Green Lantern Corps #30 Review
on April 11, 2014
Van Jensen explores the motivations of the shape-shifting Durlan threat in Green Lantern Corps #30. For going on a year, readers have seen the meticulous and deceptive Durlans plague the Green Lantern Corps by besmirching their reputation, forming alliances to battle the Corps, and getting more and more support from communities within the universe. We haven’t really known why the Durlans are doing this, though. Van Jensen reveals all as he sends John Stewart, Fatality, and their new ally, Von Daggle, on one last adventure before the Durlan War reaches its highest points.
This is a really useful issue, clearly. However, instead of ramping up the pressure and adrenaline for the upcoming “UPRISING” storyline, Van Jensen slows things down to give us an exposition heavy piece. What makes the pacing even bumpier is a hodgepodge of fill-in artists contributing to this issue in place of the immaculate Bernard Chang. Their art ranges from mediocre to ugly, and gives the issue a slip-shod, cobbled together look, and makes it seem as though the creators are merely biding their time before the fireworks really begin next month.
In the grand scheme of the continuous narrative, it’s understandable to ease up in order to explain crucial points, but taken as a single issue, this is the weakest effort thus far from Van Jensen’s run on Green Lantern Corps. It’s perhaps exacerbated by the two part mini-arc involving Von Daggle directly prior to this being so spectacular.
Von Daggle advises John Stewart during the hunt for the Durlans hidden on Mogo.
Even so, this is still a decent comic with some bright spots, one being Marcelo Maiolo’s coloring. Maiolo’s colors are as alive as ever, and he fortunately colors the entire issue. Fans will get their fix of his tasteful neons, and while that is nice, Maiolo can’t really save the visuals here. Poor art is poor art, and no amount of brilliant coloring is going to fix a bad foundation. But at least there is something here to pleasingly stimulate the eye. It’s much needed in this collage of wonky faces, images lacking detail, and generally lazy graphics throughout.
It’s hard to say how great this comic could have been if Bernard Chang, or an artist exhibiting more competence and care, was on it. Though Van Jensen lays the clarification on thick this issue, there are some truly excellent character moments. Von Daggle shows how valuable he is to the Corps’ war effort, and bounces off John and Yrra very well. It’s clear Jensen is up to something with the relationship between John and Yrra, but it’s too early to attempt to telegraph what it is. We see more of Mogo’s versatility and vast powers, and John Stewart ponders over the effectiveness and justness of the Green Lantern Corps; not just in the current era, but throughout the eons.
Underneath this galactic conflict seems to be a question within the subtext asking if what the Green Lantern Corps does is really right. Hal Jordan doesn’t seem to focus on this much, being more concerned with winning battles and keeping his soldiers alive. Yet, Van Jensen exhibits his mastery at fully understanding and writing John Stewart, who stops to ask the tough questions™. John Stewart thinks with a long term view, and is always contemplating ways in which he can build things to be better as opposed to just existing in the moment and taking out bad guys. John knows the Corps isn’t bad, per se, but begins to think that the Corps may not be aware of how they throw their weight around, and what effects that may have on civilizations and individuals. Not only does this display traits of the Gerard Jones John Stewart from Mosaic, but also the Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil interpretation from his original appearance in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, in which he has somewhat of a populist mindset. More on that a bit later…
The book opens with a scene from hundreds of years ago, on the planet Durla. Our narrator, Von Daggle, is telling of the evolution of the Durlan species. No one knows what they originally looked like. They developed shape changing abilities somehow, and at first, they only used their powers for escaping predators. They eventually realized they could use their powers to turn the situation completely around and become the predators of their predators. With their shape changing abilities, they managed to become the dominant species of their world and masters at deception.
Arisia breaks the news to John that he can no longer return to Earth, so long as he is a Green Lantern.
We see our first art shift when the story goes back to the present on Mogo, where Daggle is going over strategy with a group of Lanterns regarding how to deal with the Durlans that are hiding on the planet. As is often the case when these fill-in artists are brought in, there are flash backs, or something of the sort. To make the discrepancies in artistic style seem more plausible, one artist –Scott Kolins— handles the flashbacks, and another –Chris Batista— draws the present day story.
The Lanterns know that Durlans have been hiding in the forests, but they don’t know how many there are, or what shapes they’ve taken. Daggle tells them that the Durlans are going to have to be drawn into the open to be defeated, and that Mogo will need to be the one to do it.
Before things get under way, Arisia has a word with John. She tells him of how he is no longer allowed to return to his home world because of the agreement Hal Jordan made with Guy Gardner that forbids Green Lanterns from entering Sector 2814. Last issue, it was hinted that John Stewart wouldn’t take the information well, but here, he seems pretty chill upon hearing the news. He decides that the war must occupy his current thoughts, and he’ll worry about returning home when it’s over.
