Green Lantern Corps #29 Review

on March 13, 2014

Marcelo Maiolo, Van Jensen, and Bernard Chang’s Green Lantern Corps is how Green Lantern always should have been and always should be. This is something that actually is comparable with the greatest space epics, like Star Wars and Mass Effect. Green Lantern Corps is a wonderful, fun adventure story that takes us all across the universe, and shows us wondrous races, worlds, and cultures. The interesting thing about this is that Green Lantern Corps doesn’t often spend a lot of exposition developing these diverse cultures, like how Star Trek might. There is the instance with Oranx and the Blood Bowl, but for the most part, we skim the surface of things. However, the combined might of Van Jensen, Marcelo Maiolo, and Bernard Chang brings these worlds to life so quickly, so easily, so convincingly, and so vividly that readers immediately get a strong feeling from them.

The market place readers were introduced to last month on planet Muz is a perfect example. The Oratorium of Rhoone is another. A highlight of this issue is when readers are taken into the seedy underbelly of the universe and thrown headfirst into universal crime at a space station called The Shadow Market.

Von Daggle must choose a side. Van Jensen keeps readers guessing the entire issue as to which course Daggle will take.

Not only do the environments and cultures come across quickly and convincingly, but so to do the characters. Many people (including myself) have praised how Van Jensen has worked wonders with Green Lantern John Stewart, but he does incredible things with all the characters he uses, and he uses a lot. Everyone is spectacular, from Arisia, Iolande, Jruk, Yrra, and even Hannu, who is seriously becoming annoying with his preechiness, but it’s an intentional, good kind of annoying.

It’s not just the Lanterns who shine! The diversity of characters in this current run is to be greatly commended. Deep space stuff is going on, but not everyone is a Lantern! The criminals that the Corps has allied themselves with bring an incredibly refreshing element to these stories. They show us a different side to the Green Lantern mythos, and open up a whole new setting of space scoundrels and rogues that is akin to Star Wars. One of the aspects that make Star Wars so fun is that it isn’t all about Jedi Knights. There are less savory characters like Boba Fett, Han Solo, Watto, and Jabba the Hutt, who are inundated in a less savory world, which has become a huge part of the Star Wars universe’s success.

Van Jensen’s writing is incredibly believable. A writer who “doesn’t get” certain characters isn’t much of a writer, in my view. Take Geoff Johns. Many people often complain about him “not getting” a character they like. For example, you may hear grievances about his portrayals of Wonder Woman, Cyborg, or John Stewart. A writer should be able to put themselves in the minds of every character and understand how they work inside and out. They should appreciate why people are drawn to the characters. They should firmly recognize what makes those characters who they are. They shouldn’t just be able to do this with their favorite characters. They should be able to do this with every character they’re using (at least every key character).

This is exactly what Van Jensen does, and it’s one of the foremost features that make reading Green Lantern Corps so enjoyable. Take Kilowog. Jensen knows Kilowog. Jensen knows and honors the Steve Englehart Green Lantern Corps comics that introduced Kilowog. Jensen is aware there is more to Kilowog than being a Ben Grimm-esque Drill Sergeant. Jensen utilizes his scientific mind, and does so convincingly by not only telling, but also showing. In Green Lantern Corps #23, Kilowog pondered the nature of the emerald energy, wondering if it was particles or a wave. Last month in Green Lantern Corps #28, we saw Kilowog repairing the blown out command center.
Jensen continues managing various scenes and characters and getting the most out of everything.

The artwork of Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo drenches the story in emotion and impact.

Green Lantern Corps #29 begins right where #28 left off. After detaining the Durlan known as Von Daggle, John Stewart and his team of ex-cons are approached by hostile Durlans and Clann members. Daggle is a former Lantern and a Durlan, so both sides want to get their hands on him, as his presence may make all the difference in the ensuing conflict between the shape-shifting Durlans and the Green Lantern Corps. Daggle can’t transform, because Durlans consume radioactive energy to do so, and Daggle is depleted. John’s team can’t protect Daggle and fight their foes, so John says that Daggle has to choose which side to fight for. There is no running or being left out, because everyone will be coming for him.

When the fight breaks out, unsurprisingly, Daggle tries to escape both sides. He doesn’t see this as his fight, and all he wants is to be left alone. He’s cornered by some Durlans, however, and they tell him that his only choices are to join them or die. Hunger Dog -–one of the criminals allied with John– leaps from a rooftop and blasts the Durlans with his gun, killing them. As John approaches, the Lantern tells Daggle that after the war, he can leave the Corps or stay. Daggle says there is only one thing he wants from John. His partner in the Green Lantern Corpse –a black ops covert unit of the Corps– went missing when the Guardians sent her on a mission. He hasn’t seen in her a long time, and wants John to find her. Hunger Dog happens to be the best tracker in the universe (he’s the one who led John and his team to Von Daggle on Muz) and John assures Daggle that he can find her.

