Review: Green Lanterns Vol. 2: The Phantom Lantern (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sam Humphries' Rebirth Green Lanterns Vol. 2: The Phantom Lantern is a slight improvement on the volume that preceded it. The characters' actions are often nonsensical and Humphries' simplistic approach to Green Lantern Jessica Cruz's anxiety difficulties does neither the character nor awareness of the condition any favors. The main "Phantom Lantern" story is decompressed, one that's good at six issues that could have been great at three or four. That said, there is significant appeal to this earthbound Green Lantern heroes vs. villain story and the Phantom Lantern is indeed a viable new antagonist for the Green Lantern mythos. Hopefully what potential this volume shows will continue to be cultivated.

[Review contains spoilers]

The two-part "Family Matters" offers many examples of this book's problems. It starts with a dramatic page of Jessica in a darkened background and hallway, talking herself out of a panic attack, only for the next page to reveal that what she's been so anxious about is ... the brightened kitchen of her partner Simon Baz's sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Social anxiety can surely take place regarding such a mild and innocuous setting, but the contrast is played for laughs -- we're lead to believe through narration and atmosphere on the one page that Jessica is legitimately anxious about something truly dire, and on the next page that's trivialized through the aesthetic change.

If Humphries means for us to take what Jessica's feeling seriously, we would stay in Jessica's perspective. The most specificity Humphries can offer is that Jessica feels "anxious," that she is "not a people person," and that she is "not prepared for chaotic social time." This is threadbare, offering the audience no nuance of Jessica's troubles -- does she think she'll say the wrong thing? Does she think she'll be judged? Is she worried about hidden danger? Does the light or sound make her feel ill? And so on.

Further, at the end of this book Humphries gives Jessica a single moment of revelation that has her recognize her potential as a Green Lantern, and suddenly she tells Simon, "I'm not afraid anymore." Even that use of "afraid" undercuts the seriousness of what Humphries is dealing with (as if Jessica's issue is a simple fear and not a psychological issue) and the swiftness with which it's resolved is unrealistic. How much better if Humphries had really dived in here -- if Jessica had to navigate medication, for instance, or went to therapy -- than to simply have a page with a magic ring "cure" her.

Also in "Family Matters," the Guardian that the Lanterns are protecting goes missing, so Simon and Jessica ... go trick-or-treating rather than fly up and scan the area with their rings, again I think because Humphries is trying to hit his story marks, logical or not. The extent of their searching is to ask a couple kids if they've seen the Guardian. At one point, walking through a panel of trick-or-treaters, Humphries has Simon quip, "At least we found Waldo," which might be funny if Ed Benes had actually drawn someone dressed as Waldo into the panel. All of it speaks to a story that proceeds with intention, but constantly falls short of what it's trying to do.

Things pick up in the six-part "Phantom Lantern." Humphries' Phantom Lantern Frank Laminski fits in the mold of classic Green Lantern villains, a milquetoast guy and Lantern fanatic (shades there of both Black Hand and Hector Hammond) who's granted great power and uses it for evil. The issue-long Laminski profile prologue (with art by Robson Rocha) is great, both detailing Laminski and also taking a weird walk through the new Lantern mythos (where Guy Gardner was a member of the New 52 Justice League International prior, somehow, to Kyle Rayner fighting Mongul during his solo tenure).

Laminski has just the right mix of meaning well, actually doing right on occasion, and being totally insane that could see him re-used for a variety of storylines. The absolute best sequence of this entire book -- where this book really started to shine -- is where Simon and Jessica confront Laminski amidst a media interview, and Laminski is able to profess himself as a real Green Lantern because the general public has no real understanding of how the Green Lantern Corps works. Simon and Jessica nearly get in some PR danger (which unfortunately Humphries doesn't actually let manifest), and it makes for the kind of unprecedented, unexpected storytelling this book would do better to be providing throughout.

Unfortunately, perhaps to pad out the standard six issues, "Phantom Lantern" doubles back on itself a couple of times. We get an entire issue about Laminski's life, but then another flashback later on. There's numerous cut scenes to the evil Volthoom torturing the Guardian Rami, none of which establishes more than the one before. We also get flashbacks to Volthoom and Rami's shared past but they're not very additive to the story; the characters make a reference to Volthoom being responsible for the corps rings' emotional spectrum, but Humphries offers no explanation for those not intimately familiar with Volthoom's last storyline five years and almost fifty comics ago.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Green Lanterns Vol. 2: The Phantom Lantern

The next volume following Green Lanterns Vol. 2: The Phantom Lantern picks up from Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, and it's got a classic Green Lantern villain in it. In this way, Sam Humphries' Green Lanterns is exactly what's been missing from the mostly cosmic-set Green Lantern franchise for the last ten years or more -- stories about Green Lantern(s) as earthly superheroes fighting bad guys and foiling crimes. I just wish the series were better, and again I'm hoping it does get better -- there's glimmers of good stuff here, but it feels the creative team needs to get a stronger handle on their storytelling before that's the rule and not the exception.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketches and designs]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Green Lanterns Vol. 2: The Phantom Lantern
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)


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