Green Lantern Corps #28 Review

on February 13, 2014

Van Jensen delivers his first solo issue of Green Lantern Corps, and it’s extremely solid. Everything regular readers have come to expect from Jensen is well intact, from the deft juggling of a large cast, worlds alive with creativity, an expansive sense of scale to the universe, sharp dialogue, and a clever sense of humor.

All those aspects are wonderful, but there are a couple features that especially stand out to me, such as Jensen’s superb character work! It’s amazing how he keeps the emphasis on John, but does so much with the other cast members. His characters are written as real, sympathetic people, each with their own easily distinguishable voice. They’re not just empty characters doing AWESOME FEATS, which was a problem previous Green Lantern stories had.

Jensen’s Kilowog has a certain steadiness, with a hint of weariness. His Iolande is a bit petulant, but it’s played so gracefully that she never becomes annoying. It’s clear there’s something a bit wrong with Yrra, and there has been since Jensen started writing her. It’s never so front and center as to be readily obvious. Rather, Jensen craftily shows shades of Yrra’s fanaticism toward John Stewart, and her rather lethal actions are suggestive of a problem brewing between the couple.

Then there is John Stewart, the star of the series. I will go as far to say that Jensen’s John Stewart is the best to be found anywhere. Jensen is the first Green Lantern writer ever that fully understands everything that was ever great about the character, and he incorporates all of it. Jensen’s done his research. He’s read almost every notable John Stewart appearance there has been. He’s watched the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons. He’s listened to the character’s true fans and knows what they like about him and what they want to see.

Van Jensen, Marcelo Maiolo, and Bernard Chang create convincing worlds and environments that readers can easily lose themselves into. Muz has a Star Wars/Indiana Jones feel to it.

Jensen’s John Stewart has the Marine and architect backgrounds, and they both play into his character and actions regularly. Jensen’s John Stewart is a steadfast leader, man of action, and powerful presence, like Bruce Timm’s, yet Jensen’s also displays the thoughtful complexities of Gerard Jones’ take, while exhibiting a playful sense of humor reminiscent of the Steve Englehart version. This combination makes for the most enthralling interpretation yet. Furthermore, Jensen throws John Stewart right in the center of one of the most fascinating comics mythologies and makes full use of it, instead of divorcing John from the Green Lantern mythos, and making him seem like an outcast or after thought in the way that preceding Green Lantern writers did.

I don’t think it’s especially hard to get the John Stewart character. At least, it shouldn’t be for a professional writer. I believe writers like Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi, and Tony Bedard just didn’t care to get the character. Van Jensen is perfect for John Stewart, and John Stewart is perfect for Van Jensen. With Jensen, we have a writer coming straight out of indie comics, who is hungry to prove himself and get a foothold in the mainstream comics industry. John Stewart, a character with a substantial fanbase, largely due to his influential television roles, has been spurned and cast aside by those already deeply ingrained within the industry. John Stewart is the ideal platform through which Van Jensen can build a name for himself, and Van Jensen is the ideal creator for revitalizing this snubbed comic character. It’s all working seamlessly.

John Stewart tracks down Von Daggle with the help of a team of ex-convicts.

The art team of Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo deserve heaps of praise as well. It’s amazing how much they add to Jensen’s stories. Every time they step aside, the issues are still enjoyable, but there’s a lot missing compared to the issues Chang and Maiolo contribute to. The entire creative team was made for this book.

The team continues to paint new and exciting worlds. This time, we’re taken to a bustling city on the planet Muz, where all kinds of oddities are on sale in an open air bazaar. Marcelo Maiolo, who is the best colorist in comics, continues to make use of incredible lighting effects, casting a warm glow across the entire landscape. The Durlan known as Von Daggle is hiding from the light in the dim alleys, however, lamenting on how he is out of some kind of substance he needs. His demeanor is recalling of a junkie, which is actually pretty cool for this story.