I’d just like to point out how awesome Van Jensen has made Hunger Dog. Before this, he was just a guy John Stewart disguised himself as at one point, but Van Jensen has really built the character and made him something, and in such a short amount of time.

Van Jensen continues to give the Green Lantern universe a stronger identity with locales and cultures filled with character. I love the glazed look on the dog-like alien as he watches that alien babe.

Just as John and Daggle shake hands, Daggle sucker punches John in the face, which is a great moment. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo is still emphasizing big impact moments by leaving Chang’s art uncolored, sans a glaring red background, but what also gives this panel so much weight is the incredible facial expression Bernard Chang gives Von Daggle as he’s punching John.

The story then cuts to Iolande and her team, which includes the Black Circle Crime Syndicate member Loragg, and the “driver” Zurree, who is piloting their space ship. There is also a timid Green Lantern named Hwaal. They are looking for Soranik Natu, who was mysteriously abducted last issue. Rather than investigate around Mogo as Iolande would have liked, Loragg has Zurree pilot them to Space Sector 3189, to a space station known as a “Shadow Market.”

Loragg explains that at this seedy station, one can buy, sell, or trade anything they desire, such as weapons, drugs, or people. The Shadow Market is TOTALLY AWESOME and very reminiscent of Omega from Mass Effect 2.

Loragg takes them to meet a crime lord named Jimmm. He owes Jimmm money, but believes Jimmm knows who took Soranik, so he’s willing to risk seeing him, especially since he’s secretly accompanied by two Lanterns. Loragg baits Jimmm by telling that someone is looking for Soranik and willing to pay heavy coin for her. If Jimmm can tell him who took her, he can pay Jimmm back his money.

Jimmm notes that many Lanterns have gone missing, and that they’ve mostly been taken by the Khund, but he doesn’t know who took Soranik. He later determines that since Loragg doesn’t have his money, he’s going to kill Loragg by having him spaced, but Iolande jumps to his defense. Just as Jimmm pulls a gun to kill Loragg the old fashioned way, Hwaal leaps out of disguise and into action, using his ring to cut Jimmm’s arm off. Hwaal further threatens to kill Jimmm and everyone on the entire space station if his goons attack them. With no new leads, Iolande and her team leave, and after the intense strong arming Jimmm suffered, he declares that he will ally with the Khund against the Lanterns.

On Mogo, Arisia is putting the rookie Lanterns through their paces with training exercises. Kilowog has the comms back up, and opens ring to ring communication with Arisia. Arisia asks if Kilowog has heard from John, and Kilowog says he hasn’t. Arisia puts together that John has not yet heard that Hal Jordan ceded Sector 2814 to the Red Lanterns (which happened back in the “Lights Out” crossover, but fully came into effect in Green Lantern/Red Lanterns #28). Arisia knows that John is going to be very upset to hear that he can no longer set foot on his home planet so long as he’s a Green Lantern.

It seems the conflict between Hal Jordan and John Stewart is still ongoing. I’m not sure what it is leading to, but it is very intriguing. If I had to guess, I would say that John Stewart’s prospects of leading the Green Lantern Corps aren’t dead just yet.

The tension between John Stewart and Hal Jordan is still a very real thing. During points of exposition, Jensen and Chang keep the momentum going, this time with a fun wrestling match between Hannu and Jruk going on in the background.

Back on Muz, it’s clear that John Stewart has been double crossed, as Daggle allies with his own kind. He agrees to take the other Durlans to a stash of radioactive energy, and they leave John and his team to the Braid Clann members of their group. John decides to take his team and retreat against the huge odds against them. He flies beyond the city walls and the Clann pursues only to fall prey to vicious gigantic sand worms that lurk beneath the dunes. John Stewart’s knowledge of architecture saves the day yet again. He noted that the walls of the city weren’t particularly high, but they went very deep. They weren’t built to keep surface dwellers away, but were to protect against subterranean threats. John also reasons that Daggle hasn’t betrayed them, because if he really wanted to get away, he would get off world as soon as possible, not stick around to run an errand. Van Jensen keeps the tension of the story going by making readers unsure of what side Daggle is truly on… if any.

Daggle takes the Durlans to an old church where he’s supposed to meet the merchant he set up a deal with last issue. More credit is owed to Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo, as the church has an incredible atmosphere to it.

The Durlans choke out the merchant they find there, since they have no intent to pay for the goods Daggle set up to buy, and just as they’re about to go into a hidden trap door to retrieve them, John Stewart and his team burst through the ceiling and attack. As the battle ensues, Von Daggle goes to the cache of radioactive energy, drinks the heavy dose, and morphs into a huge electrically charged monster and defeats the Durlans. Afterward, Daggle explains that when Durlans shape-shift, they can also take on any biological abilities of the form they change into, but doing so drains a huge amount of energy.

