Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 Review

on February 1, 2014

For as much as Van Jensen talks about being limited by the mere 20 pages of space in regular comic book issues, his least solid offerings thus far have been his larger stories, which are Green Lantern Corps #25 and Green Lantern Annual #2. Both issues are paced in rather divergent ways. In this Annual, Jensen tries to be clever, but things wind up going all over the place. There’s just too much going on. This issue is a series of slightly confusing time jumps. There is the present, along with one page villain origins almost randomly thrown in, which can take place anywhere in time, and then there are the events building up to the present. What’s more, once the events reach the present, the story goes back to the past for the final scene. Structuring the story this way does make for a bit of a surprise at one point, but the rather humorous payoff isn’t worth this needlessly labyrinthine storytelling.

One of the problems causing this is the strong, complex inter-connectivity between Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Ever since the creative team shifts in the Green Lantern titles, Robert Venditti and Van Jensen have been closely collaborating and artfully tying in the two comic series. The writers were holding this together very well, making it so it wasn’t absolutely necessary to read both titles to understand an individual book’s story, but artfully complimenting each other so that those who did read both got extra benefits.

This issue’s story, “Enemies Closer,” focuses heavily on classic Green Lantern enemies.

It is a delicate and intricate endeavor, and I have congratulated the writers for spectacularly maintaining a well weaved web, but Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 is the first time this system of doing things comes to bite them in their rear ends, as readers exclusive to Green Lantern Corps will have some holes in their reading experience.

The biggest fault of this issue, however, is the lackluster artwork by Neal Edwards. When this should be a book of grand cosmic scale, everything looks dumbed down and simple. The absence of Bernard Chang is severely felt. It’s funny to say this, but it’s apparent how much he brings to the Green Lantern Corps title when he’s gone. The ships look plainer. The weapons have much less detail. Everything has much less detail. The uniforms are duller. The entire universe loses a lot of character, and the spark of life –the vibrancy the series has– is greatly lessened.

To top all of that off, there are mistakes in the characters’ designs sprinkled all throughout the issue that speak of artists being lazy or not doing their research, and editors not keeping things in line. For example, the upper green part of John Stewart’s uniform should not extend past his Lantern emblem, and Hal Jordan should not have a leotard looking outfit like he had in his pre-Parallax days. Andrew Dalhouse is the colorist, as he was for Green Lantern Annual #2, and though his work is pretty solid –if greatly lacking in comparison to Marcelo Maiolo’s– he exhibits his own mistakes, like coloring John’s eyes brown instead of green. Certain aspects of design shouldn’t be left up to interpretation. There are niggling inconsistencies that momentarily take me out of the story.

All of these faults should be mentioned and criticized for the sake of review. They are present, and yet…
Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 winds up being an exhilarating blast regardless!

It is more enjoyable than Green Lantern Annual #2. There is so much happening. The world seems BIG and active, with its highly intense, white knuckle space battles, massive armadas, funny moments, and wacky characters, who range from colorful and strange aliens, galactic scoundrels, John Stewart, Von Daggle who is in hiding, and even more aliens. It’s all too imaginative and colorful to not love. The scope is so vast and it’s easy to get immersed in the world of Green Lantern. This issue shows how wild and diverse it is. Van Jensen continues to impart John Stewart’s cosmic adventures with an exciting swashbuckling flair, and broad vision that makes the universe feel believably alive and varying, but also like a community. This issue is just a big awesome, fun mess!

Evil Star’s re-introduction is the most interesting. Pretty coloring in the last panel.

The issue begins on Mogo with Hal Jordan and other members of the Green Lantern Corps. They’re still reeling from having their command center blown up, as shown in Green Lantern #27. The ships carrying the Sciencell escapees are coming into Mogo, and Jordan and the Lanterns leap into action to battle them. Jordan is in an especially foul mood due to all the defeats and set backs he’s suffered in recent Green Lantern stories.