Von Daggle goes into the marketplace, and talks to one of the merchants who offers some of his wears, but Daggle wants what he is really selling. Just as Daggle is about to set up a deal for this mysterious item, Bolphunga the Unrelenting stops him on the street, but Daggle manages to slip away, escaping into the crowd, where he shape shifts to further elude Green Lantern’s team, which also consists of Fatality and Hunger Dog. This ragtag team is hunting for Daggle because he may be the key to defeating the shape shifting Durlan menace that’s been plaguing the Corps of late.

Daggle tries to get away, but now the Green Lantern and his team know what to look for, and John Stewart finds Daggle on the rooftops, disguised as a small animal. I always admire the clothing that Bernard Chang develops for these different alien races. His aptitude at believably establishing the visuals for the disparate cultures we see in Green Lantern Corps is very impressive.

Jensen hasn’t forgotten about the connection he developed between Salaak and Soranik Natu back in issue #21.

Jensen continues to successfully manage multiple characters and scenes. Back on Mogo, Kilowog is working at repairing the command center when he’s approached by Iolande. She is concerned because her Sector partner, Soranik Natu, seems to have given up policing their Sector. Iolande is looking for her, and she can’t find Soranik due to ring to ring communication being down.

It turns out Soranik is spending some time in the rocky remains of Oa with Salaak. It’s a rather lovely scene, in concept and visually. There’s something poetic about reclining in the rocks floating around Mogo and having a heart to heart in starry space. Soranik is distraught because everything she cares about comes to ruin, and every place she calls home gets destroyed. First, it was Korugar, then Oa. Salaak comforts Soranik, but as he’s embracing her, he’s struck from behind by some shadowy being. The shadow isn’t alone. There are three in total, and they detain and capture Soranik and then throw Salaak back towards Mogo to send a message.

Van Jensen honors the past, but never delves into fan-ish pandering. He’s always moving forward, telling his own stories.

Meanwhile, John and his team try to convince Daggle to join their cause. Daggle wonders how they found him, and it’s brought out that the bounty hunter Hunger Dog can find anyone.

John offers Von Daggle his old ring and a spot in the Corps. Daggle is a former black ops member of the Corps, and he’s upset over how he was treated by the Guardians. He did many dirty jobs for them, and they left him with no way out when they died. With the amount of bounties on his head, he’s barely been able to stay alive since. He wants no part of the Green Lanterns or their battles. John reminds him that the Lanterns are fighting the Durlans, and that the Durlans will be after Von Daggle, too. He has to choose a side. Daggle chooses to forge his own way and attacks John, morphing into a beast and tackling him, sending them both plummeting off the roof and into the market streets below, scaring away the citizens. Yrra immediately jumps into the fight and stabs Daggle with her spear, with the intent to kill.

Yrra is still trying to kill anything that threatens John Stewart. This is no doubt building up to some serious conflict between the two of them, since John has brought out repeatedly that he’s against killing. Even though Yrra tried to kill Daggle, she failed, because the vital organs of the creature she stabbed were not in in the area she stabbed him in. Daggle puts up a good fight against the team, morphing into various beasts.

Jensen takes us to catch up with the Green Lantern crypt keeper Morro, as we see more of the Lanterns settling into their new planet. Mogo constructs a new crypt for the Lanterns where they honor their fallen. There’s a scene of various classic Lanterns who have died. This is bittersweet to me, because Katma Tui is among their number. It’s really nice seeing Katma being acknowledged, but a bit upsetting to see that she is dead in the New 52 DC Universe. John Stewart never mentions her, and nothing about her appeared in the (absolutely terrible) “Wrath of the First Lantern” issue focusing on John Stewart’s past, so the relationship the two may have had in this new universe is still a bit of a mystery until/unless Van Jensen decides to clue readers in.

Van Jensen never forgets about the Green Lantern recruits, who are at the cafeteria on Mogo when Salaak comes crashing in, causing a bit of a crater. A weakened Salaak talks about how he could not protect Soranik, which seems to really depress him. He doesn’t know who took her. Iolande is ready to spring into action and find her partner. Kilowog tells her to take a couple of the Sciencell escapee deputies with her. Criminals Zuree and Loragg are resigned to help the Lanterns… for now.

