Green Lantern Corps #26 Review
on December 12, 2013
Green Lantern Corps #26 continues the fun cosmic adventures of Green Lantern John Stewart and the gang, after issue #25 took a break from the storyline to tell of a crucial moment in John’s past. Regular artist, Bernard Chang, and colorist, Marcelo Maiolo are back in full effect, rested up and fresh, having sat issue #25 out.
Ever since the new creative teams took over the Green Lantern titles, Hal Jordan has been thrown under the bus. He’s committed thoughtless, stupid, rude, inconsiderate, and potentially devastating actions in almost every comic he’s appeared in since then, as he struggles with being the new leader of the Green Lantern Corps. In Green Lantern Corps #26, John Stewart finally confronts Hal Jordan and voices his grievances and misgivings with Hal’s leadership.
Writer Van Jensen has described himself as a real blue collar kind of writer. Meaning that, at least at this point, he doesn’t really bother to push the boundaries with really experimental concepts, in the vein of your Neil Gaimans or Alan Moores. Yet, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t strive to tell really good stories.
John Stewart is reunited with Yrra Cynril, at last.
That’s perfectly fine and exactly what John Stewart needs right now to bring him out of the funk of the last nine years. Indeed, Van Jensen continues to firmly establish John Stewart with fun, vivacious stories after the character suffered years of neglect and insipidness.
One of the primary things about Jensen’s writing that is so appealing is its sense of humanity. I recently went back and read Fearsome; the first New 52 Green Lantern Corps volume, by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin (which I’ll likely have a write-up on soon), and I was thinking to myself… “These characters… aren’t REALLY characters.” They were more like place holders. Many of them spoke with the same voice, and were pretty interchangeable and generally soulless.
Where Van Jensen succeeds so much is in how he writes characters! Van Jensen’s characters have discernible voices, and his stories have interesting character interactions. As they go on adventures and deal with problems, more about their character is revealed, or things change with them, or they grow. What else is important is that Van Jensen clearly understands his characters. He has the best grasp on John Stewart’s character than anyone working for DC ever has.
This particular issue showcases Jensen’s qualities in spades. His mastery at handling his characters and letting them push the story along is well exhibited, and it’s all topped off with the fun and adventurous spirit that has become custom for Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps. All of this is further elevated by the perfect blending of Bernard Chang’s line work and Marcelo Maiolo’s astonishing colors.
The issue begins on Mogo as it’s heading back to its root destination of Sector Zero. John Stewart is looking to the heavens, waiting for the Citadel to arrive. During The Battle of Oa seen in Green Lantern Corps #24, Salaak escaped in the rocket ship Citadel with the wounded and infirm, which included Star Sapphire Yrra Cynril, John Stewart’s girlfriend. John is annoyed, because the Citadel would have already reached them had Hal Jordan not moved Mogo during the battle with the Braid Clann in Green Lantern #26.
Van Jensen drops hints that we still may not know all there is to know about the draining of the emotional reservoir. Marcelo Maiolo’s coloring in the opening scenes on Mogo is splendid.
Van Jensen uses the Green Lantern recruits as a means of explaining to readers how certain things in the Green Lantern universe work, as he has in the past. The recruits question John about Mogo, and the veteran Lantern explains that Mogo is a Green Lantern who is a living, sentient planet. Now that Oa is destroyed, Mogo is the Corps’ new home.
The Citadel finally arrives, but something’s wrong. It’s plummeting to the planet too quickly. John leaps into action and uses his ring to try and save it from crashing. Many other Lanterns follow suit. The giant Citadel is too heavy and moving with too much force for the Lanterns to easily slow it. Mogo comes to the rescue by controlling her gravitational field to halt the Citadel’s fall, and then secures a landing space for it.
When everything is safe, John hurriedly bursts into the Citadel and finds Yrra. The two lovers are finally reunited. They haven’t had much meaningful time together since Green Lantern Corps #21.