As Jordan is taking the battle to Evil Star in the skies of Mogo, the story does its first divergent turn. For one page, it zooms back to the past –ninety years ago to be precise– and we see a one page origin story for the classic Green Lantern villain Evil Star. As mentioned, the story does this a number of times for the various villains who escaped from the Sciencells.

Evil Star was dying from a disease and created a device in the shape of a star, which would allow him to overcome his illness. When he affixed the star-like object to his chest, it made him much stronger and he became healthy again, even more-so than before. However, his lover was growing old and dying right before his eyes. She felt the device drain the life force right out of her and begged Evil Star to remove it, but he somewhat sorrowfully refused. He hoped she would understand that he did not want to die.

John Stewart and his Lantern gang meet their match against new weapons brandished by the Khund.

Evil Star is a really mixed bag. This origin for him –short as it is– is actually done really well. Evil Star is definitely bad, but Jensen and the artist for the villain origins, Tom Derenick, convey an element of forlornness to the character. As mentioned in a previous review, his design is really boring and terrible. That star thing that grants him his power is a nice update from the star band he used to have, but I’d still like to see the character with a better look that’s more recalling of his past one. There’s still a chance to improve Evil Star, DC! All you have to do is have him change his wardrobe!

The Tom Derenick art for the villains origins is better than the art for the main sequence of the issue, but it still leaves a lot to be desired compared to Bernard Chang.

After the Evil Star segment, the issue finally gets to John Stewart and his squad of Green Lanterns, and we pick up from where Green Lantern Corps #27 left off. The Lanterns are confronted with a massive Khund armada and a space battle gets right under way. Dalhouse does a great job rendering the sea of stars, but Edwards continues to fall a bit short on pencils and inks, and this is most apparent in the ships and constructs. Whereas Chang and Maiolo have a very great and distinct look for the vessels and emerald energy, here, things are very dull. Edwards comes across as someone just to do a job because it needs doing and the usual art team is too busy. It doesn’t seem like he was chosen because he would be a natural pick for this cosmic title. That said, the work is not so bad that it gets in the way, and I honestly think it’s quite a bit better than the fill in artist for the main sequence of Green Lantern Corps #25.

Lackluster art or no, the space battle is great and exciting. Seeing the Khund unveil their new weapons is actually worrisome. I was legit concerned that some of the Lanterns may not make it out alive. The story, messy as it may be, is very engrossing and it’s easy to become worried about the heroes as they’re being overwhelmed by enemies. The Lanterns clearly aren’t prepared for what they’re up against, and Jensen showcases this well by having them desperately call out for help.

The Khund technology developed from the remains of Relic’s drones makes short work of the Lanterns, and they’re captured.

For the first time, we see the alliance between the Khund, Durlans, and Clann scheme amongst themselves.

Next, we’re taken to Sector 0700; the planet Durla, to be specific. Prixiam Nol-Anj of the Clann and Khurtz, a high ranking officer of the Khund, who seems to be the same commander John Stewart and the new recruits ran afoul of at Nellewel 3 in Green Lantern Corps #22 and 23, have arrived to meet with these Ancient Durlans readers have heard so much about. Props for including what looks to be an Angtuan Star Cruiser (one of these was in Green Lantern Corps #21). Identifiable sights like that help in building a believable community within the universe, and Green Lantern can use more world building.

The Durlans seem to be the big bads orchestrating all of this. The Ancients are a… large group of something that seems to be all connected. They look like an enemy out of a Splatterhouse video game.

A neat thing about this issue is that many plot points that have been boiling finally come out in the open. Readers see the alliance between the Khund, the Clann, and the Durlans and how it works. The Durlans have been lying in wait for centuries, getting everything in place. The Khund are in this so they can freely expand their territory without worrying about the Green Lantern Corps interfering. Nol-Anj is simply tired of the Corps interfering in her criminal operations. It’s still a secret why the Durlans are waging this war, but it will likely be unveiled soon.

Next up, we get an origin for Bolphunga the Unrelenting.

