Green Lantern: Lost Army #2 Review

on July 17, 2015

Green Lantern: Lost Army #1

Jesus Saiz and Cullen Bunn continue to hit it out of the park with their Green Lantern: Lost Army series. This is a grand adventure that explores the characters and their relationships with one another while in a setting that is strange and trying for them. Lost Army offers a strong and captivating plot that makes it so you can’t help but wonder what’s next, spot on characterization, and some of the best visuals I’ve seen in a Green Lantern book.

Bunn gets his characters across masterfully. His exploration of the psyche of John Stewart is interesting; with flashbacks to John’s time in the Marine Corps and monologues on how best to lead his team of Lanterns in their bizarre circumstances. Bunn captures the voices of John and Guy Gardner perfectly, and he has a great understanding of the ebb and flow of their relationship. Krona’s sense of wonder and casual attitude toward danger makes his presence a real treat, and Two-Six’s growing concern over that presence is interesting. The conflict between John and Guy steadily thickens, which is also due to John’s decision to let Krona, one of the Lanterns’ greatest enemies, accompany them, which seems to be becoming an unpopular idea, with Kilowog, Guy, and Two-Six very leery of the Oan scientist. There’s a lot going on here, and that’s not even mentioning the mysterious plot points, like how the Lanterns got to where they are and why.

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Cullen Bunn dives into John’s thought process and past.

Bunn and Saiz definitely have me hooked. The artwork, action, developing relationships, and character probing are very welcome. Also, many readers who have been wondering exactly what is happening and where the Lanterns are at will get some key answers here.

All of the tiny nitpicks I had with the first issue are addressed in the second. There is plenty to admire in the beautiful outer space scenery, the emerald energy from the Lanterns’ rings has regained its brilliant luster, and John Stewart’s eyes are a nice green. I’m honestly surprised at how well and cleverly this issue tended to my little concerns.

Saiz’s depiction of space isn’t as minimalist as the last issue, and he greatly expresses a feeling of mystery and wonder in the starry backgrounds. He fills the scenery with colorful nebulas and speckles of stardust. I really like how he shifts the colors of the background depending on where the characters are. This issue’s section of space is darker than where the series began, which was a brighter blue. While some may feel the outer space setting to be bland, I’m greatly enjoying seeing the Lanterns soaring through this sea of stars discovering new mysteries and dangers. In fact, with the characters Bunn has chosen, and the strong outer space setting, this series is very reminiscent of the ’80s Green Lantern Corps #217-219, when John, Arisia, and company went through a black hole and wound up lost, and battled Sinestro and a sentient galaxy (check that out if you haven’t already). I’d actually be surprised if Bunn did not take inspiration from that tale. It is one of my favorite Green Lantern stories, so I’m very happy to see something so evocative of it.

John’s flashback to the Middle East makes for a difference in setting, and Saiz renders excellent images of John’s Marine squad in the desert at sunset, using the perfect blend of colors and shadows to create a visually strong landscape.

The flashback has John and his squad going through an abandoned village. One of the Marines wonders why the villagers left, since the Marines could have helped them. Another Marine brings out that the villagers are afraid of them and don’t want them there, no matter what altruistic intention the Marines may think they have. All the villagers want to do is go back to their homes, which John understands, and he carries that same desire for home with him in his current situation.

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Arisia gracefully avoids enemy attacks, and Krona is still fascinated by all the new things around him, no matter how dangerous they are.

I hope these Marines are the same ones from Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps #25. That is, Lt. Tasker, Taz, and Leopold. I know that’s an especially geeky yearning of mine, but it’d flesh John’s character out more if the figures from his past are less ephemeral. It would be cool if Lt. Tasker and the gang became more of a solid part of John’s canon, instead of putting faceless Marines with John whenever need be. All it would take is some simple name dropping.

Speaking of the Marines, I’d like to pause on this scene and address something. There seems to be a group of people who have a problem with John Stewart’s Marine background coming into stories. To them, I say this:
John Stewart was in the Marine Corps. That is a huge part of his character now, thanks to his success on television. As such, it’s going to come up in his stories. His time as a Marine naturally shapes his perspective just as it would for most people. I’m not sure why that’s such a problem, but if it is… I don’t know what to say, except that maybe the character just isn’t for them. Batman is a billionaire. That comes up in his stories, yet I don’t often (ever) see a people complain about that. If someone writes John as a one-note character with nothing else to him, then that’s a problem with that writer. Fortunately, that isn’t what is happening in Lost Army.