John is eager to introduce Yrra to his mother, Shirley Stewart, who I’m very happy is still a part of this story, even though she hasn’t been seen since the flashbacks in Green Lantern Corps #25. Van Jensen has been laying it on with lovey dovey moments between John and Yrra to the point where I’m sure he’s building up to something. I’m not sure what, but I have a feeling things will not stay status quo with the cosmic couple. This isn’t to say I believe they will break up, but I feel a key event is on the horizon for them.
It’s cool that Van Jensen keeps a very ‘human’ aspect to this celestial story. Green Lantern comics often fall prey to telling stories around the main characters, instead of about the main characters. Van Jensen, however, is a different sort of Green Lantern writer.
Coming from a background in quirky indie comics, Jensen brings a unique sensibility to this fantastic, flashy superhero franchise, compared to other writers, like Geoff Johns, who are superhero fans and comic writers to the bone. This may sound a bit obvious, but one of the reasons I feel superhero comics have a somewhat limited audience is because of various dated or simple minded clichés sometimes found within them, which have nothing to offer to some. Superhero comics may appeal to the already established fanbase, but that’s those people!
Though many Durlans chose to remain on their home world and live peaceful lives, others set out into the universe to conquer.
Ever since Green Lantern Corps #21, Van Jensen has exhibited a disarming level of humanity, heart, and wit that can penetrate just about anyone. While having a strong sense of adventure and whimsy, his stories are about people and relationships more than they are about power levels, feats, bigger and bigger threats, scantily clad women, and how much collateral damage can be fit in one comic. They’re very smart, tasteful, and bereft of the type of schlock one may find in abundance within the superhero genre.
Also of note is that there have been many hints about John Stewart returning home to Space Sector 2814. Some fans would like Hal Jordan to return to Earth, but will it somehow be John Stewart who heads home? On paper, it would sound a bit weird to have the star of the Green Lantern Corps title living on Earth, but there are ways it can be done appropriately.
We get a scene from the Durlan perspective as Mogo is attacking them with snowstorms and flash floods in an effort to drive them out of the woods. Some Durlans are worried about their situation, because they did not prepare for being on Mogo for their operations. They had originally planned for their mission to be on Oa, but that planet was unexpectedly destroyed by Relic during “Lights Out”.
Mogo eventually sends down a bolt of lightning that hits a tree and causes a forest fire. The Durlans shift into animals and run away from the growing blaze.
From the skies, Daggle, Fatality, and John see them trying to escape and Fatality wishes to attack, but Daggle urges her to have patience. He wants to get them in an area where they’ll have nowhere to hide. Though the Durlans may be on the run, Daggle points out that they’re still dangerous. Fatality isn’t impressed, and thinks Daggle is a bit too pompous about his race, but Daggle knows to be extra cautious when battling his own kind. He tells them another story of his species, and we’re momentarily taken centuries into the past again, this time to the planet Velingia, where the Durlans used their shape shifting ability to start a war between two different races. Once both sides were weakened, the Durlans swooped in and took power.
Back in the present on Mogo, the Durlans come to the edge of the forest. One mentions he’s never scouted out that far, but is confident they will survive… at least until he finds himself confronted with John Stewart and the Green Lantern Corps in a barren wasteland that offers no hiding places.
The Durlans morph and try to fight off the Corps, but they’re quickly subdued. Daggle had them burn off their radiation energy by running through the burning forest in the shape of those animals. They didn’t have enough in their system to put up much of a fight against the Lanterns.
Arisia is grossed out by the appearance of the Durlans in their default form and asks Daggle why he doesn’t look like them, which, of course Van Jensen uses to further enlighten us about this mysterious race. Daggle explains the captive Durlans are in a state of what Durlans call flux, which is being between shapes. When Durlans can no longer hold a form, they revert to that. Von Daggle appears the way he does because he chooses to. His appearance is what the default look for Durlans was before the event he calls the Six Minute War. Again, Jensen uses the Lanterns’ curiosity as a segue into the next part.
Daggle tells of the time when the Durlans were discovered and defeated by the Guardians of the Universe and their Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians sent the Corps to flush out the Durlans causing chaos in the universe and bring them to justice for atrocities on a cosmic scale. Because there wasn’t enough room in the Sciencells for all Durlan captives, the Guardians banished some back to their home world and put up a barricade preventing them from leaving.
The Durlans were discovered and defeated by the Guardians of the Universe and their Green Lantern Corps.
