Green Lantern Corps #34 Review

on August 15, 2014

As a big fan of Green Lantern John Stewart, I am thoroughly pleased with the current creative team of Green Lantern Corps and wish them a very long run on the title. I believe I am actually a pretty hard critic, and there hasn’t been a single issue of Green Lantern Corps I have disliked since the new creative team took over with issue #21.

Last month’s Green Lantern Corps #33 may have been the finale of the creative team’s first “season”, but this month’s issue, which serves as an epilogue for the “Uprising” crossover, is the really powerful one.

Van Jensen is a master. I was against John Stewart’s relationship with Fatality because it wasn’t convincing. It happened all of a sudden and under dubious circumstances. Peter Tomasi and Geoff Johns did not build up any believable romance between them. Van Jensen actually makes that work in Green Lantern Corps #34’s story, “Vengeance, Swift.”

Jensen’s writing is smart, well thought out, and emotional. I’ve seen some claim that Green Lantern Corps lacks direction, and that is about the furthest thing from the truth. Under Van Jensen’s care, this book is orchestrated like clockwork. What’s seen in “Vengeance, Swift” is the culmination of over a year’s worth of excellent storytelling, and even more than that. As mentioned, Jensen actually makes Tomasi and Johns’ unconvincing romance story work because he reveals it was never supposed to be convincing.

Van Jensen is developing a rogues gallery for John Stewart, and Verrat Din may be captured, but she is still a high ranking threat for the Green Lantern.

This issue marks the end of John Stewart’s relationship with Fatality, and it is very touching, potent, and sad, especially after the proceedings of last month’s issue. John has once again been given a tragic storyline, but there’s a real difference between this one and some of the others. This story is plausible and makes sense, unlike Cosmic Odyssey, in which John Stewart failed to save a world because of a streak of extremely uncharacteristic arrogance. It also doesn’t come out of left field like the one off throw away Action Comics Weekly story in which John Stewart’s wife, Katma Tui, is murdered in the kitchen. It’s not that tragedy is inherently bad. What’s bad is poor writing, which Van Jensen certainly doesn’t succumb to.

At last, Fatality’s forced conversion into the Star Sapphire ranks is addressed, and this reckoning serves as the pinnacle of the Marcelo Maiolo, Van Jensen, and Bernard Chang Green Lantern Corps run up till now.

What else is interesting is that seeds have been planted for a solid rogues gallery for John Stewart. For a while, anti-John Stewart fanboys have cited John’s lack of rogues, lack of connections, and so on as strikes against the character. Those are actually legitimate criticisms, and Van Jensen has been addressing them marvelously. Last month’s issue gave us the immensely powerful Verrat Din, and this month’s gives us shades of things to come as the former sciencell convicts, such as Evil Star, Starbreaker, and Kanjar Ro, are set back out into the universe. Will they give up their villainous ways? Not likely, and John Stewart will probably be ready to face them if things go that route!

The greatest addition to his burgeoning rogues gallery, however, is his old girlfriend, Fatality. Yes, she’s taken up the spear against him yet again, leaving him a crushed, pitiful soul. The revelation of Verrat Din cut John deep last issue, and the Daxamite/Durlan’s mocking but true words didn’t help. John is hit with another, even harder dose of cold, merciless reality in the brilliantly written, drawn, and colored “Vengeance, Swift.”

The issue starts with John roughly interrogating Verrat Din in a sciencell on Mogo. He wants to know where the real Fatality is being held, but she won’t divulge anything. Instead of giving up answers, she taunts him about seeing her if he wants to feel Fatality’s kisses again.

Von Daggle remains a series regular. He is assigned to release the sciencell convicts, after which he prepares for a personal quest with R’amey Holl and Hunger Dog. The look on Kanjar Ro’s face is great!

Very early on we’re treated to a really cool flashback effect that reoccurs throughout the issue. A scene from the past is displayed, and it’s depicted in white and a rosy pink, within a panel with feathered edges. It has a really cool sketch filter applied over it that gives it the effect of being a vision from memory. These scenes show key moments in John and Fatality’s relationship. The first depicts Fatality tracking down John for the first time and threatening to kill him. She’s drawn like the old ‘90s Fatality, which is a nice touch.

John eventually leaves the cell after getting no information from the captive. He finds Von Daggle outside, who was apparently assigned to watch over him to make sure he didn’t do anything too drastic. Daggle admits that he wouldn’t stop John from killing Verrat Din, believing she’s too dangerous to be kept alive with her Daxamite powers.

Daggle informs John of a lead he’s got about Fatality’s whereabouts. The Durlans stole radioactive material, but they also had a supplier named Polpp who runs a route in space sector 0700. When John learns that, he immediately zooms toward Sector 0700, leaving Daggle behind.

Van Jensen continues to create a more tangible universe by highlighting characters and concepts that aren’t so caught up in some form of Lantern Corps. Space crime, cool starships, exotic locales, and alien governments freshen up what was once a stale and infantile universe.

