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Green Lantern: New Guardians #18 shines the spotlight on Carol Ferris, Larfleeze and Saint Walker, showing us somewhat abbreviated versions of how things could have turned out for them had one crucial life moment gone in a different direction.  As we’ve seen the New Guardians pose a particular challenge for the First Lantern, and in this issue while he seems to be getting stronger he still isn’t quite ready for prime time.  

The Story –

In the skies over Iraq, Navy pilots Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan are under attack from drones with Hal’s stealth jet compromised.  Returning to their aircraft carrier the two begin to spat and it’s clear that we are in an alternate reality where Carol did not trade the cockpit for the boardroom, leading to the insolvency of Ferris aircraft and the suicide of her father. 
Across the universe Volthoom is also working on Larfleeze by reuniting him with family.  It’s his son’s birthday and all is going well until Larfleeze finds himself incapable of giving a present to his child, drawing the frustration of the First Lantern.  Changing scene we join Saint Walker who is in this reality a Green Lantern who returns home to his family only to be called away by the Guardians on another mission.  Despite it being his son’s birthday, Saint Walker leaves Astonia to server the greater good unaware that the Third Army are are about to pounce on  his homeworld.
Back on Earth Hal and Carol are still at each other’s throats when they find themselves suddenly under attack from Atlantis.  Seriously outgunned Carol discovers that they’ve been betrayed by the company who bought out Ferris Aircraft and decides to use her jet as a missile to take out the Atlanteans.  Back in space Saint Walker decides to put his family first and returns to Astonia to discover everyone being assimilated by the Third Army.  Rather than provide Volthoom with the despair he’s looking for, Saint Walker is able to rise above, breaking through the illusion and using his Blue Lantern abilities to save his family. 
Having underestimated the New Guardian, Volthoom returns to a Blue Lantern Larfleeze, but like Saint Walker and Kyle Rayner last month, the Orange Lantern is a little too much for Volthoom to handle at this early stage and he abandons his plan when Larfleeze is so easily able to throw off the illusion and returns to Carol’s alternate life.
Saint Walker confronts the Third Army as a Green Lantern
Carol and Hal put aside their differences to put a plan into effect and as Hal provides a diversion while Carol heads to her jet.  As she flies headlong towards the Atlantean vehicle she is driven by the love for her friends which allows her to snap out of the illusion and emerge from her jet in full on Star Sapphire mode.  When she attempts to take on Volthoom by herself she finds herself outclassed and as the issue closes she leaves to find Kyle Rayner as Volthoom undoes the illusion puzzled by his ineffectiveness against the New Guardians and ready to set his sights on Atrocitus.
The Writing –
One of the criticisms I had of Green Lantern Corps #18 was that writer Pete Tomasi didn’t attempt to do anything creative with the way he chose to tell the story and it read just like the issue before.  Tony Bedard changes up the formula a bit and the issue is better for his smart decision making.  It would have been very easy to have followed the template of last month’s issue and gone with something easy like exploring Carol and Hal’s relationship in great detail.  Instead Bedard uses that relationship as one facet of Carol’s past but makes her life altering career decision the main focus.
This makes the issue a bit more unique and as I’ve commented on the Podcast of Oa the Wrath of the First Lantern story thus far has seemed like abridged versions of Marvel’s What If? series.  We get to see a lot more detail by Bedard choosing to spend more time on one element of Carol’s past and then supplements that with an equally great spin on Saint Walker.  Larfleeze’s moments are a bit smaller but they serve the purpose to continue to show that while Volthoom is very powerful he’s just not quite there yet and the New Guardians are just a bit more of a challenge for him at this point.
Volthoom’s temporal tampering doesn’t quite work on Carol Ferris
Hal and Carol’s history provides some emotional layering to the story and I like how Bedard keeps the romantic element just under the surface by putting those feelings deep beneath the Bickersons’ exterior.  Everyone around them sees them getting together except for them, two strong personalities who cannot get out of their own way long enough to realize what they really feel.  Their interchange about Hal’s willpower was a neat little wink and a nod that played well.
Saint Walker’s part of this tale was a lot of fun, seeing how he remains true to his nature no matter what ring is on his finger.  I liked how Bedard tied his particular alternate timeline back to the Third Army story, getting some additional mileage from recent events.  All in all Bedard’s work made this issue a very good read.
The Art –
With Aaron Kuder off the book we have three different artists stepping in to pencil the various character’s realities.  While their styles are different there is definitely a cohesiveness to the issue thanks in large part to the consistent coloring by Wil Quintana.  Hendry Prasetyo’s work on the Carol Ferris portion has a fresh look to it that made it stand out and it looks good although I don’t think it would appeal to me as the ongoing art style.  The Jim Calafiore work on Larfleeze’s story also looked good for the three pages it takes up.
Larfleeze’s short stint as a Blue Lantern
If there’s a weak spot on the art it’s during the Saint Walker portion of the book.  Javier Pulido’s art looks a little rushed and sometimes a bit flat and unfinished.  It’s not horrible but it looks a little lackluster alongside the rest of the work.
Something that I thought was interesting was in Volthoom’s appearance this issue.  It appears that as he has gained strength he has begun to lose some of  his translucency, especially in the facial area.  One has to wonder if the First Lantern’s appearance up til now was a result of the millenia he’s spent incarcerated after having his power siphoned from him, literally draining away his existence.
It got me to thinking about the origin we saw played out in Green Lantern #17 where we learned that Volthoom came to our dimension from the initial “big bang” of the multiverse.  Knowing that life began with the white energy one has to wonder if perhaps Volthoom’s presence at that keystone moment imbued him with the white light, changing his hair to the color we see when he first appears, making him literally the “first lantern”, a living power source by which the Guardians discovered the emotional spectrum.  Using the energy trapped within Volthoom to conduct their experiments led him to the depleted state we find him in later on.  The puzzle pieces all fit, but as we’ve come to learn they often fit together in more ways than one.
What Do I Think?
Green Lantern: New Guardians #18 is one of the better chapters of the Wrath of the First Lantern so far, delving into alternate lives for three of the regulars.  While Larfleeze gets the short end of the stick the issue has a lot going for it while possibly tipping the hand ever so slightly at the nature of the First Lantern.  Four out of five lanterns.

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