Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1
was, quite frankly, one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time, serving more as a zero issue for Threshold
than it was as an annual for the title emblazoned on the front cover. With baited breath many fans have waited to see if the first issue of Keith Giffen’s new cosmic DC book would be worthy of the anticipation or fail miserably. The answer to that question is certainly up to each person to decide for themselves, but how you come to your conclusion will be definitely shaped by what you think Threshold
is going to be.
The Story –
In case you didn’t read the aforementioned annual, Threshold‘s first arc, “The Hunted”, follows a former undercover Green Lantern as tries to stay alive as the latest star of the Running Man style game show that is the most popular form of entertainment on planet Tolerance. Not two days past his grace period of being allowed to mix in with the populace Jediah Caul is discovered and we follow Caul as he and a young female benefactor who calls herself Ember complete a mad dash escape through the city before parting ways.
The scene shifts to a character named Stealth (see previously in the pre-relaunch L.E.G.I.O.N. series) who is also one of “The Hunted” as she encounters yet other star of the show, Ric Starr. The two of them contemplate making an alliance while some of the power players behind the scene argue about how Caul has been handled, with one side feeling he is too much of a threat to be used for the show. The issue comes to a close as the bounty hunting team called the Crimson Thrust prepare to engage Stealth.
|The main feature is an ’80’s sci-fi action film in comic book form.
The issue features a Larfleeze backup story which takes place on Okaara. Larfleeze has
kidnapped hired a being called Stargrave to serve as his scribe in order to have a book like the Book of Oa that the Guardians of the Universe have. We learn a little bit about Larfleeze’s history as he remembers it, but his dictation of “The Universe According to Larfleeze” is brief, not wanting to empower any readers with information that might have value. When alerted to someone posing as an Orange Lantern, Larfleeze takes to the stars to confront the antagonist, only to find himself not only a victim of a ruse, but of a home invasion as well. The issue closes with Larfleeze returning home to an empty chamber, having been robbed of all of his possessions.
The Writing –
Keith Giffen has a talent for both humor and cosmic storytelling and both are well displayed in this opening salvo. While I don’t find Caul particularly compelling as a character, the sci-fi trappings are fun if not all that original. The universe in Threshold is unlike anything else in the DC Universe and this book is what many of us would call a “palette cleanser” in terms of being something different from all the rest of the books in our stacks.
Threshold is long on action and short on character development, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, this is an action movie in comic book form complete with over the top characters and one liners. Caul is being presented as a slightly conflicted individual who seems to be one person on the inside who has some ideals and conscience who portrays himself to be yet another of the multitude of self obsessed tough guys on Tolerance. We see a glimpse of this when Caul parts ways with Ember and perhaps over time we’ll learn enough about this former Green Lantern to understand why he was chosen to wear the ring. It can’t be due to overwhelming intelligence as while he was smart enough to change his clothes and cut his white locks he lacked the forethought to either change his hair color or shave his head outright to be less noticeable.
|Larfleeze seems to be a character made for Keith Giffen to write.
The other plot unfolding here between Stealth and Ric seem out of place at first, but when you consider Ember’s words I get the feeling that Caul will be crossing paths with all three of them should the Crimson Thrust not prove their worth in the second issue. The Larfleeze backup is goofy at times with Giffen not entirely able to channel the schizophrenic nature of the Orange Lantern and sliding too far to the comedy side of things. Given the events that have recently unfolded on Okaara it’s safe to say that this story is not current with the ongoing continuity, most likely taking place years before we encounter him for the first time.
The Art –
Tom Raney handles the art chores for “The Hunted” and does a great job overall in creating some neat visuals for the issue. The action is easy to follow and while he’s not really challenged to portray a whole lot of emotion, Raney manages to provide enough for Jediah Caul when he leaves Ember behind to support Giffen’s script in conveying that there is a bit more going on in the character’s head.
Scott Kolins provides the work on Larfleeze’s “Nine Tenths of the Law” backup story, and for me it’s a bit of a hit and miss. I like the creativity and the hidden easter eggs lying in Larfleeze’s lair, but I prefer more background detail that what I see here and between that and some of the overly bright coloring I was left a little disappointed.
What Do I Think?
I think DC really needs to decide on an identity for this series. While not solicited with the Green Lantern group of books they are clearly not afraid to tie them together to attract an audience. I think this does a disservice to Giffen and the readers because this is not another Green Lantern book. Fans who are looking at this book as an expansion of the franchise will find themselves with something else entirely, and Giffen is left to hitch his wagon to the mythology rather than just tell a good science fiction action story all its own.
Exacerbated by that is the inclusion of the Larfleeze backup story that would be better served as a backup in New Guardians, or better yet, as a story in a Green Lantern anthology series. Because the reality for many fans is that while Threshold may be enjoyable, it may not be worth the $3.99 price tag to them for a book which is not clear where it belongs.
I found this issue enjoyable and far better than the annual which preceded it to be certain. However I don’t find myself quite certain that it’s something I’d want to read on a monthly basis yet, but I’m willing to give it an arc or two to hook me. Three out of five lanterns.