With John gone, Hal Jordan appears and assigns Daggle to see to the convicts that escaped from the sciencells. As usual, Marcelo Maiolo’s coloring is exquisite; from the deep blues, greens, and purples of the cell blocks to the surface of Mogo, literally glowing in beautiful sunlight. A particular favorite of mine is the next location – the planet Cheorg, which Maiolo dowses in a very pretty pale blue light that is given off by the planet’s large moon.

It appears Kroloteans are there holding specimens for the Durlans. Now that the war is over and the Durlans are beaten, they’re going to let the creatures out and get out of there.

A bunch of beasts are released, and a cool feature is that some of them are forms we’ve seen the Durlans use in the past, like that cool abominable snowman on Corona Seven and the Krogan-like creatures (that’s from Mass Effect) that Fatality and Green Lantern fought on Kosh, way back in issue #21.

The settings continue to impress. I really like the way the Durlan complex looks. They may seem like small things, but how Chang draws different levels, walls, and rises in the background, and how Maiolo puts a green tint over them really adds a lot to the atmosphere. It all gives off a certain feel that makes a powerful statement.

Polpp is running his route deep within the Nebyan Asteroid Belt in Space Sector 0700. Even though the Durlans are gone, his business with the Shadow Market keeps him busy. I am very happy to hear about the Shadow Market again. Anyone who has been regularly reading my reviews of Green Lantern Corps knows how big a fan I am of the Shadow Market. I’m glad that it’s still in the story and I hope to see more of it. I’m still speculating that the Shadow Empire we’ve heard about in last month’s issue is connected.

John Stewart tracks down Polpp’s vessel and forcefully enters it. He cuts a deal with the criminal. John threatens to space those aboard if Polpp doesn’t tell him where Fatality is located. Polpp doesn’t know who Fatality is, but he tells John of some of the stops he made for the Durlans, and we hear about many of the planets that this arc has taken us to, such as Corona Seven and Muz. When the criminal mentions Cheorg, John knows he’s on to something. He knows Cheorg is near Kosh, where he first encountered the Durlans. Then one of those memory pictures takes us back to Green Lantern Corps #21, when John last saw the real Fatality. He went toward Oa to answer a distress call while she followed the trail of the Durlans to one of Cheorg’s moons.

Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo’s art is gorgeous. The way Maiolo depicts the emerald energy is second to none. John Stewart looks infused with power and brilliant light. Taking in such an image, it’s very apparent why he is known as The Green Lantern.

This whole segment highlights how the current Green Lantern Corps series is space opera done right. Despite all the declarations of his stories being an epic space opera, Johns’ work never seemed to convincingly fit the bill. It was… I don’t know. Something else.

Prior to this run, I think that Green Lantern shunned being a proper space opera by relying too much on superhero tropes and having too underdeveloped a world. Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps does not sacrifice the superhero element, but it heightens the sci-fi and world building components, which give this universe legitimacy in a way it hasn’t had before. For example, there is greater emphasis on space ships, technology, community, politics, and real world parallels in this outlandish setting, like crime. This is exactly what I want to see in a Green Lantern title. This is the niche that the Lantern should occupy.

Back on Mogo, Von Daggle has the honor of telling the convicts that the Green Lantern Corps is going to uphold their end of the bargain and allow the miscreants to go free in return for their help during the war. All except for Hunger Dog, the master tracker. Hunger Dog promised Daggle that he’d help him find his partner, and Daggle is holding him to it. R’amey Holl joins as well. Daggle’s old partner went under deep cover and only the Guardians knew where she was. Now that they’re dead, no one knows. Hunger Dog says it doesn’t matter how deep under cover she went. He’ll find her. I’m really happy that Von Daggle is sticking around as an important part of Green Lantern Corps. He and R’amey Holl are excellent characters that I want to see more of.

The story shoots back to John with an awesome picture of him rocketing through space as he’s approaching Cheorg. All the art here is incredible. Marcelo Maiolo’s coloring work when John is going into the facility where Fatality is being held is of particular note. The sky is a beautiful blue green, and the moon has a serene quality.

This scene shows more beautiful coloring work from Marcelo Maiolo. The first panel, in particular, is very lovely, and I like how the creative team keeps thinking of interesting ways to tell stories in this medium, like the rose tinted visions of the past seen in this issue.

When the Green Lantern enters the facility, he finds the place ravaged. He doesn’t have much time to contemplate what happened as he’s suddenly attacked by a large creature, but is saved by Fatality, who kills it with a shiv. She looks like her old 1990s version, back in the black and green outfit, and with dark curly hair. She is enraged at the sight of John Stewart and declares that she will kill him.

She strikes at John Stewart and he manages to defend himself, but he’s surprised at the reaction he’s receiving. He tries to get her to stop, telling her that he loves her, but this only further infuriates her. The panel layouts during John’s short confrontation with Fatality give off a sense of frantic commotion, and Maiolo’s solid color backgrounds add to the intensity.