They take a moment within Mogo’s meadows to catch up. Both were worried they’d never see each other again. Their alone time is interrupted as they’re approached by Green Lanterns Graf and Hannu, who chastise John Stewart for using up precious light from the universe sustaining emotional reservoir. John counters by saying he was trying to save everyone on the Citadel, and that they don’t know for sure if the rings really do drain the emotional reservoir. What they do know is they can use their rings to continue saving people. The debate goes back and forth before it’s interrupted by Hal Jordan.
Hal and Kilowog got a message from Salaak saying that there is trouble on the planet Oranx, which is the homeworld of Lantern recruit Jruk. Oranx has gotten an offer to form an alliance with the Khund, who seem to be going from world to world, offering their protection. The Green Lanterns are well aware of the true nature of the Khund and know that whatever they’re up to, it can’t be benevolent. The Lanterns task Jruk with going to his homeworld to convince his people to reject the offer. They tell Jruk that it’s a diplomatic mission, but the concept of diplomacy is lost on Jruk. As such, John asks Arisia to go along to make sure things go smoothly. Feska joins, too. Arisia asks why John doesn’t go, and he says he has business to sort out with Hal.
There certainly is trouble brewing on Oranx, and we see it first hand when the story shoots to a scene of a Durlan assassinating Vrokull, the Master of the Blood Bowl, who is a powerful politician. The Durlan assumes Vrokull’s identity. When the trio of Lanterns arrive on the planet, Jruk instructs the other two on how things work there, and I really give credit to Jensen here.
On Oranx, the ruling council sends councilors into gladiatorial combat, and these battles dictate policy, with the victor’s side getting their way. The councilors are Oranx’s greatest fighters. Each member has survived twenty seasons in the Blood Bowl to earn a seat.
It’s these types of concepts from Van Jensen that put a smile on my face. They’re weird, quirky, and have a tongue in cheek attribute that is distinctly Van Jensen. His love of sports shines through from time to time in Green Lantern Corps, and this is one of those moments.
Arisia, a popular Green Lantern supporting character since the ’80s returns to the cast of Green Lantern Corps!
Despite learning how Oranxian politics work, Arisia tries to settle things with words, but the councilors aren’t impressed with the Green Lanterns, pointing out how the Corps has unleashed one threat after another upon the universe. Arisia defends, stating that the Corps isn’t responsible for the crimes of their former masters, the Guardians of the Universe, and that they will always be ready and willing to defend Oranx.
They also mock Jruk for having lost his arm. Feska takes offense at that, since he lost it honorably fighting to save fellow Lanterns. Yet, Jruk takes offense at Feska for defending him, stating that he can defend himself. Feska is hurt by this and flies off. I said that there was something between Jruk and Feska back in my review for Green Lantern Annual #2, and it turns out I was right (really, though, the earliest signs were in Green Lantern Corps #22).
Back on Mogo, the storyline gets to the main event. John Stewart confronts Hal Jordan with all his concerns and pent up frustration. John brings out how Hal used Mogo against the Clann, how he sent Guy Gardner into the Red Lanterns, and how he more or less declared war on all ring-weilders who aren’t Green Lanterns. Hal Jordan pulls John Stewart aside into the Citadel where they can speak in private.
The first point Hal addresses is how Guy Gardner is now trapped as a Red Lantern, since the Blue Lanterns are wiped out and Kyle Rayner -who is able to wield the blue light- is believed dead. Hal’s reply to that is, “We’ll figure something out,” which upsets John. Two of the people closest to John, his best friend, Guy Gardner, and his girlfriend, Yrra Cynril, are ring wielders who aren’t Green Lanterns, and John asks if he’s supposed to arrest them, too, because of Jordan’s new decree. Hal tells him that’s exactly what he’s supposed to do, if it comes to it. This causes John to punch Jordan in the face. With Jordan on the floor, John rings up a pair of shackles and restrains him.
