Green Lantern Corps #36 Review

on November 14, 2014

This comic book is so good and one of the very best since the current creative team arrived in June of 2013! It is easy to tell they hold themselves to amazingly high standards. Van Jensen, Bernard Chang, and Marcelo Maiolo are putting out some of the best comics I’ve read.

So much happens in this issue. There are ups and downs for the characters, incredible “badass” moments with just the right amounts of credibility and cheekiness, surprising twists, and deep character development. It’s hard to believe it all fit within one twenty page story. Van Jensen has certainly honed his craft of writing comics. Don’t get me wrong, his Green Lantern Corps comics have always been excellent, but offerings like this issue and August’s Green Lantern Corps #34 have been out of this world.

One thing that impresses me so much about Jensen is that he doesn’t let the events and gimmicks that have now become commonplace in mainstream superhero comics sidetrack the story he’s telling and the development he’s making with his characters. His character development fits in seamlessly with whatever editorially mandated story is going on. This is to his great credit as a plotter with a lot of foresight.

The Lanterns escape to Qward, with John Stewart at the head.

As Jensen’s story develops further, it gets more and more difficult for me to decide whether I like Bruce Timm’s John Stewart or Van Jensen’s the best. This is actually a huge compliment to Jensen, because the Bruce Timm incarnation is the one that made me a huge fan of the character.

Jensen’s take on John Stewart includes everything that is great about the Timm version, teamed with desirable attributes of other versions of John. The inclusion of his architectural background and the key element it often plays in stories is a great benefit. Jensen also has a firm grasp on John’s character flaws seen in projects ranging from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to Green Lantern: Mosaic and everything in between.

Jensen displays his mastery of writing John Stewart in a strong scene between John and Soranik Natu, who returns to the pages of Green Lantern Corps after being poached by the Sinestro series. She sports a new hairstyle that makes her look more like Katma Tui, which is a plus in my book. John has been through traumatic events since his girlfriend, Fatality, was discovered to be a shape shifting Durlan spy, and then the real Fatality revealed she was only with him at all because she was possessed by her Star Sapphire ring. John, in typical fashion, has been holding the pain within him, and it is Soranik who confronts him about it. John has a bit of an outburst at Soranik’s well-meaning probing, but this doesn’t make him stupid. Rather, it contributes to him being one of the most layered and fascinating characters in the DC Universe right now.

The various factions can’t agree on a course of action. John Stewart must bring them all on the same page.

Why Jensen chose to use Soranik for this rather deep scene is a bit of a mystery to me, especially since she isn’t a regular feature in GLC anymore. I believe Arisia, a character who is still a regular part of the cast, would have worked just as well. Will we see more interaction between John and Soranik in future Green Lantern Corps stories? I certainly hope so, especially if it would be as good as what is seen here. Jensen seemed to be setting Soranik up for something in his earlier GLC issues, but then she was moved out of the title, which left me feeling unfulfilled.

If there had been some finality or resolution to what Jensen was planning with Soranik, I wouldn’t have minded the move as much. But on re-reads of Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps, I’m left wondering why those Soranik Natu scenes with Salaak are even there when they don’t lead anywhere. I just write it off as part of one of the sillier aspects of shared universe superhero comics, and that Jensen likely didn’t plan on losing the character when he first began setting up an arc for her. Hopefully, somehow, Jensen is able to follow through with whatever he had planned for Soranik Natu.

This deep character development is topped off with explosive action. This part of the “Godhead” event sees the war between the Lanterns and the New Gods spread to Zamaron, the base of the Star Sapphires. John and his team face off against Shadowfall in a confrontation stunningly depicted by artist Bernard Chang and colorist Marcelo Maiolo. These two are perfectly suited to this title. Superhero comics are often fantastical by nature, but the world of Green Lantern has potential for grander flights of fancy than usual, with its myriad of wacky aliens, foreign worlds, and glowing light constructs. Bernard Chang’s pseudo cartoon style is perfect for this. It’s not overly serious or grim. Though detailed and well proportioned, it’s not realistic. It’s kinetic and exciting. And what would this book be without the trademark coloring of Marcelo Maiolo? Still great, I’m sure, but Maiolo’s brilliant lime greens and various electric hues are a huge part of this book’s identity.

What’s more is we’re treated to another awesome antagonist complete with a killer design and somewhat surprising twist. Uggha from last month’s issue left big shoes to fill, but Shadowfall does not disappoint. Not at all!

This issue is filled with moments that are just stylishly awesome.

We’re introduced to Shadowfall right at the beginning of the story when the God attacks the Zamarons, who were in the process of forcibly converting women to join their Corps, as they did to Fatality.
Prior to these events John Stewart and his team of Lanterns escaped to the planet Nok, which quickly came under attack from the New God General Bekka and her soldiers. Sinestro lent a hand in saving the Indigos because he knew their teleportation skill would prove useful. Sinestro sacrificed the majority of his Corps to get John, the few other Green Lanterns with him, and the Indigos off Nok. Knowing that the New Gods know where to find them, the coalition of Lanterns and the recently resurfaced Guardians of the Universe escaped with Sinestro to the Anti-Matter Universe, specifically the planet Qward.