Fatality relinquishes her attack despite being angry with John. She actually stops to talk to him.
This is when the issue gets really heavy, and it’s amazing how expressive Chang’s art is here. Fatality explains that the Star Sapphire ring loved John, and that she never did. She was one of the Sinestro Corps warriors who was abducted by the Zamarons and unwillingly converted into the Star Sapphires. They forced love upon her. Every moment she was with John she was trapped within herself, and the ring forced her to love the man who destroyed her world, a notion she finds repulsive.

It’s interesting watching this Fatality, and then going back to see the Fatality from Green Lantern Corps #21. This one seems so… real compared to the idealized sparkly pink fairy tale that John Stewart fell in love with. To make matters even worse, John may not have even fallen in love with the real Fatality, because he wasn’t able to comfortably say that he loved her. He may have actually fallen for the Durlan fraud.

Bernard Chang’s beautifully detailed art conveys such strong emotion all throughout this issue, but especially when John meets Fatality. Chang truly has a unique style that makes many other comic artists look generic in comparison. Though Verrat Din and Fatality may look similar, Chang displays them with very different mannerisms. Din often appears rather gleeful in her displays of power and taunts to John Stewart, where as Fatality is either cold or filled with hot anger.

She explains to John that he claims to love her, but he did not even notice she was replaced. This further goes to reinforce that John only saw what he wanted to, even though there were telltale signs of both Fatality being brainwashed, and then Fatality not even really being Fatality. Yet, John was so blinded by his need for love, acceptance, and something to live for that all of this went over his head.

John Stewart is so pathetic, so beaten, and so humiliated, but all of this only makes him even more awesome! He is an incredibly complex and flawed hero, just as much now, if not more so, than he was during Green Lantern: Mosaic. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the great things about him is that he’s not static. When writers ACTUALLY USE him, they almost always do fascinating things with him.

With the Durlans gone, Fatality’s only enemies are the Star Sapphires and Green Lantern John Stewart. John says that he won’t stop her or fight her, so Fatality turns to leave, but John calls out to her. He says he believes that she really did love him, and that she still does. She simply tells him he’s wrong and departs, leaving John Stewart alone to cry out and destroy the whole Durlan base in despair.

The real question going forward from here is ‘where are things going to go?’ Will Van Jensen continue to play with a possible romance between John Stewart and Fatality, or is he closing the book on that relationship?

Taken against her will, Fatality was forced to be a slave to her Star Sapphire ring. She was freed from her spell, but John learns that her love for him was not her own, but a product of her Star Sapphire conversion.

The Green Lantern/Fatality ride has been more interesting than I anticipated by a long shot, thanks to Jensen, Chang, and Maiolo, but I would prefer to see Fatality as a villain for John for a couple reasons.

First is that John Stewart needs more rogues. As mentioned, I see Jensen is building up a gallery for him and that is great! Fatality would be a very fine addition to that, especially with the greatly added complexity to between her and John that this story has added. It’s also interesting that John has two rogues that look almost just alike, but are different people with different motivations who aren’t really connected to each other. That’s just kind of neat!

Going further into John’s flaws, they’re really understandable, and they made for a very unique story. Verrat Din brought out last issue that John Stewart was so desperate for love, that he just took it without taking a good, practical look at the whole thing. All the way back in Green Lantern Corps #21, there were signs that something was really fishy with Fatality.

John’s lapse makes sense, though. He’s a flesh and blood man. When there is a beautiful woman following you around, going on about how she loves you, and is basically throwing herself at you, there is probably many a guy who would go along with the whole thing and get caught up in that idyllic circumstance. Especially if they’re missing something in their lives, as John Stewart clearly was.

What I’m really hoping is that this relationship is just done. I think there will always be strong sexual tension and turmoil between these two characters from here on out, but I’d prefer not to see a drawn out ‘will they, won’t they’ scenario.

“Vengeance, Swift” is a superb epilogue to “Uprising.” John Stewart’s character has been considerably fleshed out over the past year or so Van Jensen, Bernard Chang, and Marcelo Maiolo have been working on him. This is the best John Stewart has ever been in comic books, which is actually saying something, because there are excellent, very fondly thought of runs with him by Gerard Jones and Steve Englehart. But Green Lantern Corps is of a higher caliber in every way, from the art, to the coloring, to the writing.

As a John Stewart fan, this title couldn’t make me much happier. The creative team is incredibly talented and creative, and very attentive to what makes John Stewart fans like him, and they have a firm understanding of how to create a believable and fascinating world people will be invested in. They know what was dumb about Green Lantern and needed to go, and are experts at getting the most out of a lot of characters with limited space, while still keeping the spotlight on the star.

The only thing I can readily think of to make this book even better is to introduce Shayera Hawkgirl! C’mon, DC. There’s an eager audience just waiting for it to finally happen in your comics!
Other than that, there is so much to love!

5 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps #33 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #32 Review.