Marcelo Maiolo pulls out neat tricks every issue. He often does the simplest things, but the effects are so strong. Here, he gives tons of weight to action scenes by leaving much of them uncolored, and coloring the rest of the space with a stark red.

Back on Muz, the fight with Von Daggle rages on. Daggle tries to use clever tricks to get away, but Hunger Dog is too sharp and observant to fall for them. Daggle realizes that he’ll never escape Hunger Dog unless he kills him.
Daggle keeps fighting until John restrains him and it becomes clear he can’t transform anymore. When John asks Daggle why he gave up, the shape shifter admits that Durlans consume radioactive energy in order to transform. Daggle is out of his supply, so he surrendered.

Suddenly, a gang of hooded people gather around John Stewart and the others, and it turns out they’re Durlans and Braidmen, and they’ve come to seize Von Daggle for themselves.

The issue closes with a really awesome splash page of Arkillo as he reveals himself to Soranik Natu. She’s been captured by the Sinestro Corps!

Along with the reveal of the returning Sinestro Corps, another interesting development is that the Green Lanterns know the Durlans’ weakness. It’s really cool to see plot points from Green Lantern Corps #21 coming into play this issue. Now we know why the Durlans were attacking that fusion reactor on planet Kosh. They need the radioactive rods to fuel their shape changing abilities. We also see more of the connection between Salaak and Soranik, which began in issue #21. I don’t know what role the Sinestro Corps will play in things, but Van Jensen certainly knows how to keep pressure up on the Green Lantern Corps. Whatever the Sinestro Corps is up to, it will likely have something to do with the upcoming Sinestro series.

Again, this is a spectacular issue. Van Jensen takes full advantage of his big cast and expansive setting. He opens up the characters and makes them easy to care about, and anchors this story of galactic proportions to Earthman John Stewart, building him up as he builds the world around him.

Von Daggle morphs into some really cool monsters to battle John Stewart’s team.

The artwork of Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo makes me wish hard for a Green Lantern Corps cartoon show done in a visual style like their work. Jensen’s writing, which is both exciting and touching, along with their artwork, lends itself so much to a cartoon adaptation, that I can vividly see it all in my head.
I think the fact that Jensen has been known for writing material for young adults plays into it. That, along with Bernard Chang’s cartoon style artwork, and Marcelo Maiolo’s brilliant colors adds an exciting youthful vigor to the title. Make no mistake, though. This is not necessarily a “children’s story,” yet it is a story that children can easily enjoy. Bernard Chang’s art may have a cartoon flair, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t detailed or painstakingly done. The work seen in Green Lantern Corps is ripe for being mined for other media (particularly cartoons), and I can only hope Warner Bros. is paying attention. They know how valuable their comic properties are, after all, and Van Jensen has said that it was DC Comics who wanted more John Stewart. Perhaps that was a message sent down from executives at Warner Bros?

“This is not necessarily a “children’s story,” yet it is a story that children can easily enjoy.”

I know I said this just a short while ago, but I want to elaborate on it. An aspect I really like about Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps is how inclusive and more evened out it is. That’s one of the things that makes me feel it’s so appropriate for other media. I never felt that way about Geoff Johns’ work. Perhaps the horrible reception the Green Lantern movie garnered is indicative of there being some truth and weight to that sentiment.

The fear inspiring Sinestro Corps returns!

Despite the big sales numbers (for modern comics), it’s my belief Johns’ work on Green Lantern was material only people of a certain sort would enjoy. In short, I think it’s a textbook example of shameless White male power fantasies.

The stories were undoubtedly told through the perspective of a White male, and everything was set up with the sole purpose of facilitating a White male character, and a White male’s desires. For example, the women that were around were often in hot pink, ridiculously skimpy outfits, and their functions were being love interests for Green Lanterns. If we focus on another female character, like Red Lantern Bleez, she appears in a ridiculously sexualized outfit; her back story is that she was raped and she’s mad. Her entire character is fetishized.