John asks how Jordan would feel if someone came to arrest him just because he wears his ring, and outright tells Jordan that he doesn’t deserve to lead the Green Lantern Corps. Hal Jordan doesn’t fight back at all, and admits that John might be right, but it wasn’t his choice to lead. The Guardians put him in that role.
Hal Jordan further admits that he’s made mistakes, but he’s trying hard to hold everything together. John apologizes, but Hal Jordan says that he probably deserved the punch John gave him. Jordan beseeches John for help. He needs John’s ability as an architect, both figuratively and literally.
John confides in Jordan, confessing that he planned on quitting the Corps and going back to Earth with Yrra. John says that after he quit the Marine Corps, he sometimes wondered if he should have stayed and tried to fix things from within.
Back at the Blood Bowl, Jruk and Arisia sit in the large crowd of spectators while they watch politics be settled with gladiatorial matches. Arisia finds the preceding absurd, but Jruk says it is forbidden to interfere. Suddenly, as one gladiator is about to kill another, the prevailing one is shot in the head and dies instantly. Everyone in the crowd follows the beam to Feska, who suddenly runs off while those in the crowd pull knives on Jruk and Arisia. Feska eventually bumps into another Feska, and it becomes clear that the assassin is a Durlan disguised as Feska.
Beneath a starry sky on Mogo, John Stewart hovers in the air, taking in the landscape as Yrra flies up to meet him. John begins using his ring to design plans for a new city for the Green Lanterns on Mogo, and Yrra asks who is going to build it. John points out that Mogo will.
In a beautiful double page spread, we see Mogo take John Stewart’s plans and construct a new capital. It has a different look than Oa, but is stunning in its own right. It’s less sci-fi hi-tech looking and more natural, using what appears to be limestone for many of the structures, and using Mogo’s vegetation to compliment the buildings.
Van Jensen often brings out John Stewart’s background as an architect and a Marine. Here, John designs a new city for the Green Lantern Corps, and Mogo constructs it.
Back on Oranx, Feska sees her double suddenly morph into Vrokull, Master of the Blood Bowl, and he summons the other Oranxians to seize her. As they take Feska back out to the coliseum’s battlefield for execution, she keeps hollering about how she didn’t do anything. Jruk takes her for her word and wonders why the others don’t. Arisia points out what Jruk said himself. On Oranx, they decide, “Not with words.” Jruk descends onto the battlefield to make them listen.
Jruk demands that Feska be released, but the other Oranxians on the field attack the Lantern. Jruk continues to be mocked for having slowed due to losing his arm, and his opponents get in some good shots on Jruk before he forms an arm construct for himself and bashes an Oranxian charging at him. He then has his ring analyze the body of the murdered warrior and discovers the scarring suggests the blast was not due to a Green Lantern ring, but a weaponized laser. Further bolstered by that evidence, Jruk believes Feska is telling the truth, and he affirms that Green Lanterns don’t kill, which is something he picked up from John Stewart.
Vrokull, or rather, the Durlan, orders Jruk to get off Oranx and tells him that he’s not welcome there anymore. He also announces that Oranx will ally with the Khund. Jruk takes Feska’s hand, and with their mission having met with failure, the three Lanterns depart Oranx.
On Mogo, John and Yrra enjoy the night atop the balcony of their quarters in a scene that kind of reminds me of an Anakin and Padmé moment from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. John tells her that he cannot leave the Green Lantern Corps, even though she wants him to. Yrra understands, and reveals that what she loves about John is his dedication. She is proud of him for sticking with the Corps and helping even when he has every reason to leave. John runs down a list of problems the Corps has and things he thinks he can help fix. But, within the shadows, one of the support staff members is walking through the city, and meets others in a chamber. They all reveal themselves to be Durlans, and open a communication channel with another Durlan who appears to be their superior. It turns out they’ve gotten a hold of some of Relic’s technology and are going to use it to decimate the Green Lantern Corps.