Moving on…
Back in the present (so to speak), John is with his team of Lanterns as they gaze upon a glowing red pyramid that sits in space. They can feel rage emitting from it. Just like in the previous issue, letterer Dave Sharpe and Bunn introduce each character with a short text blurb of their names, decorated with a glowing font. I’m happy to see that Bunn and Dave Sharpe are continuing this feature. It’s really neat and works great for a book with an expanding cast like Lost Army.

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The Fury Lightsmiths prove to be formidable opponents, and John almost loses his life.

Right from the get-go, Saiz’s character work is stunning. From their looks to their mannerisms, John Stewart, Arisia, Kilowog, and Guy Gardner have never looked better. Panel after panel, Saiz nails the characters flawlessly. I like the differences in body types, too. While all the characters are fit, they’re not all taken from a generic template. Guy Gardner is larger and bulkier than John Stewart, who, while still muscular, has a trimmer and less extreme physique. Two-Six, who has an especially youthful air about her, is not as endowed as Arisia. I think having Two-Six offset Arisia is a great idea, because it shows that Arisia–the more mature and experienced of the two females–is not the little girl some still want to see her as.

Despite the Lanterns’ doubts, Krona assures them that his readings were correct and that they can charge their rings on the pyramid. Before they have more time to ponder what to do, they’re suddenly attacked by Red Lightsmiths who wield staves that form constructs of solid crystals that can encase and crush opponents.

The Lanterns realize these are the beings responsible for the Lantern corpses they saw in issue #1. John thinks about reasoning with them, but with the enemies on the charge, the Lanterns are left with no option but to fight. Each character gets moments to show off during the battle. Bunn puts the characters in smaller pairs this time, with John working with Guy, Arisia with Kilowog, Two-Six and Krona, and Xrill-Vrek going anywhere. Once again, Krona isn’t concerned about possible danger to him and is reveling in the experience of seeing new things. One of the reasons Krona is relaxed is because he’s incredibly powerful. He dispatches a Red Lightsmith with the greatest of ease with a mind blast attack. Seeing Krona casually wield such devastating power sets Two-Six, who has been charged with looking over him, at unease.

Saiz depicts the action well. I particularly like the way he draws and colors the crystal powers of the Lightsmiths and the red and green energy when Xrill and a Red Lightsmith clash powers. There are some great pictures of Arisia gracefully dodging attacks. The only thing I can think of to make the battle scenes even better would be to include some motion lines or blurring to make it seem like there is more movement, especially on the Red Lightsmiths’ projectiles.

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I am so happy that John’s eyes are green in this story!

While taking on two Lightsmiths John becomes imprisoned in crystal and nearly gets crushed to death. He manages to use what’s left of his dwindling power to break out of the smothering shell, but it leaves him very vulnerable and his ring practically drained. The Lightsmiths go in for a kill but John is saved by Guy who smacks them with a giant truck construct.

The Lanterns know they can’t keep the fight going since they’re all running low on energy and John decides to put his faith in Krona’s information and charge his ring on the red pyramid, with Guy following. When John and Guy put their rings to the pyramid, the mysterious structure changes to green and it gives them a 200% charge. The Red Lightsmiths see that their emotion converter has been corrupted and retreat, claiming they’re going to tell their overseers about the occurrence. John explains that the charge from the pyramid is cleaner and more powerful than what he’s used to, and to my great excitement, his eyes turn green again and his aura takes on more of a radiant quality, signifying that he’s totally charged up.

I’d like to take this moment to seriously praise Cullen Bunn and Jesus Saiz for working the state of the aura and John’s eyes into the plot really well. When Saiz made the auras rather plain looking, I thought he was just doing it because of stylistic purposes, but that was supposed to indicate that the Lanterns weren’t at full strength.

An interesting piece that came out during the battle was that Guy speaks affectionately of his old Red Lantern friends as his Corps, signifying that he may be more loyal to the Red Lanterns than the Green, which will no doubt be a point of contention as the story progresses, since Red Lanterns and Green Lanterns aren’t really the best of friends. Another little character moment I appreciate is when Arisia charges her ring at the pyramid, she is visibly exuberant about the clean surge of power going through her. This differs greatly from John, who recognizes the same power, but accepts it much more impassively. That is a nice contrast.