The first part of this issue’s story, “Conversion,” quickly recaps these events. It’s exposition, but done in a natural way with good dialogue between the characters. It’s made especially interesting due to the friction among them. The Guardians are concerned about the White Lantern, Kyle Rayner, being in the custody of the New Gods. Rayner has the valuable Life Equation within him, which is the ultimate prize the New Gods seek. Sinestro is giving everyone a hard time and going on about how he needs to lead all the Lanterns in an attack on a New God and claim a mother box so they can boomtube to New Genesis.

None of the factions seem to be able to agree on what to do, and John calls for them all to be quiet. He says that if they’re going to stand a chance against the New Gods, they’ll need to work together. He presents the idea of getting some of the other colored Corps on their side, but the Red Lanterns have practically destroyed themselves. One of the Guardians suggests seeking the aid of the Star Sapphires, who are at full strength. John is immediately against the idea, claiming they can’t be trusted, but he quickly comes around. John agrees to take a team and get the Star Sapphires to the safety of Qward.

In the depths of Qward, John and Kilowog visit the Weaponer, who Sinestro said would help. The Weaponer heard that the New Gods wield weapons even more powerful than the Lanterns’ rings and he wishes to see them for himself. The Weaponer suddenly throws a freshly forged sword at John’s face, which the Green Lantern catches at the last moment, with a completely calm expression. This is the Weaponer’s way of granting John a new weapon, and one of those “badass” moments I alluded to above. It’s like something from a melodramatic action movie, but in a really good way.

Another stylishly awesome moment. Green Lantern brandishes a spectrum powered sword that has power to slay a God.

It turns out the sword is completely ordinary and John wonders what he’s supposed to do with it. If his ring does little damage to a God, what good would the sword do? The Weaponer shows him a shield he forged from the damaged White Lantern ring. He uses the shield to infuse the sword with its power, giving John a gleaming, spectrum infused sword, wrought from the very power that drew the New Gods’ attention.

Later on, Soranik catches up with John and they have that heart to heart mentioned above. Jensen makes great use of space in this book. The Soranik Natu scene is only one page long, but Jensen puts a lot of content into it, but in a way that doesn’t feel overstuffed. Everything they say is relevant and there isn’t any wasted space.

Soranik Natu and John Stewart share a moment that is both tender and tense.

Aside from the “Futures End” issue, which showcased a highly unlikely future, this is the first time that the tragic events involving John and Yrra’s relationship have been brought to the fore.

John’s lack of wanting to open up to Soranik is reminiscent of the four part “Mosaic” arc in Green Lantern volume 3, when he struggled to confide in Rose Hardin when she tried to breach his figurative walls. It also reminds me of the Justice League episode “Starcrossed,” when Batman and Martian Manhunter attempted to console John about the secrets Hawkgirl had been keeping from him, but were initially met with standoffishness. This is all really good, because it shows how much Van Jensen is aware of all the nuances of John Stewart.

The story takes us to Zamaron, where the New God Shadowfall has beaten many of the Star Sapphires back. One of the Zamaron queens gets badly wounded, but John and his contingent of Lanterns (plus the Weaponer) appears on the battlefield just as the Star Sapphires are about to make one last charge.

John and company appear on the scene in an absolutely gorgeous splash page wonderfully colored by Maiolo. Zamaron is full of hot pinks and the blending of the pink with the purples and blues and greens makes for a stunning presentation. The Weaponer made spectrum weapons for the others, and together, the rescue team uses their weapons to break the New Gods’ attack.

Thanks to the Weaponer of Qward, the Lanterns are now equipped with weapons that can harm the Gods and deflect their attacks. Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo continue putting out some of the greatest visuals the Green Lantern franchise has yet seen.

Equipped with their new armaments, John and his gang have some success against the New Gods. Their offensive allows a Zamaron queen an opening to sends out a massive tether to draw all the Star Sapphires on Zamaron to her so they can escape together. Despite the Corps finding some vulnerability, the Gods still prove extremely formidable, and it’s clear that the Lanterns won’t be able to defeat them, but they can perhaps complete their mission and save the Star Sapphires. Green Lantern Penelops gets defeated and captured and John knocks the helmet off of Shadowfall to reveal a pretty girl beneath.

The reveal of Shadowfall being a girl is perfectly done. I’m sure Van Jensen knew that it would somewhat surprise people, but he doesn’t treat it like anything special happened.

