“The hell kind of word is ‘festoon’?”
This week’s Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #16 is certainly full of action but yet at its heart the issue is a character piece that revisits Guy Gardner’s troubled childhood and reminds readers of what makes the tough as nails Green Lantern the person he is. While the issue succeeds admirably in those areas it does so at the expense of the overall arc of the “Quest for Hope” storyline which may be a turn off to some readers who might not appreciate Robert Venditti’s detour.
That said I think the issue’s strong storytelling and how it lets readers see Guy in a light they might not be familiar with show’s Venditti’s willingness to pause the larger narrative to give focus on a touchy subject. Child abuse is a very real problem and through the use of intercutting Guy’s battle with Arkillo with flashbacks to Guy’s treatment by his father I felt like I was right there with him throughout the struggle. The physical relationship between the Guy and his father has been toned down some since it was first revealed, and in recent years their dynamic seemed to have evolved into more of a situation where the elder Gardner just disapproved of his son. I’m glad Venditti took this step to restore this harsher part of the story which gives the reader a greater insight into why Guy often acts the way he does.
The fight between Arkillo and Guy pushes the limit of what I think is acceptable in a teen rated book. The battle is a brutal, visceral affair which may be offputting to some, but if it had been watered down any I don’t think the issue would have the emotional impact that it does. I’m struggling a little with the notion that Guy could really fight Arkillo for very long considering how powerful the alien has been portrayed in the past, but I’m choosing to look at it as a greater testament to Guy’s ability to take a punch, particularly in light of the issue’s conclusion. The fight consumes the bulk of the book and there is a clear winner in the end but the cost to the victor is a high one with the issue ending in a cliffhanger that leave the fates of both Arkillo and Guy Gardner up in the air until the next issue.
Venditti briefly touches on the efforts to bring in the missing Sinestro Corps members, but the brevity and the timing makes the task seem like a walk in the park. Yellow Lanterns are being returned to Mogo before John Stewart has even left to go find Guy which seems very improbable. It might have been better to have shifted those moments until later in the issue to show the passage of time and make it look like there was a greater struggle than the way the book reads.
One moment from the issue that deserves some examination is the conversation between Ganthet and Sayd moments before Kyle Rayner, Hal Jordan and Saint Walker arrive back on Mogo. Ganthet, in meditation, comments that he senses “a great will…a presence of immense power and import. Watching.” Venditti is clearly forecasting someone important that will play an important role somewhere down the road which we’ll have to be on the lookout for.
Rafa Sandoval does a nice job this issue although this issue isn’t his best work on the series. There’s the details which are overlooked such as forgetting that Arkillo has construct fingers which should have been present and then disappeared with the Yellow Lantern took off his ring. Arkillo and Kilowog both suffer from some odd proportions here and there as well. But where Sandoval may not have turned in his best effort there the fight and intercut flashbacks are a great example of visual storytelling. Some of the jagged panel designs symbolically convey Guy’s fractured youth at the hands of a verbally and physically abuse parent in a way that is both creative and disturbing at the same time.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #16 may be nearly devoid of plot advancement but the issue is rich as a character driven action piece. Readers who may have never understood what makes Guy Gardner tick or appreciated his tragic past will see him in a whole new light while long time fans will be reminded why he was chosen as Hal Jordan’s back up in the first place. Eight out of ten lanterns.