Green Lantern Corps: Futures End #1 Review

on September 15, 2014

Green Lantern Corps: Futures End #1 features many things I prefer not to see in a John Stewart story all rolled up into one comic book. It’s heavy on the Emotional Spectrum, John Stewart is moping about the destruction of planet Xanshi, he’s revealed to be a massive failure, and as the cover alludes to, he becomes an Indigo Lantern. Naturally, it is a very depressing read for me. The interesting thing, however, is I believe that is actually the aim of this comic book.

The comic achieves its goal well. That is, being in keeping with the line wide “Futures End” theme. However, this theme is fundamentally unappealing. The “Futures End” stories take readers five years into a possible future, which is always bad and weird in some way for the heroes. These stories do a great job of giving a disconcerting feeling. We see our favorite heroes in ways we’d rather not see them, and often suffering depressing fates.

I do congratulate writer Van Jensen on giving this mandated story relevance to what is currently going on in the Green Lantern Corps series. This is another very personal story for John Stewart, which is nice, because he can use more stories like this to further flesh out his character. In this future, John Stewart is in a very dark place. He’s turned grim and coldblooded. He lacks empathy or respect for others, and he is always ready and willing to kill his opponents, which is a huge contrast from the character we’re used to reading in this series.

If you like full blown Space Opera then the opening of this issue is sure to please with its fleet of star ships, wondrous cosmic scenery, and diverse and creative aliens.

What Van Jensen suggests is that this version of John Stewart has come to this point because he failed to deal with the emotionally devastating events of the previous two issues of Green Lantern Corps in a healthy manner. Five years before the story of this comic, John Stewart was hoodwinked by a shape shifter who posed as his girlfriend, Fatality. Soon after he discovered that, he was astonished to learn that the real Fatality was brainwashed by the Star Sapphires, and she never really loved him.

Five years may seem like a while, but Van Jensen pokes fun at the John Stewart character in noting that he doesn’t really get over stuff. Instead, he lets past hardships eat him up inside over long periods of time. This trait is chiefly due to uninspired writing and a lack of care previous creators showed the character, but it’s what Van Jensen has to work with at this juncture.

Though this issue may be a bit painful to read, simply because of what happens to our beloved hero, I believe Van Jensen is using it to make a point. The point being that the John Stewart we read in this story is likely what would be the result of the John Stewart of the Geoff Johns era; a mopey character defined by failures, who never looks to the future, but who is always mourning the past. However, Van Jensen is likely going to take the character down another, more optimistic and triumphant road in future Green Lantern Corps issues, to show us that his John Stewart is a far less depressing and dull character.

John Stewart sports a new look five years into the future, complete with facial hair and scar.

Though this issue showcases everything I don’t want to see about John, there are some great highlights, such as the art of Igor Lima.

Since series regular artist Bernard Chang came on board to Green Lantern Corps, there have only been a couple times when I was pleased with a fill in artist. The opening and ending pages of Green Lantern Corps #25, by Allan Jefferson, were beautifully done, though the bulk of the issue done by Vic Drujiniu looked horrible. Moritat from Green Lantern Corps #33 was… interesting. But usually the fill in art has been very disappointing and all issues that don’t feature Chang are considerably lacking in comparison.

Igor Lima, however, doesn’t leave me disenchanted. His style is very different from Bernard Chang’s, but it is nearly as immersive. Lima depicts a very strong Space Opera setting, complete with detailed battleships, stellar landscapes, breathtaking cityscapes, and loads of wonderfully designed aliens. Though his work echoes the typical DC Comics “house style,” it emits a lot of character, and I find myself deeply absorbed in the world he renders.

Lima gives readers a break from Bernard Chang’s more cartoon look. I definitely prefer Chang, but it is nice to see John Stewart and his world depicted in a more realistic style that is actually done competently and with care. The other fill in artists had a rather rushed feeling to their art… probably because it was rushed!

With four different artists, the visuals are a mixed bag. Igor Lima’s work is, by far, the strongest of the four. He and colorist Marcelo Maiolo paint a vivid world readers can easily sink into.

Speaking of other fill in artists, this brings us to the problem with the book’s art. There are actually four artists working on this issue. They mesh together well in one sense, but not in another. There is never a huge departure in style, which is nice for cohesiveness, but the art gets progressively worse over the course of the issue. The detail begins to fade, landscapes and characters aren’t depicted as strongly, and eventually it starts to look rushed. The other artists either don’t have the ability or sense of style of Lima, or they weren’t given enough time to put out work as strong as his, and this takes quite a bit out of the issue’s quality.

Fortunately, series regular colorist Marcelo Maiolo douses this issue in his wonderful tones, giving it the bright coloring that has lent so strongly in making Green Lantern Corps one of the best and most unique looking books of DC’s entire catalog. He colors the entire issue, which helps in keeping a consistent look despite having so many artists, and it also adds a lot of familiarity to the visuals, despite not having Bernard Chang on hand.