Thirty years ago, Bolphunga’s tribe was killed by warriors who declared them to be weak and not worth living. However, they saw defiance in Bolphunga’s eyes, and took him to raise as one of their own. When Bolphunga was finally fully accepted as a member of their tribe, he killed the man who took him in.
Another capable one page villain origin. It’s nice to see that villains not connected to the Emotional Spectrum are being re-introduced.

Ten hours before “Now” the Durlans are letting the Sciencell escapees know of the alliance that has been formed, and that they are going to use the criminals to help in defeating the Corps. The criminals have fought the Lanterns for years and their experience can prove invaluable. Starbreaker, the cosmic vampire, reasons the Durlans can’t be trusted, and Bolphunga attacks the shape-shifters.

Just as we’re really getting into the battle, an origin story for Chun Yull, the Faceless Hunter, pops up. His planet was being destroyed by toxins in the air. He and a small group of other Hunters were sent out to steal an atmospheric filtration device from Earth to try to save their world. However, in a battle with Superman, the device was destroyed.

Yep, John Stewart appears in his underwear this issue. Don’t ask me what’s going on with Hal Jordan’s expression. I can’t quite tell exactly what emotion he’s supposed to be conveying, due to the Neal Edwards art.

Back in the present, the Green Lanterns continue to fight the criminals. There is a nice moment with Jruk and Feska when Jruk is being a bit overprotective of Feska in the battle, and Feska notes that she can take care of herself. At the same time Jensen is subtly building their relationship, he’s also subtly building conflict for it. The art by Edwards continues to be quite lazily done in parts, but Dalhouse does well with a cool starry lavender sky, which adds some sorely needed visual appeal.

Hal Jordan has Mogo knock the space ships of the criminals out of orbit and they crash land hard. Jordan breaks open a ship to get the rest of the criminals out. To his surprise, he finds John Stewart and his Green Lantern crew, all in nothing but their underwear!

This is actually a funny gag, and I believe this is the punchline of the twisty turny non-linear storytelling. It’s pretty cool, but as mentioned, not enough to warrant such a tangled tale. It doesn’t stop there. Now, we zoom back to the past to learn how John Stewart got himself in such a situation.

Ten hours before the present, the criminals are still fighting the Durlans on their escape ship. We’ve learned in past issues that Durlans are formidable opponents, but so are the Sciencell prisoners. As the battle is going against the Durlans, one of their number proclaims that the Durlans prepare for any eventuality, and they’ve prepared for the criminals to resist them. As such, the Durlans have planted explosives on all the ships the prisoners escaped on, and if they don’t play ball with the Durlans, they’ll all be blown to smithereens. Outside the ship’s window, we see two other vessels blow up, as the same occurrence must have taken place on those vessels. Before the Durlan can click his remote detonator, the Spider Guild member of the Sciencell prisoners shoots a fast webline and takes it from him, and the criminals kill the Durlan.

The criminals are worried the Durlans are going to continue trying to kill them, so they opt to get some help to take them out. Kanjar suggests they head to the nearest Sector House to join up with the Green Lanterns instead of the Durlans.

We see Kanjar-Ro’s origin next. While the art, as usual, looks better than the main sequence, the panels are overstuffed. It’s kind of weird to see a word bubble completely covering Kanjar Ro’s head in the first panel.

Kanjar is having a good time with a group of alien women, bragging about how he swindled entire governments out of their planets and came to rule a solar system. The rulers he thought he had trapped away emerged and captured him. They sold him into slavery and vowed to kill him if he ever returned to their system. This origin is interesting and shows that Kanjar is a master con artist.

The story next takes us aboard the Khund ship Currn where Green Lantern John Stewart and his crew have been captured. At least some of them. There is no sign of Vode-M, Procanon, or Kho.
They’re all stripped down to their underwear and that’s how John spends a good part of the issue. These pictures are pretty hilarious in some ways, if a little gratuitous. From my experience, when a Green Lantern uses his or her ring to take off their suit, they are usually wearing clothes underneath, but it all works out fine.

