Review: Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: Fearsome hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Peter Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps has been a fan-favorite, taking a once-esoteric 1980s series and turning it into a high-octane space cop drama; just before Blackest Night, Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason's Green Lantern Corps: Sins of the Star Sapphire and Emerald Eclipse were even better than Geoff Johns's main Green Lantern series.

Prior to the DC New 52 reboot, however, DC Comics moved Tomasi, with artist Fernando Pasari, to the short-lived spin-off Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors. This book was passable, better than the subsequent Green Lantern Corps stories by Tony Bedard, but despite the emotional drama and stunning space-violence (something Tomasi and Gleason did well), Warriors lacked the verve of the former Tomasi/Gleason team. It didn't help that the truncated storyline was mostly in service to Johns's next line-wide Green Lantern crossover.

In the New 52, Tomasi and Gleason now pair on Batman and Robin, the first volume of which indeed offered their trademark drama and well-used violence. But as good as it is to have Tomasi back on Corps with Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome, he and Pasarin just don't achieve the level that he and Gleason did. In part, Pasarin just does not seem the right artist for a cosmic book, and Tomasi's has too much in common with Green Lantern stories previous to feel fresh or new. DC should be implored to reunite Tomasi and Gleason on this title right away.

[Review contains spoilers]

Fearsome follows what has become an overdone formula for Green Lantern stories at this point -- a race of aliens begins attacking Green Lanterns because of former mistreatment by the Guardians of the Universe, unrevealed until now. Not only did readers just see the same with both Atrocitus and Krona, but it begins to feel like too-detailed continuity-picking. It's hard to believe anyone ever really asked why the Corpsmen used to be able to hide their lanterns in a pocket dimension and now they can't, but Tomasi builds a whole story out of it. Stronger would be something that actually explores the Green Lantern sectors or challenges their powers in interesting ways, not a story that continues to iron out the minutia of the Green Lantern mythos.

The book introduces a number of new Green Lanterns in this volume, the most interesting of which (if obviously-named) is Porter, a Lantern with innate teleporting abilities. Porter distinguishes himself immediately, ignoring a direct order and teleporting with a too-large group of Lanterns to try to aid the embattled Guy Gardner and John Stewart. Unfortunately, when Porter teleports back with an even-larger group, he promptly dies. It's too bad, because Tomasi's other new Lanterns are less notable, including a Lantern named "Sheriff" -- though to what extent she's actually a sheriff is never discussed -- and a group of hardened Lanterns called the "Mean Machine" who're never actually presented, except by reputation, as any different from the other Lanterns on the mission.

Tomasi, again, has a reputation for using violence well in his stories and not gratuitously. When the evil Keepers graphically murder a Lantern, or when Guy Gardner tortures a Keeper for information and ultimately sacrifices two members of the Sinestro Corps to stop the Keepers, the reader understands this happens in an effort to show the cost of the battles the Lanterns fight.

However, the book's emotional climax, when John Stewart kills a fellow Lantern rather than let the Lantern reveal Guardian secrets under torture, falls short. Just before the New 52 reboot, in the War of the Green Lanterns crossover, Stewart killed the planet Lantern Mogo while Mogo was mind-controlled; Mogo was often considered the "heart" of the Green Lantern Corps, and so much guilt and handwringing ensued, to the point where some Lanterns even attacked Stewart over his actions. For Stewart to kill Kirrt in just Stewart's next major adventure comes off as almost absurd (on top of that Stewart destroyed another planet and all its residents in his youth); John Stewart ought become the guy no one wants to be marooned on a mission with.

Tomasi ends the book with a meant-to-be emotional story in which Stewart returns Kirrt's body to his family and lies about Kirrt's death. The issue comes off as melodramatic, however; Stewart has to help Kirrt's brother accept Kirrt's death, when the audience already understands it and has moved on. Tomasi makes an interesting parallel between Stewart's guilt versus Gardner's blitheness over killing the Sinestro Corpsmen, but the audience has seen enough of John Stewart beating himself up. It would be better to see Stewart stand by his actions than continue to be such a woe-is-me, angst-ridden character.

Tellingly, perhaps the best part of Fearsome is the deus ex machina appearance of Stormwatch's Martian Manhunter, who tells Gardner all about the Keepers and points him toward stopping them. In Green Lantern Corps's first New 52 outing, it's surprising to see the Manhunter be the one who essentially saves the day. It equally stretches already-well-stretched believability that the Stormwatch group takes an interest in Green Lantern affairs or that Martian Manhunter has the ability to circumvent the Guardian protections of Oa (the very thing the Keepers try to do).

Still, Manhunter has an excellent New 52 design, and his unexpected presence -- over two issues -- livens up this rote story. Fans of the "old" DC Universe will also note this as the first New 52 meeting of both a considerably more serious Gardner and Manhunter, a far cry from the "bwa-ha-ha" days of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis's Justice League International. Pasarin draws the Manhunter well, suggesting Pasarin would be better off on a title with more humanoid forms like Stormwatch; Pasarin draws sufficient alien forms for some of the Lanterns, but his straight lines lack Green Lantern artist Doug Mahnke's weird distortion or Patrick Gleason's more rounded alien whimsy.

Fans of earlier Corps volumes may therefore want to look to Batman and Robin to find what they formerly enjoyed, and not to Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome. For the most part since Blackest Night, the Green Lantern franchise hasn't had that "can't miss" ethos they had before; there's a new crossover a'coming (even two, it seems), but given that War of the Green Lanterns failed to impress, it's hard to be optimistic that the best is yet to come.

[Includes original covers; no additional extras]

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5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this review (and other recent GL-related ones). I was reading both GL books up through Blackest Night, but have only grabbed Green Lantern in HC since then (avoiding GLC and GL:EW). I didn't feel like I'd missed much when I read War of the Green Lanterns, and as the Rise of the Third Army approaches, I was wondering if there was a compelling reason to go back and catch up. Luckily for my wallet, the answer is "no"

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  2. Hopefully, it flows nicely from the previous iteration of the title :P

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  3. I feel as if you had your expectations set a bit too high.

    Granted, I too thought it wasn't as strong without Gleason as artist. And I (as well as numerous other people I know) agree that we are tired of John getting the same treatment over-and-over again. I don't mind the emotion, but give John a break for a while.

    I'm very surprised you like Porter, which by the way, was the biggest mood killer for me. You thought Martian Manhunter was a deus ex machina, but Porter wasn't?! MM didn't feel like he broke the story, due to being in two issue. That and he compliments Stormwatch. But Porter was a cheap reference. Tomasi introduces this one character, which we've never seen before, all of a sudden save the day and gets killed off afterword. Now that is a deus ex machina moment.

    And I think you were too hard on Fernando Pasarin. I agree, he doesn't quite match Tomasi's way of writing, but Parasin still does a commendable job and I have no problem with him staying on.

    Overall, GLC has a ton of action and witty dialogue (Tomasi+Guy Gardner=perfect). It may not be great, but it's still a pretty good book.

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  4. Yeah, you're right about Porter. I guess I just thought "ah, here's a moment where Tomasi's *doing something*, and delving into a character," instead of the other Lanterns who seemed to just stand around in the background. Porter had *something*, even if that something was to teleport and then die.

    Oh, well.

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  5. My thing with this book was the majority of the alien characters. I like aliens to be aliens. These ones felt like they may as well have been from detroit as from another planet.

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