Review: Green Lantern #21

greenlantern21

Green Lantern is one of DC’s most unique titles; the past nine years of the title, under the tenure of Geoff Johns, have transformed a somewhat cheesy superhero story into a space opera on the grandest of scales, creating a very interesting cosmos for the DC Universe. Johns departed the title last month, after an immensely satisfying conclusion to his nine year run, and now we’re left to ponder what the title will be like in his absence. Will it become more Earth-bound, with the five human Green Lanterns dealing with Earth conflicts rather than those of the entire cosmos? Will the Green Lantern Corps stick around and play in future stories in any significant way? Will the emotional spectrum continue to take center stage, even in the aftermath of the War of Light, the Blackest Night, and the fall of the Guardians?

It’s only one issue in, and while it’s clear that new writer Robert Venditti and artist Billy Tan have every intention of putting their own stamp on the mythos, it is equally clear that this is still going to be the same Green Lantern we’ve come to know and love.

I’m a sucker for a nice space opera, so I was pleased to see the action in the issue immediately start with Hal and some Green Lantern recruits battling an unseen menace – clearly not on Earth. Venditti frames the beginning of this arc, portentously titled “Dark Days Ahead”, with a scene from a battle that will likely not begin for a couple of issues yet. We catch a few brief glimpses of a mysterious adversary that doesn’t appear to belong in any of the categories we’ve seen before (i.e. he’s not a member of another Corps). We also are shown that apparently Lantern Power Batteries themselves have a charge, which is something that threw me off; that seems like an odd thing to overlook, since in the past simply saying the Green Lantern Oath in the presence of a Power Battery was enough to charge a ring to full. Seeing this filled me with dread; it appeared that Venditti had a weak grasp of the universe he was writing.

Then I turned the page, and saw that the Central Power Battery had gone out. This was a two-page spread, which clearly meant that this was a Really Big Deal, with caps. Interesting.

So Venditti is more than prepared to make some pretty notable changes to the mythos. The idea that the Central Power Battery, the iconic Green Lantern logo and centerpiece of the base of the corps on Oa, can “go out” is an interesting one, and one that I am intrigued to see go down in the coming months. My concern at the moment, however, is that this is a change made for the sake of making a change. But this is something that is a few issues off at least, as we cut away to a moment pretty shortly after the events of Green Lantern #20 right after this reveal. I am sure more light will be cast on the Central Power Battery’s interesting state (yes, it’s intended), but for now we’ve got some setup to wade through.

It’s a very Johns-tactic, to tease upcoming elements and then cut back to the present. Fortunately, the present isn’t devoid of happening either. Barring a bizarrely written conversation with Carol Ferris, in which she calls off her relationship with Hal, this feels like Green Lantern, and it feels like a piece in a larger Green Lantern universe. Kyle Rayner is here, still a White Lantern, and there is a clear hook for the upcoming New Guardians issue (an issue I will not be reading, as I am dropping the title, regrettably). We see some of the inner workings of the Corps itself, with Kilowog taking Salaak’s place (an interesting change, and one that I hope does not disappoint; Kilowog and Salaak have always been among my favorite Lanterns, and I hope this change does not affect that). Hal settles into his new leadership role in typical Hal fashion, with some hasty decisions that are impulsive at best and foolish at worst. Overall I get the vibe that Venditti knows what he’s doing, and that this book will feel comfortable to readers of Johns’ tenure.

Billy Tan’s art, though a far cry from Mahnke’s gorgeous work on the title for the past few years, is respectable and well conceived. I’m a bit shaky on the way he draws Hal, but it’s an adjustment I’ll get used to: it’s not a bad style, it’s simply different from most Lantern artists. He can certainly handle the sweeping cosmic vistas that have marked the title since “Rebirth”, and that’s a great sign. The new recruit Lantern designs are interesting and bring some much needed alien life to the series, after the Hal and Sinestro-centric storyline we’ve had for the past couple years.

This issue does suffer from one thing, however, and that is that it’s mostly a foundation issue. Venditti and Tan are proving that they can do a Green Lantern book, and that’s fine. It’s not an explosive start, but rather a gradual set up as they sit down in a chair that has been kept mighty warm by Geoff Johns. The issue is very solid, and I walk away satisfied that the future of Green Lantern – though perhaps not the brightest day the series will see – shines at the very least with the blue light of hope.

Verdict: B

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