Green Lantern Corps #40 Review
on March 14, 2015
Van Jensen, Bernard Chang, and Marcelo Maiolo have had the best run with Green Lantern John Stewart in comics and Green Lantern Corps #40 is its conclusion. It’s a grand finish with some incredibly important revelations about John Stewart’s history in the New 52 canon.
Van Jensen has fully cleaned house with John Stewart. He has not only totally refurbished and repaired the character, but has greatly advanced him as well. First, Jensen restored John to a leading man role, which he hadn’t had since Green Lantern: Mosaic back in the early ‘90s. After that, he told the best stories John has had in comics, and broke up John’s relationship with Star Sapphire Fatality, which was brought on by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi. The relationship was unconvincing and poorly executed because Fatality was brainwashed into it, and the writers didn’t even build it up credibly, or bother to go into the complexities and ethics of having a relationship with a brainwashed girl, and I don’t believe they ever intended to, especially since Johns depicted a future with the two being happily together. Then, Jensen made the daring and ironic move of making John a Star Sapphire while he and Sinestro writer Cullen Bunn grew his relationship with pivotal Green Lantern villain Sinestro. Van Jensen did more crucial repairs when he rewrote John Stewart’s origin in Secret Origins #9, in which he removed any dependence on Hal Jordan from John’s origin, as well as the notion of John being a “backup” to Hal Jordan, thereby making John Stewart a totally independent character without a secondary role. Over these last two years, Jensen has taken John from being a neglected, stagnant, abused character, to being one of the most vibrant, complex, and dynamic characters in DC’s stable.
Van Jensen re-writes the event of Xanshi’s destruction, and adds Katma Tui to the story.
This time, Van Jensen takes on a plot point introduced by the 1980s story Cosmic Odyssey. In that story, John failed to save the planet Xanshi because of his arrogance. The recent “Godhead” event retconned Cosmic Odyssey out of continuity, as “Godhead” was the first time the Lanterns had encountered the New Gods in New 52 continuity, yet they and John Stewart are integral parts of Cosmic Odyssey. However, given that Fatality–who blames John for her home planet Xanshi’s destruction–and John still have history, and that previous Green Lantern Corps writer Peter Tomasi confirmed John failed to save Xanshi, the Xanshi incident MUST have happened a different way than what Cosmic Odyssey depicted.
Van Jensen takes advantage of the opportunity that is granted to him by rewriting the event of Xanshi’s destruction, and making it far less damning to John Stewart. In my review for Secret Origins #9, I wrote that I wouldn’t trust anyone more than Jensen to write a new John Stewart origin, and the same goes for a rewrite of the Xanshi incident. Jensen has more than earned the trust of the John Stewart fanbase, and he tops off his run with a love letter to John’s fans, which cleans up a terrible moment in John’s past and gives him a bright future.
Another important thing Van Jensen has done for John Stewart is given the character new villains and new supporting characters. It would seriously behoove future writers of John Stewart to continue using these characters and concepts to better integrate them into John Stewart’s lore. I do not want to see the next writer drop the characters and concepts that have been vital to John in this run, even though Jensen wraps up his storyline and leaves things very open for the next writer to continue John’s adventures. However, according to Asile, Von Daggle’s partner, the war against the Shadow Empire is just beginning.
John is faced with another planet destroying bomb.
The Shadow Empire is one of the new threats Jensen has constructed for John and the Green Lantern Corps, although their roots go way back to 1988’s Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2. Jensen has made it so the Shadow Empire was behind Xanshi’s destruction, and they’re planning to destroy Feska’s planet, Zarox, in much the same way. The Empire seems to incorporate a rather nihilistic philosophy. They believe that darkness is peace, which, from what they’re doing, I take to mean that a state of nothingness is better than life and light.
As I mentioned in my review for Green Lantern Corps #39, some have complained about Xanshi resurfacing, since it has been a dark cloud that has followed John around for over twenty years, but Jensen is not doing this to beat a dead horse. It is so it can finally be taken care of and hopefully never brought up again.
Now, all DC has to do is stop writing John as nothing but a tragic, mopey character. I’m not saying John can’t be contemplative and have sad things happen to him here and there. They just need to make sense and there needs to be more to John’s character than just being sad. Basically, the writers need to respect the character like Van Jensen has throughout his run.
The final issue of Green Lantern Corps, titled “With a Bang,” begins with the retelling of Xanshi. John and Katma Tui visit the planet because an epidemic is ravaging the people. The two Lanterns discover that water from a river some of the populace drank turned black. They trace it to the source to find an unfamiliar looking bomb. John, wanting to end the threat as soon as possible, tries to dismantle the device, but is thrown back by defensive energy and the bomb becomes armed and blows up the planet. This is certainly an interesting turn of events. Rather than having John fail to save Xanshi due to intense arrogance and stupidity, Jensen makes it so John just happens to run into the bomb. It’s more or less a mistake that anyone could have made.