Once all the Lanterns have fueled up at the pyramid, they take off in search of more Green Lanterns. John reflects on how things are starting to seem familiar to him, with the staves and the pyramid. Krona laments about leaving the pyramid behind, since there is so much to be learned from it, but John tells him to get used to the disappointment. Guy lets slip that there will be plenty of disappointment in store for Krona and the Oan scientist questions him on what that means.

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Jesus Saiz depicts outer space really well, which is important, since it’s such a prominent setting for this series.

John opens up the telepathic sub-channel and scolds Guy about letting on about what Krona may become one day. John figures Krona is from the distant past, from before he went mad with curiosity and attempted to unravel the universe in his quest to unlock its secrets. Guy questions John on why he even let a liability like Krona join the group, and John explains that Krona, like the rest of them, must be in this mysterious setting for a reason, and until they know what it is, it’s a good idea to keep Krona close. John pulls rank on Guy and tells him to back up his decisions. Guy flippantly complies, but warns John that having Krona around will eventually cause them big trouble.

This scene brings up a question that I’ve been wondering about all throughout this series. John Stewart is definitely the undisputed leader of the team, but by what right? With the way the other Lanterns look to his decisions, you would think he is the official leader of the Green Lantern Corps, and he may actually be. If he was made leader then it happened off panel. I’m hoping Bunn sheds some light on this as the series progresses.

As the Corps soars through the heavens, they’re eventually set upon by cleaner enemies, except this time, the orange beings simply glide past them instead of seeking to erase them from existence. Krona offers the possible explanation that since the Lanterns are powered by a native power source, they may be masked to the cleaners. Just then, the villain from the “Lights Out” crossover known as Relic appears, accompanied by his robotic light collector drones who have Green Lantern rings in their possession.

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Those pesky cleaners from last issue are no longer a problem.

When John sees his old enemy, it finally dawns on him that he is in Relic’s universe, which is the version of existence before the one we’re familiar with. The universe that was destroyed before “our” time began.

There’s a ton to speculate on in this series. It has been billed as a story of heartbreak and morality. Where I believe this series may go is John may have to decide whether to save this universe or let it die. If he saves it, it could erase everything the Lanterns know and love in their universe, but would it be moral to let it be destroyed when he can possibly save it? That would make for yet another hard decision for John Stewart, and perhaps even the hardest decision he’s had to make, which is really saying something. It could also be that what we were led to believe destroyed this universe–the depletion of the Emotional Reservoir–wasn’t really the cause of its destruction. Perhaps Krona is the one who will actually terminate this reality. Perhaps John Stewart will be the one. He already has the destruction of two planets to his name. Will he trump that with an entire universe? If so, I hope there is a really good reason for it that doesn’t involve him majorly failing somehow.

For fans of John Stewart, it really doesn’t get much, if any, better than what we’re seeing in Lost Army. He is drawn incredibly well, he’s a competent front and center leader, surrounded by a great cast, and on a fascinating adventure that takes full advantage of the rich and brilliant Green Lantern mythology, and that also fleshes out his character and back story. He’s someone we can be proud of, aspire to be like, and he’s just all around awesome. If the quality keeps up to this level, or it gets better, I think this will wind up being the best John Stewart story yet, in any medium.

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The appearance of Relic sheds some light on where… and when the Lanterns are.

For those who aren’t exactly fans of John Stewart, or think he’s just okay, and those people are certainly out there, there is still a lot that can be appreciated about Lost Army. As mentioned, the Green Lantern mythology is showcased really well, featuring Krona, some of the most loved members of the Green Lantern Corps, the universe before “our” own, and even the Emotional Spectrum. The balance that Bunn strikes is really good. This is certainly a John Stewart book, and will be like catnip to his fans, but there’s enough here to draw any general fan of Green Lantern.

I’d like to see John’s relationship explored with the aliens like Kilowog and Arisia more than I would with Guy at this time. What is shown between John and Guy here is excellent, but their relationship has been pretty well established by Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps. As such, I think it’s more important to explore John’s relationships with some of the other cast members, specifically fan favorites Arisia and Kilowog. Lost Army is a great opportunity for John to form more of a personal bond and rivalry with one of the Corps’ biggest enemies in Krona, and I hope Bunn seizes that.

There is really nothing for me to complain about here. The characters are likable, the story and art are thoroughly enjoyable, the issue feels big and filling, and arresting mysteries are around every corner. I can’t see anything keeping Green Lantern: Lost Army #2 from receiving the highest possible grade.

5 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern: Lost Army #1 Review. Protection Status