison.
Despite Hal's new role as Sinestro's assistant, however, and the general fun of reading these characters in scenes together, not much is different here than Johns's Green Lantern stories that we've read before. Hal and Sinestro snipe at one another? Check. Sinestro fights a contingent of his Corps that have turned against him, as in Blackest Night? Also check.
Even Johns's manner of creating suspense begins to repeat itself. This iteration of the Green Lantern title has long since been about secrets and prophecies -- the prophecy of the Sinestro Corps, the prophecy of the War of the Light, and the prophecy of Blackest Night, each of these teased through hints and vague conversations for a matter of months before they're revealed in one crossover event or another. When it seemed the Green Lantern's Guardians couldn't possibly have more secrets to keep, now these pages contain rumors of a "Third Army" and a "First Lantern" guarded by the "Chamber of Shadows."
Johns uses these vagaries to good effect in fleshing out Sinestro; as the title implies, Hal is here but this is largely Sinestro's book. Among past events given quick references are Sinestro's battles with the alien hero Starstorm and also Starstorm's father; how Sinestro has broken the supposedly-unbreakable Green Lantern rings not once, but twice; and Sinestro's relationship with Korugian police officer Arsona (before the reader even fully learns about Sinestro's relationship with Arin Sur, sister of Hal's predecessor Abin Sur). All of this achieves its goal of world-building -- the audience feels Sinestro as a fleshed-out character. Only, when the Sinestro volume contains references to untold tales on every page, the narrative device becomes excessive -- suspense is one thing, but no one wants to read a book that continually teases the audience with how much more it knows than they do.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm along for the ride. DC has recently announced a Green Lantern Annual written by Johns and drawn by Johns's Green Lantern: Rebirth collaborator Ethan Van Sciver, and this will undoubtedly be full of cosmic twists and turns of the kind the Green Lantern series has kept readers coming back for. Only, it would be more impressive if Johns began to slip the reins of what's been done with Green Lantern to this point and try to innovate -- what would the Green Lantern Corps look like if not lead by the Guardians at all, for instance?
In assessing the DC New 52, it ought not be overlooked that Hal Jordan kills a member of the Sinestro Corps in this volume. Aquaman seemingly killed a Parademon in Justice League: Origin, but the King of Atlantis's morals have never been so stringent as the human Green Lantern's (and one can debate whether a Parademon "lives" anyway). Granted the Lanterns have permission from the Guardians to kill members of the Sinestro Corps, but it's been generally understood that Hal Jordan, like Superman and Batman, did not kill.
That this scene passes without fanfare in the book is troubling but not necessarily surprising; if indeed the reticence to kill in the old DC Universe has passed for the New 52, this brings the DC Universe in line with most popular movies and video games even if it's hardly a positive trend overall.
The first DC New 52 Animal Man volume was a satisfying new take on the character, a meal unto itself and a dynamic set up for the next volume. Batman: The Court of Owls too had a lot of content while setting up the "Night of the Owls" crossover well. Green Lantern: Sinestro feels a little thinner, heavy on character but not necessarily going anywhere new; hopefully the second volume delivers better.
[Includes original and variant covers, various process pages by artist Doug Mahnke]
Up next, we'll be delving back into the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe for a week or so, finishing out the runs of Teen Titans and related titles. See you then!