The book opens with a very strong space scene, where we see two Green Lantern recruits sitting in a star ship while discussing the current state of things. The Corps is at open war with the Shadow Empire, who we first heard about in Green Lantern Corps #33. These two Lanterns, Ibek and Spyn, are part of Mogo’s defense fleet. The mobile planet has anchored itself in Space Sector 666. From the get-go, the atmosphere is strong. Van Jensen is still putting strong emphasis on Space Opera trappings like fleets, star ships, and diverse aliens to give Green Lantern Corps a flavor that is very unique in DC Comics’ line, and which fits perfectly.

In this future, Green Lantern is a merciless killer. With Feska at his side, he mows down numerous enemies with his sniper rifle construct.

There are many people who would like Green Lantern to regress back to being a basic superhero on Earth in a city, and I never could understand that. It just doesn’t suit the concept well, and I never found the goings-on of Ferris Aircraft Company or the like particularly interesting. Not when there are so many better things for Green Lantern to explore. I’d rather be taken away to new exotic captivating worlds and see what the universe has to offer. In my opinion, the only thing of interest for Green Lantern on Earth is the Justice League. The concept is better suited for interstellar adventures. Van Jensen seems to fully understand this and continues to go all the way in depicting an enchanting Space Opera to rival the likes of Babylon 5, Mass Effect, Star Wars, and Exosquad.

The two Lanterns see something headed their way and open fire. They fail to take the bogey down and John Stewart crashes into their vessel, destroying it. He spares them, but offers disparaging remarks before descending to Mogo. When John is gone, the recruits speak of him as though he is a legend. He’s said to be a ruthless killer, having racked up the most kills in the entire Corps. When we get a good look at John, he’s changed visually. His costume is almost all black, he has facial hair, and a prominent facial scar.

I like the idea that facial hair on John Stewart means something isn’t quite right with him. This concept is taken from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. After his incredibly messy and emotionally crushing break up with Hawkgirl, John shaved his head and grew a goatee. He was clearly trying to move on from Hawkgirl but never really could. Likewise, in this story, John is still haunted by the event on Cheorg involving Fatality.

When John goes into the planet, we see that it’s been built up into a gleaming metropolis, and the Green Lantern Corps has militarized itself in numerous ways, including the defense fleet in orbit. Anti-aircraft batteries are set up throughout the city, and Lanterns have taken to wearing heavy duty armor in place of their more “superhero”-like uniforms. John finds Salaak and Kilowog, who has lost a leg. All of this gives us a clear impression that a large scale war is happening.

John has a word with the two senior Lanterns. He’s heard they’re planning on assaulting Oa, which has fallen to the Shadow Empire. He tries to talk them out of it, but they tell him that “The Quiet One” has set up operations there. Von Daggle and R’amey Holl went to capture him, but were intercepted. John is angered by this, and blames Salaak and Kilowog for not killing this individual when they had the chance. They ask for John’s help in bringing the Quiet One down, and John agrees. He visits the Corps mess hall to get a spotter to assist with his sniping. He brusquely elects Feska to fill the role.

Lima and Maiolo really go to town on the settings and characters. Lima draws creative alien designs all over the place, and gives readers a strong sense of really being there. Marcelo Maiolo’s glowing sunlight illuminates the outdoor scenes on Mogo. It seems like a lot of care and thought was put into these opening pages.

At the remains of Oa, we get a good look at the Shadow Empire forces. It turns out this “Quiet One” is Maro, one of the Green Lantern recruit introduced in Green Lantern Corps #21. He is the only one of the four that Van Jensen hasn’t done much with, which made me suspicious. I know Jensen isn’t the type of writer to lose characters in the shuffle, so I figured he had something up his sleeve for the little mute. The Shadow Empire seems to use savage mutant beasts as soldiers, which… honestly doesn’t seem all that cool to me, but we’ll see what the story is behind that at a later date, I’m sure. They also seem like they might be rooted in religion, as Maro is preparing to offer up Daggle and R’amey as a sacrifice. What else is of interest is that Maro has gained the ability to speak!

It turns out Maro has betrayed the Corps, and John is out to kill him for it. Iroque of the Indigo Tribe saves Maro’s skin.

With Feska acting as his spotter, John snipes the beasts surrounding the two captured Lanterns and then swoops in to save them. It seems like these beasts aren’t much of a match for Green Lanterns, pound for pound, as John and Feska make short work of them. Daggle and R’amey’s rings are drained, so John has Feska take them back to Mogo, despite their objections. John decides to stay behind and kill Maro. The art begins to really falter around this part of the story, which is a shame, because this is when the action heats up.

Just as John’s about to finish the mission, Iroque from the Indigo Tribe appears and safeguards Maro. She plans to induct the turncoat into her tribe, but John has a problem with that. He takes issue with the Indigo Tribe for brainwashing its members under the pretext of rehabilitation, just as the Star Sapphires did to Fatality. She counters that the Green Lantern ring influences him. He had no choice in the matter of it choosing him. Iroque tires of the debate and uses her power to momentarily occupy John while she deals with Maro.