Then there’s the fact that the Black character –who could be perceived as some kind of threat (as Black people historically have been perceived) or competition, since he secured the role of Green Lantern in the incredibly popular DC Animated Universe cartoons– had little to no presence, and was consistently shown to be lesser or subservient to the White lead, and was generally held down. Topping this off is the gratuitous gore and brutality, the general fan-ish Mary Sue style of writing and characterization, and so on.

His comics seemed to be a celebration of the worst detritus of mainstream American superhero comics and the dwindling, traditionalist fanbase they cater to. One may be able to get away with such things with a comic fan audience, where the fanbase is largely made up of the same people who have been reading for decades, but in other arenas of entertainment? I don’t believe so. For the record, I think wish fulfillment and power fantasy is all well and good, but it can be taken to the point where it clumsily alienates or, at worst, offends entire demographics of people, and I’d put Johns’ Green Lantern comics in that category.

Jensen takes the Green Lantern concept and raises it out of that muck and brazen infantile pandering. I appreciate that there are plenty of excellent, respectable female characters with great roles, like Soranik Natu, Arisia, Princess Iolande, Yrra, Two-Six, and of particular note, the single mother, Feska. The book features a Black lead who is written intelligently, as an upstanding person, and a character many people should be able to get into and identify with, who doesn’t say stupid, groan-worthy lines like, “I don’t have to do anything but stay Black.” (Huh!?)

The comics are smart, but not convoluted, so anyone who likes a great story can easily enjoy Green Lantern Corps, and as the story continues to fill itself out, I see so much potential to take Jensen, Chang, and Maiolo’s work even further in other mediums.

I have never been dissatisfied by Green Lantern Corps since the new creative team took over. This title remains a blast, offering the best art, coloring, and stories in the Green Lantern line. The series continues to explore characters instead of just having them show off their abilities while locked in space wars. Green Lantern Corps is a consistently intelligent, fun, dazzling read. Van Jensen demonstrates that he can sail this ship just fine going solo.

4.2 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #27 Review.

  • Retro315

    In his very first interviews about taking over, Jensen cited being inspired by Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe comics, and it really, really shows. Constant pressure, perfect balance between a large ensemble cast and personal development, and villains with proper motives. You couldn’t ask for a better reference point to be inspired by (indeed, one of the all time most underappreciated comics).

    This is the best Lantern I’ve ever read (or seen, art-wise). And while I loved the previous tenure (particularly Tomasi’s Guy Gardner), it was high time for John Stewart to shine so brightly.

    • Desh

      Nice to hear from you, Retro!

      This is turning out to be my favorite GL run. And yeah, I can see the G.I. Joe influence in how Jensen handles so many incredible characters and does them all justice. Hope to hear from you in the future!

    • Hudson Faber

      That’s a really cool source of inspiration. This is one of the best team books–if not the best–that I’ve read. I actually find myself caring about all of the characters.

  • Hudson Faber

    I. Loved. This. Issue.

    Jensen, Chang, and Maio continue to astound.

    Jensen really gets these characters–especially John. I love all of the references he’s made to different iterations of the Emerald Engineer. The way he pays tribute to all the periods of John’s history and the way he synthesizes all of the aspects of John’s personality really make this one of the best Green Lantern runs yet. It’s definitely my favorite.

    Chang and Maio’s art makes this feel like the sci fi story you want to see on the big screen. This issue in particular felt Star Wars-esque.

    Solid Issue. Solid Review.

  • anonsaga

    “I don’t have to do anything but stay black!”

    Yeah, I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of that line. Instantly reminded me of All-Star Batman and Robin. And after reading that article by Matthew Brady on, it makes more sense why the animated adaptation of Geoff Johns’ Justice League: Origin, was so juvenile. I never realized he wrote such vulgar and corny stuff or that his approach to violence and sex were so gratuitous. It makes so much more sense now. Guy’s really out of touch with the mainstream. But as far as John Stewart goes, I’m glad he’s in better hands now.

    “Maybe it’s better that John Stewart is left pristine, rising to shine only when creators with a strong vision come to tell his story.” – GLC #23 review Protection Status