The Khund commander smacks John around a bit before the Sciencell escapees show up on board, acting as though they are in league with the Durlan/Khund/Clann alliance. With the Khunds’ guard lowered, Kanjar and the others escapees kill them and free the Green Lanterns. One of the criminals, a female named Zuree, uses her expertise at piloting to momentarily commandeer the Khund warship’s weapons and lock them on some of the other vessels in the Khund armada and she blasts a clear path through the ships, allowing John Stewart and co to retreat back to their ship and escape the Khund fleet.

Kanjar and John Stewart seal their alliance, and they go to reunite with the rest of the Sciencell escapee ships and then they’re off to Mogo and finally within friendly space.

On the way back, Oliversity recognizes the pilot Zuree, and we’re treated to yet another villain origin. Zuree was a driver hired by a terrorist unit that was captured by Oliversity on the planet Glerion. She pleaded her case to the Guardians, claiming she didn’t know what the others were really up to, but she was sentenced to do time in the Sciencells.

After years of absence from Green Lantern Corps comics, Von Daggle returns.

Back in the present, the convicts and the Lanterns meet on the grassy fields of Mogo, and John Stewart tries to convince Hal Jordan to accept an alliance with them. Jordan doesn’t trust them, but John Stewart brings up that when he was serving in Afghanistan, the U.S. Forces made alliances with the local warlords to help take down the Taliban. The warlords weren’t necessarily good, but they could either fight with the warlords, or fight against both the Taliban and the warlords. It’s really cool to see John Stewart’s background as a Marine continue to play a part in these stories.

John Stewart and some of the others runs down the reasons the Corps needs help.

The command center at the citadel is gone. Without it the Lanterns can’t tell how many Sector Houses are still standing, or how many Lanterns were taken by the Khund.
Now that Oa is gone the ring foundry is gone with it, so they can’t forge new rings to seek out new Lanterns.
The Durlans are very organized and have been plotting for a long time to take the Lanterns down, and they have the help of the Braid Clann and the Khund, who have advanced technology that can drain power rings within seconds.

Jordan agrees to accept the criminals’ help, but decides to pair them up with Lanterns because he doesn’t totally trust them. He tells the bounty hunter Hunger Dog that they’ll need his help to find Von Daggle, who is a Durlan Green Lantern who was the leader of a secret covert branch of the Corps called the Corpse. No one has ever been able to track Von Daggle down, but as we see in Hunger Dog’s origin, he never gives up searching for his target.

Closing up the issue, is a scene that revisits Nol-Anj, Khurtz, and the Ancients during their meeting. The Ancients bring out that there is only one piece on the figurative game board that is loose, and that is Von Daggle. They have an agent in place to find him, so it turns out both sides are now looking for Von Daggle.

As ever, Jensen is able to fill an issue with characters, settings, and plenty of happenings and make things feel well fleshed out. Yet, I’d prefer if Jensen did not try to be so ‘clever’ in telling this story with his incorporation of numerous non-linear time jumps. It was sort of ‘cute’ the first time he did something similar to this in Green Lantern Corps #25, with his flashbacks within flashbacks (which is interesting, since he actually voiced a dislike for flashbacks), but here, it really didn’t do a whole lot for this issue, and I hope he doesn’t make a habit of this sort of thing.

The re-introduction of classic villains is greatly welcome. In my review for Green Lantern #26, I expressed my wish for Jensen to develop a rogues gallery for John, and here they are. Sure, they’re allies now, but we all know it isn’t going to stay that way, and this issue effectively brings multiple foes back into the picture in a way that makes sense with the story. Let’s just hope that this face turn doesn’t make it too difficult to sell them as heels down the road. We’ll see what Jensen has in store.

Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 does have a clumsy structure and mediocre artwork, but there is so much saving grace in its imaginative world, thrilling space battle, great characters, re-introduction of villains not connected to Geoff Johns’ Emotional Spectrum or some Lantern offshoot, and the revival of a plot thread long abandoned in Green Lantern Corps with Von Daggle, that I can’t help but enjoy the heck out of this issue. Van Jensen and Robert Venditti deliver the goods once again!

4 out of 5 stars.

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