It is great seeing Katma Tui again. She is my second favorite Green Lantern, and this is her first appearance in the New 52, sans a few appearances as an undead zombie. Katma mentions having been a doctor in her past. While I’m not necessarily opposed to that, I’m not sure why Van Jensen added that aspect to her character. It served the plot a little, but it wasn’t needed, and Soranik Natu, the current Green Lantern of Korugar, is also a doctor. It just makes Soranik seem more like Katma 2.0.
This flashback scene is drawn by Mirko Colak and colored by Tony Avina. Their work isn’t terrible here, but it is a shame Bernard Chang did not draw this entire issue. Chang and series colorist Maiolo handle all the John Stewart scenes in the present, however, and they bring their usual dazzling power to the book. I’ve flattered Chang on his voluptuous design of the new villain Ocula before, and I’m pleased to see the current story opens up with Ocula staring down the Lanterns in a cavern where they find the same type of bomb that was used to destroy Xanshi. John refuses to let Zarox suffer a similar fate and works at extracting the explosive. He creates a cool mecha construct to lift it while Feska makes an opening for him to the planet’s surface. Jruk keeps Ocula’s demon mooks busy.
Unfortunately Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo don’t draw and color the entire issue. The art of Mirko Colak and Tony Avina is not that impressive.
John manages to lift the bomb out from the underground cavern and flies with it above the Zaroxian city, but dark purple energy surges out of the large explosive and attacks the Lantern, causing him to drop the bomb into the city, which honestly made me gasp. Fortunately, it doesn’t detonate. Ocula follows the Lanterns to the surface with her demons, and the Lanterns demand answers on what she has done to the Zaroxian people to turn them into zombie slaves. Ocula says she didn’t force the populace to become criminals. They chose to be that way. She explains the bombs are not unlike power rings in that they are fueled by emotion. The Shadow Empire’s bombs feed on hatred, greed, lust, and other negative feelings. Each dark act of the populace powered the bomb, and it now has enough energy to tear the planet apart.
Ocula believes the Lanterns’ morals are a false construct and preaches the Shadow Empire’s ideology to them, which is that things are inherently dark. The universe, at its core, is darkness, and light is an invasion.
She then reveals Maro, who her minions captured last issue. He now has an apparatus on his jaw and mouth that allows him to speak. Ocula says she gave Maro the one thing he desired, which was to speak, while John and the other Lanterns ignored him. In a fit of rage, Maro attacks John as his dark thoughts toward his mentor come out.
Maro is angry at John for neglecting him, and for letting Ergann die way back in Green Lantern Corps #24. He thinks that for all the Corps’ supposed virtues, when he looks at the three Green Lanterns before him, he sees a brute, a thief, and an assassin. Maro feels they all deserve to die.
Before their battle really gets underway, the story cuts to Ungara’s moon where Von Daggle and his partner Asile try to put an end to the Shadow Empire’s operation there. Colak and Avina take over again and the quality of the art goes down considerably. Chang gave Asile an excellent design last issue, but Colak just doesn’t pull it off properly at all. He doesn’t seem to get what made Chang’s rendition great and his comes off as weird and generic. Avina tries to emulate Marcelo Maiolo’s signature red and white panels, but this, too, isn’t pulled off properly. His red isn’t striking enough, and Colak’s lines aren’t bold enough for the effect to carry the same weight.
Jensen finally has the heroes confront the Shadow Empire’s leader, the girl that Abin Sur saved from Ysmault who somehow sparked the Durlan War. She is called Wyllt and proves to be rather powerful, but Asile armed one of the Empire’s bombs there and detonates it to destroy Ungara’s moon. While they wiped out the Empire’s main base, they killed a bunch of slaves in the act, but Von Daggle and his partner don’t follow the same morals that some other Corps members do, but I’m very concerned about Ungara. If Ungara’s relationship with its moon is anything like Earth’s with Luna, then destroying it will have terrible adverse effects on the planet. But, I dunno’. We’re probably not supposed to worry about that? Comics!
Ocula is one of my favorite characters from this entire run.
Daggle and Asile manage to escape, but so does Wyllt. Asile warns Daggle that the Shadow Empire has spread too far to be defeated so easily. They have bombs on hundreds of worlds and are carrying out their dark deeds all across the universe. Colak also doesn’t seem to really understand Chang’s design for Wyllt. He depicts her as having the body of a healthy woman, but Chang has drawn her as weirdly emaciated looking (aside from the scenes she had with Abin Sur when she was still somewhat normal).
Thankfully, Chang and Maiolo finish up the rest of the issue when the narrative goes back to Zarox. Ocula seems to have particular interest in Feska’s son Zep, who has been with the Lanterns this whole time. She sends two of her goons to attack, but Feska defeats them, outraged at the notion of her son being threatened. John reasons that the best way to deal with the bomb is through positive emotion, since negative emotion powers it. Many Zaroxians lost hope and gave into lives of villainy and vice, but Zep did not, which is why the Empire keeps going after him. John admits the Lanterns don’t have the numbers to defeat Ocula’s demons, but they can attempt to inspire the people by showing them Zarox is still worth saving.