It turns out the Guardians’ justice was rather negligent, because there was a peaceful society of Durlans on their world that chose not to venture out to the universe and conquer. When the Corps dumped a group of power hungry assassins and dictators on the planet, the world was soon engulfed in war. One side detonated a warhead, and within moments another side did the same. In the span of six minutes, the planet was reduced to a radioactive wasteland.
Nothing remained on the surface, and the few Durlans who survived were flooded with radiation. They were able to retreat underground, but the fallout left them in a state of constant flux, meaning they could no longer hold their form. Those Durlans are who are now known as the Ancients. They turned to the Krolotean Gremlins in an attempt to restore their physiology, but they were too far gone. However, the Gremlins were able to use their genetic code to create a new race of Durlans. The clone Durlans were able to transform, but only after consuming radioactive energy.
Ever since, the Durlan Ancients have been fixated on the Green Lantern Corps, blaming them for their current condition, the fall of their empire, and the destruction of their world. They began plotting their revenge even then.
As the story goes back to Mogo, the art is at its absolute worst. It gets to the point where the characters look cross eyed at times, and it’s very difficult to look past the serious lack of detail and straight up errors.
John and Daggle put the Durlans in caves that serve as the prison block, and while there, Fatality voices her distrust of Daggle straight to his face. Daggle points out that he’s not like most of his fellow Durlans. He joined the Corps because he accepts that the fall of the Durlans rests solely on the shoulders of the Durlans, but Fatality is not convinced. John breaks up the dispute, and says he takes personal responsibility if Von Daggle betrays the Corps. Daggle suggests they kill their new prisoners, but John Stewart is still staunchly against killing, which Yrra finds adorable.
John Stewart begins to understand the Durlan point of view.
John ponders on the story Daggle told him of the Durlans, and laments how the Corps was responsible for Durla’s destruction. Because of that, he wonders if the Corps rightfully deserves the hatred of the Durlans. This is the moment that is reminiscent of Green Lantern: Mosaic. As a huge Green Lantern John Stewart nerd, this moment made me very giddy. What the Corps did to the Durlans is exactly what John Stewart would NOT have done, so having him feel anxious about that is a display of remarkable understanding of the character by Van Jensen.
I’m going to get very specific on you. In Green Lantern: Mosaic #16, it’s revealed that one of the primary attributes that endeared John Stewart to Rose Hardin was that John wasn’t –as she put it– a sky man. John wasn’t the sort to ‘settle’ a dispute and quickly fly away as Hal Jordan would, thereby leaving the people to fend for themselves afterward. John came down to the earth to help people get back on their feet and assist them in building a better way, so the mistakes of the past –or even worse mistakes– wouldn’t rear their heads. I’m frequently surprised at just how well Jensen knows the character, and how clearly he gets his distinct traits across.
Yrra tempts John Stewart with sex, and he finally gets a chance to unwind. But it doesn’t seem as though he’ll have too much downtime! On the planet Durla, the Khund General Khurtz has delivered a shipment of armor from the industrial world of Gwottle, which has allied itself with the Durlans. The Ancients equip the armor themselves and plan on leading the attack on Mogo directly.
The Uprising begins in force in Green Lantern #31.
This comic is seriously hindered by ugly artwork. I understand that it is probably challenging for Bernard Chang to put out art of the level of quality we usually get in Green Lantern Corps month after month, but these fill-in artists are never up to snuff, and every time Chang takes a breather, the quality takes a huge dive. This is the biggest example.
On the writing side, I expected more to happen. Perhaps an especially interesting twist to the Durlans’ origin, or for… I don’t know, maybe Fatality to secretly reveal to the readers that she’s a Durlan, or something… some secret weapon of Jensen’s revealed at the end to really elevate this book, and get people extra stoked for “UPRISING.” NOPE! None of that. Things happen this issue, but nothing that is really going to surprise or captivate readers.
Yes, there are bright spots, but ultimately, this book feels cobbled together and rushed. So much so, that I wonder if the story was originally supposed to even go this way, or if there was one of those storied last minute changes that we’ll never know about. I get the impression that somewhere down the line in production, something didn’t go quite smoothly. This issue is truly surprising, because Green Lantern Corps is consistently far superior to what is presented here.
Even though readers have come to expect a much higher level of quality from this title, Green Lantern Corps #30 features more cool character moments for John, Yrra, and Von Daggle, and it reveals the motives and history of the Durlans, making it a crucial part of this saga.
This is likely a momentary speed bump before things really kick into high gear next month.
3.2 out of 5 stars.
Read Green Lantern Corps #29 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #28 Review.