I’m just going to get it out the way. The cover and solicit for this issue are false advertising and sensationalism. If you, like everyone else, were expecting an epic showdown between John Stewart and Hal Jordan with the leadership of the Green Lantern Corps at stake… you won’t find it here. Frankly, it is a little tiring being told we’re getting one thing and wind up getting something else, which also happened last month when we were supposed to get a new “origin” for John Stewart… but there was no origin in sight.
Despite that, this, like all the other issues under Jensen’s belt, turns out being a great story full of heart and character! I do have some problems with the scenes between John and Hal Jordan, though. And as much as I wouldn’t mind seeing Hal Jordan pounded into the ground, that is not necessarily one of them.
What I don’t totally get, is even though John was able to vent his frustrations at Hal Jordan… nothing really changed. From what we can tell, Hal Jordan still stands by his decree to police the emotional spectrum, and tells John to take out Yrra if it comes down to it. John says he won’t. Neither character has changed their stance at all. So, John throws a (justified) tantrum, while Hal acts calmly, and then John calms down, apologizes, and moves on. It all boils down to Hal saying, “Yeah, I mess up sometimes, but my job is hard,” and then John shrugs it off.
But what about the policies? John inherently does not agree with them, but he decides to set the issue aside!? What about the actions? Hal Jordan doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes. He just commits more of them! Yet John sets it all aside!?
The interaction between the two characters, though done with good dialogue, really didn’t solve anything. Perhaps John literally knocked some sense into Hal Jordan, causing him to not be so dumb from here on out? We’ll have to wait and see.
As mentioned previously, Van Jensen brings out that there is still a lot for the Corps to do on Mogo, including getting power going and even furnishing.
Another thing I like about Van Jensen’s writing is that he explains the mundane in a way that doesn’t slow down the story. He made it a point to make sure readers knew the infirm and the prisoners made it off Oa alright, and even made those plot points that arise in future stories.
Going back to Van Jensen’s earnest character based writing, he’s actually getting me to care about the relationship between John and Yrra, which is quite a feat, because the writers who actually set the relationship up could not do that in the slightest. Now, it seems very sweet, natural, and likable, as many touching scenes in this issue help it blossom and come into its own. This is another feature that helps Green Lantern Corps stand out as a fun, exuberant, and delightfully touching read in a sea of grim and gritty DC titles.
The strong, emotive writing from Van Jensen, and beautiful artwork from Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo give validity and weight to a relationship that didn’t have much under previous creative teams.
Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo are perfectly suited to bringing the witty and enjoyable cosmic exploits crafted by Jensen to life.
Maiolo continues to stun me with his coloring. The lighting effects he uses on the Mogo scenes early in the issue are very impressive. He really knows how to set a strong mood, with my favorite example being the beautiful nighttime scenes on Mogo, with his blending of soft blues and greens, and the consistently impressive work he does rendering skies. Oranx’s looming red hues instantly give us a tone for what the world is like.
Bernard Chang is tasked with drawing so many wondrous sights in this issue, and he valiantly steps up and delivers. From the many diverse alien Lanterns populating Mogo, to the rich meadows and vistas of Mogo itself, to designing Oranx’s city and the fashions of its people, to -along with John Stewart- being the architect of the new Green Lantern city, Chang masterfully renders this universe, and makes it a place full of character, wonder, and enchantment. And it’s not just Jensen who makes the John and Yrra scenes credible. Maiolo and Chang play a huge part in making their relationship believable and entertaining to see.
Green Lantern Corps continues to be my favorite Green Lantern title. There are certainly things to enjoy in some of the others, but the combination of Jensen’s smart, charming, and incredibly filling stories with dialogue that is both very ‘human’ while at times being appropriately alien, the brilliant way in which he is taking an underutilized character and making him the best, most three dimensional character in the books right now, without at all betraying the core of the character, and the lovely visuals of Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo, which are certainly the best the Lantern line has to offer, lifts this title above the rest.
Green Lantern Corps #26 further solidifies the Maiolo/Jensen/Chang run as a future classic, based upon its storytelling quality alone, but also in its rejuvenation of Green Lantern John Stewart.
4 out of 5 stars.