Review: Green Lanterns Vol. 4: The First Ring (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 19, 2018

At the end of the Rebirth Green Lanterns Vol. 4: The First Ring, Sam Humphries treats us to another profile issue of this series' antagonist, further exploring the tragic friendship that has underlied many of this book's storylines. Unfortunately, that's got little to do with the book's titular Green Lanterns, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. Maybe we were in for it after the previous seven-issue volume, but this is a shorter five-issue trade that twiddles its thumbs considerably ahead of Humphries' final book of his run. There is some good stuff here in both writing and art, but it's hidden amidst a whole lot of fluff.

[Review contains spoilers]

I would say that Humphries writes one of the better depictions of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner I've read in a while, and artist Ronan Cliquet, with shades of Paul Pelletier, draws his classic costume better and more familiarly than he's been in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps (points too for Carlo Barberi drawing a suave Guy Gardner). Indeed Humphries' entire Earth-bound, character-driven, going-out-for-pancakes Green Lanterns is a tonal descendant of Ron Marz's and Judd Winick's runs with Kyle in Green Lantern, so this ought not be much of a surprise. When the three-part "Lost in Space" story is still new, Kyle casually showing Jessica around the cosmos -- recognizing, indeed, that he "used to have your job" -- is endearing, as is Jessica's first meeting with a number of Green Lantern Corps stalwarts. As the "mythos-light" Green Lantern book, this newbie introduction to the Corps is right in this title's wheelhouse, and Jessica meeting Kilowog, etc. was enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Humphries drags this wide-eyed training schtick out too long, three issues for "Lost in Space" when it probably only required two max. I do applaud Humphries for building an arc with nary a supervillain, but in Guy Gardner training Jessica and Kyle training Simon, neither is there anything at stake -- Simon's already a Lantern and Jessica's not going to fail out, so there's hardly any suspense. The story is "character-driven," but only in the barest sense, as has been this book's difficulty all along. Humphries does not draw any particularly insightful parallels between Jessica and Guy aside from Jessica learning for the umpteenth time to believe in herself; we're a far cry from Robert Venditti's brilliant Guy/Arkillo teaming in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Nor, after Simon and Kyle's issues-long fight scene, do we get a lasting sense of Simon learning anything from Kyle (though I did like the construct depictions of all of Kyle's costumes over the years).

The book returns to shape with the last two issues, the first of which brings back the painterly look we've been seeing in issues by Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques, with colors by Alex Sollazzo. This draws the book's main storyline to a head, as Jessica and Simon learn their Guardian Rami is actually the evil "First Lantern" Volthoom. Humphries lets things unravel fast, with Volthoom revealed one minute, the Lanterns thinking they have him contained the next, and then the Lanterns injured and accidentally banished the next (Rocha's distorted cliffhanger image is impressive). After a slow start, this issue is action-packed and game-changing, a much-needed shot of consequence.

Next is another one-issue spotlight on Volthoom, who in his anti-villainy is quickly becoming the most interesting thing about this title. Humphries' last issue of this type focused on how Volthoom arrived to the Guardians and then how he survived to present day; this issue digs in to that time with the Guardians. As a result, we come to understand more clearly now how good of friends Volthoom and Rami once were, something I don't think I recognized previously (also the extent to which the Guardians misused Volthoom), and it makes what's happened in this title's present so far all the more tragic. Sure, Jessica and Simon are in danger, but I'm mostly concerned with whether Volthoom can ever forgive Rami from trying to save him from himself. (This issue too is nicely done by Cliquet.)

I'm not sure how much of this origin of Volthoom we've seen before, but my sense is not much of it. That's a strange thing for, again, this "mythos-light" title, that Humphries by and large stays away from the day-to-day developments in the Green Lantern franchise and then, all of the sudden, is essentially rewriting the Green Lantern history. That's fine, because it's compelling and because this book needs to be doing something, but it's an unexpected (if welcome) left turn for the title.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Green Lanterns Vol. 4: The First Ring

In this long, strange trip, the next volume to follow Green Lanterns Vol. 4: The First Ring will be Sam Humphries' last. I have appreciated what this title stood for -- Earthbound superheroic Green Lantern adventures -- if not necessarily how it played out -- a reminder of every character's status quo every issue -- and I'm curious both about what Humphries' final statement on the title will be and also what future writers do with this title.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Green Lanterns Vol. 4: The First Ring
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)
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2 comments:

  1. Are Monday reviews going to be a mainstay or is this a one-time thing?

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    Replies
    1. A little holiday switcheroo, but do you prefer one kind of schedule over another?

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