Ocula deems the time of Zarox’s destruction has come. As the Lanterns fight, she gathers the zombie-like populace and conducts a ritual in which she sacrifices herself and Wyllt literally grows out of her face. This is incredibly unfortunate for me, because I love Ocula’s character and design. I wanted her to stick around. Anyway, Wyllt appears to destroy a world with one of the bombs when “Darkness Falls.”
Wyllt emerges and reveals that she is quite familiar with John. She caused the Uprising so that the Lanterns would continue to be occupied while she grew her Empire using the criminal network of Shadow Markets as a front. She also watched John years ago when he failed to save Xanshi. She sends more of her demons to attack the Lanterns and John uses both his Star Sapphire ring and Green Lantern ring in the struggle, but there are too many enemies and Zep is captured and taken to Wyllt, who stands ready to arm the bomb. Wyllt plans on sacrificing Zep as the final act of Zarox’s destruction, but the Zaroxian people, stirred by the Lanterns’ stalwart fight to save them, begin resisting the influence of the Shadow Empire, and so does Maro. The small Green Lantern smacks Wyllt and saves Zep. Maro suffers a sustained blast of dark energy from Wyllt as a result, but it is broken when the citizens attack her.
This issue if full of great action!
Feska realizes that the Shadow Empire has been on Zarox for decades. The Empire is what caused the people to turn to crime and villainy. They aren’t inherently evil; the Shadow Empire’s influence made them that way. The bomb, though weakened by the people’s resistance, is still strong enough to tear a hole through Zarox and Wyllt plans to do just that with it. John confronts her, despite the fact that his green ring can’t work against the bomb. He summons great strength into his Star Sapphire ring and uses it to destroy the bomb in a grand display of violet light. John Stewart saves Zarox! With her plans foiled, Wyllt retreats, but not before warning John that the Empire is still strong and cannot be stopped, and that she will not forget about Zarox.
The populous cheers after finally being free of the Shadow Empire’s grasp. Feska congratulates her son Zep on his bravery. He always had faith that the Lanterns would win. Jruk clumsily admits his feelings for Feska, and Feska returns them with a kiss. It’s good to see their relationship finally fully come to fruition. Jensen has been planting seeds ever since Green Lantern Corps #22. While those two Lanterns share a tender moment, John tells Maro that he never doubted him, even though Maro has reservations about himself for being turned to the darkness. John reassures the small Lantern, telling him that he made it through and that’s what matters. John points out to Feska that someone will need to rebuild Zarox after all it’s been through, and she wonders if John will do it. John tells her that she, Jruk, and Maro will. They are full-fledged Green Lanterns and there’s nothing more he can teach them.
John Stewart salutes his fellow Lanterns as he flies away toward more adventures, and the story ends with a beautifully illustrated splash page of John Stewart flying into the universe. Bernard Chang draws a proud and triumphant John in a dramatic action pose with his ring shining bright, and Marcelo Maiolo goes to town on the coloring, rendering a beautiful scene of space.
The ending scene is very reminiscent of the Justice League episode “Hearts and Minds” in which Katma invites John to help rebuild Kalanor, but John leaves her with a kiss and the line “Sorry, Kat. Duty calls.”
Though the ending is a bit abrupt, it is satisfying and it leaves things wide open for future writers to continue John’s story. That said, more reflection on the part of John Stewart would have filled things out a bit more naturally. It’s also a bit upsetting that we don’t get a chance to catch up with Von Daggle and Asile after they blew up Ungara’s moon. Perhaps a reunion on Mogo would have fleshed the ending out more. I was honestly expecting John Stewart to accept the Guardians’ offer of leadership of the Corps, but I guess that just won’t happen. It’s very interesting that for much of this run, the prospect of John becoming leader has been teased, but it just never happens. That’s not necessarily bad, if anything, it’s thought-provoking. At the very least, the Guardians did deem John Stewart worthy of the position and offered it to him.
I believe this comic could have benefited from more space. Forty pages would have allowed it to breathe more and wrap things up in a more natural way. Despite the rather uncomfortably condensed nature at times, and Mirko Colak and Tony Avina’s unimpressive art, Green Lantern Corps #40 is still a hugely satisfying comic book. It brings out that there was nothing John could have done to save Xanshi with his Green Lantern power, and makes it so the situation is much less condemning to his character, which is a great benefit to John’s character. Because of this, and the other triumphs, such as Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo’s stunning visuals, more cool enemies added to John’s growing list of rogues, and being an overall gratifying ending that wraps up everything neatly to a stellar run, Green Lantern Corps #40 earns…
Five out of five stars.