Review: Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 7: Darkstars Rising trade paperback (DC Comics)

Congratulations to Robert Venditti for a masterful conclusion to his Green Lantern run. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 7: Darkstars Rising hits lots of the right notes, paying deference to some of the best parts of this series before it ends. If the previous volume was too action-focused, Darkstars has exactly the right balance of action in service of character moments, sending this series out on a high note.

[Review contains spoilers]

This nine-issue collection comprises one long story, but split into three parts: the two-part "Darkstars Rising" prelude, the four-part titular story itself, and the three part "Last Charge." Though assuredly containing the most compelling title, "Darkstars Rising" itself is not actually the climax of this book; rather "Rising" involves Earth's four main Green Lanterns (absent Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz) seeking unexpected allies in their fight against the Darkstars, before they face off against the Darkstars in "Charge." Though "Charge" is thrilling in its own right, "Rising" is the jewel of this book, stalling in some respects the forward action of the story for some welcome character moments.

One thread, for instance, sees Guy Gardner trying to recruit former Sinestro Corps partner Arkillo to the fight. When Guy is possessed by the vengeance-inducing Darkstar armor and tries to kill his own abusive father, it's Arkillo who has to stay his hand. The friendship between these two is one of the best things Venditti has done, going back to their brutal first match-up in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3: Quest for Hope, and the way their relationship has grown behind the scenes is wonderful (though the Green Lanterns and Sinestro Corps fell out, Guy and Arkillo apparently still meet for a "monthly beer o'clock"). Venditti puts it all out there, as when Arkillo attests that Guy gave him a "second chance" at a better, more heroic life. That the most dramatic scenes are drawn by Fernando Pasarin, artist of the Guy Gardner spotlight series Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, makes it all the better.

Another thread has Hal Jordan recruiting foe Hector Hammond, only for the besotted Hammond to try to mind-wipe Hal to keep him safe. Hammond hasn't actually appeared all that much in Venditti's Green Lantern run, and in part what Venditti seems to do is graft some dangling threads from Geoff Johns' run on to the here-and-now. This might seem apropos of nothing to readers who just joined with Rebirth, but for long-time fans, it's nice to see Hammond finally out of his cell and roaming the stars as Hal's bizarre sidekick. In some respects the "Hal forgets who he is" reads like a bit of the story biding its time, but it's funny, as is Venditti's writing of Hammond; it's also here that we get a better sense of the throughway from the fifth volume to now and the understated debate Venditti's been having as to whether lethal force is ever justified for the Corps.

This deeper vein continues into "Last Charge." Corps leader John Stewart has forbidden the Corps to use lethal force against the enslaved Darkstars. Though Venditti doesn't have enough pages to really detail it, we can read this attempt by John to show to the universe the mercy of the Lanterns as the final repudiation of a bad reputation the Lanterns gained in Venditti's New 52 run. Rafa Sandoval's cover of Hal Jordan's final issue sees Hal trying to hold back General Zod, who's blasting his heat vision; notably this scene doesn't actually occur, but the way it evokes a much-discussed scene from Man of Steel furthers the story's question of when if ever heroes should kill. "Charge" also uses well the specter of Hal Jordan's father's death in the final pages and how it shaped him.

Among the book's difficulties, at least one is that it struggles with what continuity it's in, as many Rebirth books do. At first mention of the word "Darkstars," it seems the Corps have some experience with them, though that's not expounded upon and ought not be true in the Rebirth era. Much of Darkstar Tomar-Tu's motivations turn on villain Goldface having killed his father Tomar-Re in Crisis on Infinite Earths; that too holds a rather tenuous space in this reality, not to mention that Venditti uses and dispatches Goldface without much introduction for recent readers, like with Hector Hammond. I did enjoy that this is effectively a pre-Flashpoint story for all intents and purposes, but I can imagine that would harm some audiences' reading experience.

The Darkstars here were not effectively different, in their revenge-focused groupthink, from the Red Lanterns, and indeed as much as I enjoyed Guy Gardner's trip to the dark side, it all felt a bit familiar. I very much had hoped that Venditti would show some of the Darkstars turning to good in the conclusion, maybe under the lead of one Ferrin Colos, but it was not to be (wouldn't have minded John Stewart wearing the armor again for a few, either). The romantic finale with Carol Ferris felt tacked on since we rarely saw Carol throughout the run. And while I was glad to see Arkillo, the biggest letdown of this ending was that we did not see Soranik Natu again -- that Venditti did not bring any closure to this book's inaugural Sinestro Corps story. Last we saw Soranik, she was clearly possessed by Parallax and somewhat mistreated by her former Green Lantern colleagues, and it would have been nice for Venditti to have tied a bow on that before the end.

But ultimately Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 7: Darkstars Rising was satisfying in a lot of other ways, and left me with good feelings about Robert Venditti's five-year Green Lantern run. Following Geoff Johns' groundbreaking Green Lantern saga was no easy task, but Venditti's Green Lantern books remained eminently readable throughout -- smart, surprising, and political, paying deference to the long, complicated Green Lantern mythos but not dependent on it (see, for instance, nary a wisp of ancient history in this conclusion). I even think the fact that Venditti's replacement will be none other than Grant Morrison says something about Venditti's run, too. There's plenty of large format collections out there of Johns' Green Lantern run; Venditti's run is worthy of the same.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 7: Darkstars Rising
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)


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