Maro explains that he left the Corps because no one cared about him or what he had to say. The Shadow Empire offered him a voice and wanted to hear him. I like how alien Van Jensen depicts some of these characters, not just in their looks, but also in their behavior and values. For a Rhoonian, orating is one of the most important and prized abilities they have, and Maro was a mute. In such a culture, being mute is probably one of the worst things one can be.

Iroque does see Maro’s compassion buried deep, but Maro was going through that spiel to buy time for more of his bestial solders to arrive. John breaks free of Iroque’s attack, and says that even if he may die in this battle, he will surely take Maro down. Iroque finally realizes what led her to that location, and it wasn’t Maro as she anticipated… it was John Stewart. She then uses her powers to teleport herself and John to the remains of Xanshi, where John is once again confronted with his greatest failure, and Iroque painfully brings to light all the things John has been trying to emotionally keep down.

John gets sad over Xanshi… AGAIN.

Next, she teleports them to Zezzen, one of the final battlegrounds of the Uprising. She knows that is where John lost his love, Fatality, and that he’s never moved on from it. Instead of confronting his loss and coming to terms with it, John has trained himself not to feel, which is why he’s so coldblooded now. He takes suicide mission after suicide mission, with his only goal in life being to die. Iroque confronting John with his darkest inner thoughts pushes him over the edge and he attacks her. Iroque is mortally wounded, and it is then that everything dawns upon John Stewart, and he fully realizes what he’s truly become.

Iroque’s dying act is to teleports them to their final destination, the planet Nok, home of the Indigo Tribe. Iroque was looking for her replacement, and she found it in John. Natromo tells John that the universe has grown too dark, and the Indigo Tribe needed someone strong to fight the Shadow Empire. That person is John Stewart. Iroque’s ring leaves her finger and slides on John’s. His Green Lantern ring leaves him, and he’s fully inducted into the Indigo Tribe.

As mentioned, this issue is meant to be depressing, and it certainly is.

While it’s pretty clear John Stewart won’t go down this path, it will also be interesting to see if Maro actually will betray the Green Lantern Corps, or if that only happens in this branch of possible futures. Perhaps there’s something John, Maro, or the others can do to prevent that from happening.

The biggest downfall of this issue, aside from having to adhere to the “Futures End” theme, is the grab bag of artists. It’s a shame DC didn’t get its act together with the art, because this is the time when many people who don’t regularly read Green Lantern Corps will sample the title. Putting a hodge podge of artists on the book with varying quality doesn’t seem like a really good way to present it to prospective regular readers.

A peeve I have with the story is the Xanshi angle. It makes sense to bring that up in this issue, and I understand why Jensen did it, but seeing John mope about Xanshi is just about the last thing I want to see him doing, under ANY circumstance.

Xanshi’s destruction happened in an obscure comic from twenty-six years ago, which is never referenced anymore except to continually torment John Stewart. If the bulk of Green Lantern continuity has carried over to the New 52 continuity, I assume that means Green Lantern: Mosaic has. John dealt with his phantoms and moved on in Mosaic. Why do we need multiple stories about him dealing with his past trauma, when it’s already been dealt with?

DC and its writers need to get over this Xanshi business. It’s old and tired, and John doesn’t need to be constantly defined by a past failure that is the byproduct of horrible writing. If John has to angst, let him angst about something new. The Fatality thing would have been enough. Again, I get why Jensen brought Xanshi up, but for the sake of the character, if that terrible plot point from over two decades ago isn’t going to be retconned away, it should be put in a dark vault and never revisited again.

John Stewart becomes a member of one of the lamest Corps in the Emotional Spectrum.

Why is it always Cosmic Odyssey that’s revisited? The writers never reference Mosaic, when John put together a cohesive society out of disparate, warring races. We never hear about Rose Hardin anymore. What about when John led the Darkstars? Whatever happened to Merayn Dethalis!? John sure doesn’t seem to think about her. Or when he worked at Ferris Aircraft? Heck, he won’t even think about Katma Tui anymore!
Why is John’s lowest moment the constant reference point for the character?

One big reason the cartoon version of John Stewart is often perceived as being better than the comic version is because John Stewart from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited wasn’t constantly saddled with the effects of a depressing, world ending storyline from a quarter of a century ago. Please, DC, maybe YOU are the ones who need to move on from Xanshi so that John Stewart can.

In closing, Green Lantern Corps: Futures End #1 is an interesting story about an alternate future that starts out pretty strong, but gets progressively weaker, due much in part to the quality of the art degrading. We get a good glimpse of the Shadow Empire, and though they don’t seem terribly interesting, I’m not sure if this story had the opportunity to really showcase them. I’m hoping Jensen uses the Shadow Empire as a vessel for securing more rogues for John. Hopefully Kanjar Ro, Starbreaker, and the like are in cahoots with the Empire, so they can be cemented as opponents for John Stewart.

While not terrible, this is my least favorite issue from Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps run so far.

3.0 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps #34 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #33 Review.