Another fresh twist happens when Shadowfall’s archers trap the Lanterns and the Weaponer in a big force field net. Undaunted, John confidently slashes at the net with his new spectrum infused sword… only to watch the blade break against it, rendering the sword useless. He has absolutely nothing to say about that, and Marcelo Maiolo captured the moment splendidly with one of his red backdrop panels. When the blade is broken, no one dwells on it. John just goes on talking about what other options may be open to the Lanterns.

Lady Shadowfall serves as another excellent opponent in Green Lantern Corps. She is vaguely reminiscent of Samus Aran from the Metroid series, being a girl wearing a hulking suit of armor.

I like this moment because Jensen really built up the sword well, and had me thinking that this white blade would be an epic weapon John would use to defeat Gods. And he does have success with it for a while. Then… it suddenly just breaks.

While stuck in the force field net, the wounds one of Zamaron queens suffered prove mortal, and she offers to give her ring to John Stewart, so he can use a tether to break through the seemingly impenetrable barrier and unite with the Corps he loves so much, thus saving all the others. John says he would rather die than wear a Star Sapphire ring because of what happened with Fatality. The Zamaron apologizes and points out that they only tried to heal her. She also reveals that the crystals they use for conversion do not create love; they amplify what is already there. Thus, on some level, Fatality must have had some love for John Stewart. Despite the objections of another Zamaron queen, declaring a male to be unworthy of joining the Star Sapphire ranks, the dying queen sends her ring to John Stewart, who looks at it, considering for a moment. The Indigo Lantern they brought with them cannot teleport the large group in their party, so using the Star Sapphire ring is their only means for escape.

Suddenly, John takes the ring and is transformed into a Star Sapphire. He uses his love for the Green Lantern Corps to create a tether that breaks through the energy net, taking all the others with him and getting them off Zamaron.

Shadowfall intentionally let the ring wielders go. She says that their task is to gather all of them together. After which, the Lanterns are to be converted into servants of the New Gods.

There are so many incredible scenes in this issue. The Weaponer throwing that sword at John and John calmly catching it. John’s heart to heart with Soranik Natu. John using a glowing white spectrum sword that’s super effective against the Gods. Shadowfall’s design. Shadowfall actually being a girl. John Stewart (as weird as this sounds) becoming the first male Star Sapphire. I love all of it!

Jensen is doing incredibly daring things with John Stewart. He really digs far below the surface with his characters and explores them in ways no one else ever has. I’ve never read anything in fiction like what happened between John Stewart and Fatality. Jensen continues to tread completely new territory with John Stewart and it is always fascinating and well done.

John was kicking serious butt with his new sword, and then, it just breaks on him.

The only thing I would have liked to see more of in this issue is Arisia. However, I really don’t want to sound like one of those reviewers that complain about the aliens not being the focus of the title. I don’t think they understand that the star of Green Lantern Corps is John Stewart and really no one else. The aliens are supporting characters. That said, I really enjoyed Arisia and John’s interaction in the previous issue and would like to see more of it. I would have preferred if Kilowog would have been switched out for her, but that’s just a personal thing, definitely not a fault of the book.

I’m also hoping John Stewart’s Star Sapphire powers don’t last long. Being the first male Star Sapphire is interesting and all, but that’s certainly not a role I want to see John in for any length of time, and I doubt we will. I’d rather not see John and Fatality’s romantic relationship return. Jensen has opened up a window of possibility for it, but I hope he doesn’t take things down that road again, despite some great stories coming out of the pairing. I get the feeling Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi paired them together “just because,” and I would prefer if that holdover from their work does not continue. The only good thing either of those two did with John Stewart was retcon his Marine background into his past.

John Stewart makes history by being the first male Star Sapphire.

I hope beyond hope that this current creative teams sticks with John Stewart for a long, long time. They are perfectly suited to Green Lantern and they “get” John like comic creators never have before. I love everything about their work. From the exciting cartoon-y style of Bernard Chang, to Marcelo Maiolo’s flashy coloring, to Van Jensen’s heartfelt and rousing writing, which always gets to the core of the characters and pushes them forward, no matter what universe threatening event is underway.

I, of course, can’t speak for anyone else, because we all have our own perceptions and preferences, but for a Green Lantern John Stewart fan, I would be extremely surprised if they did not love Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps comics. If one was to tell me that they dislike them, or only thought they were humdrum, I would only be able to stare at them with an incredulous look. As the type of person that this comic book is totally geared toward more than anyone else –a Green Lantern John Stewart fan– I will say that this issue is near perfect.

I guess I can understand Van Jensen’s run not speaking to someone if they dislike John Stewart, or don’t like Green Lantern, but I would never be able to understand someone who says these comics are bad, or even just okay. The amount of heart, care, skill, and foresight that goes into them is undeniable. I’ve never had so much fun with Green Lantern comics before!

I love this issue. So dense. So moving. So exciting. It gets the highest possible rating.

5 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps #35 Review.
Read Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead #1 Review.