Hunger Dog agrees to help Von Daggle find his partner if she’s still alive. As such, Daggle agrees to teach the Lanterns how to hunt Durlans. He begins by explaining that the Durlans can’t wear rings, so they will try to pose as support staff.

Meanwhile, Kilowog opens up ring communication with Iolande, who is aboard her vessel with Hwaal, Loragg, and Zurree. Kilowog decides to recall her and call off the search for Soranik, due to the crisis at hand, and the fact that they have no leads as to her whereabouts. Iolande expresses her concerns about Hwaal, who is in another part of the ship. She explains that Hwaal was one of the most timid Lanterns she’d seen, and she relates her surprise at how vicious he got earlier with Jimmm. Readers can see Hwaal’s face as Iolande is having words with Kilowog, and his serious and grim expression is superb.

The relationship between John Stewart and Yrra Cynril continues to be engaging, and I can’t help but wonder where it’s headed.

On the planet Corona Seven in Space Sector 0700, there is a mysterious facility hidden in a frozen wasteland. Within, we see that the real Hwaal is a captive of the Durlans, as are numerous other Green Lanterns, including who appears to be R’amey Holl, the partner Von Daggle has been talking about. Van Jensen continues to build upon the once forgotten “Darker Side of Green” storyline from early in the previous Green Lantern Corps series’ run, which is great, because it was one of the most interesting storylines. It also seems that Von Daggle was wrong. Durlans are able to use power rings. Something has changed, and that means big trouble for the Green Lantern Corps. Now, any of them could be a Durlan, which raises the tension of these stories up several notches!

As mentioned in the opening, Van Jensen’s run has everything I’d like to see in a Green Lantern comic series. Firstly, it’s firmly rooted in space, and takes full advantage of its setting. Some Green Lantern fans seem to yearn for Earth based stories, and while those can be entertaining, I can’t help but think that anchoring Green Lantern to Earth is a very pedestrian concept. I always believed that the idea of Green Lantern living life on Earth, with a day job, a secret identity, fighting villains like Goldface, and maintaining other super hero tropes was not at all realizing the full potential of the Green Lantern concept. Green Lantern Corps fully embraces its cosmic backdrop, with far flung worlds, diverse alien beings, cool vessels, space battles, galactic politics, stellar scoundrels, and bounteous world building.

Some have praised Green Lantern: New Guardians for taking an exploratory hard sci-fi approach similar to Star Trek, introducing weird concepts and clever conundrums. In turn, I would say that (despite having clear parallels with the Dominion War of [my personal favorite] Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) Green Lantern Corps is reminiscent of Star Wars and Mass Effect, which are things I tend to like more anyway, so it works out well for me!

What Van Jensen realizes is that space is big enough, fascinating enough, and diverse enough to where one doesn’t need to continually utilize a bunch of redundant multicolored Lantern Corps to tell interesting stories. In fact, I believe focusing so much on those color coordinated gang fights made the Lantern universe appear smaller, because everything was so homogenous. Instead of world building with things like entities and various Corps, Jensen builds with galactic communities, which, surprisingly, Green Lantern has failed to do well in its LONG history. The only other time I can think of it being done really well was in Green Lantern: Mosaic, where much of the story was about various communities of the universe. Aside from Mosaic, this is the first time the Green Lantern universe does not feel somewhat hollow to me.

Building up the actual universe of Green Lantern is such a simple concept, you would think they would have done it well by now. But no, because Green Lantern stories have spent much of their time screwing around on Earth doing things other heroes do better, or going deeply into the wrong things -–like entities and color corps—- it just hasn’t been done and the universe has felt like it has no real character. It is a crime that after all these decades readers still don’t really know Sector 2814! GLC is reminding me of Star Wars and Mass Effect because those space universes are brilliantly built. Fans know the races. They know the planets. They know the cultures. They know the governments. They know the tech.

Von Daggle joins John Stewart’s ever growing and fascinating party of characters.

Green Lantern should have always been like this, in my view. Not about jet companies and temperamental girlfriends, trying to pay the rent in a ‘90s kind of world, fighting redundant multicolored enemies, all with powers similar to Green Lantern’s, or about being a Digimon or Monster Rancher to Superman’s Pokemon.

Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps run is the best Green Lantern has been to me. As with last month, I feel I need to see this in a cartoon, a video game like Mass Effect, or something! As much as I love comics, and feel that they can be as good as anything, this deserves to be taken off the printed page and brought to life in some other medium. It’s just asking to be. If WB is looking for a space faring franchise to compete with Star Wars, it’s right under their noses. Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps is it! I know Green Lantern has been ‘tried’ in film and animation, but that was entirely the wrong approach. This is the way things should be.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps #28 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #27 Review.