Probably the most frequent question Robert Venditti has gotten pelted with during interviews is something along the lines of, “how do you follow such a long and successful run of comics by one of the biggest names in the industry?” While the writer’s response has been very reassuring to fans, today is day where the rubber starts to meet the road and Green Lantern #21 is surely going to be under everyone’s microscope as the beginning of a new stage in Green Lantern’s publishing history. Following not only Johns, but O’Neill, Englehart, Broome, Moore and many others, Green Lantern has had a number of remarkable creators work on the title since Hal Jordan’s debut in 1959’s Showcase #22. But today is Venditti’s day and it is his turn to be a part of Green Lantern history.
Issue 21 sets the tone early, starting out at a point in the future where Hal is leading a team of Salaak, John Stewart and a handful of raw recruits in a major confrontation on Oa. As the recruits fall the situation goes from bad to worse and as a reader we quickly discover that if we thought Venditti was going to ease his way into things we were sadly mistaken. As a long time fan I’ll admit I was a little taken aback at first, seeing Hal seem a little bit defeatist and even asking Salaak for suggestions, since those are two things I don’t see as part of Hal’s makeup. But what we lack is the perspective of knowing what’s transpired leading up to that part of the timeline and we know that Hal is a bit of a changed man from recent events and that as the leader of the Corps he’s in a position of being responsible for others in a way he never has before. This is new era not just for the title and for the readers but for Hal as well. We learn that the threat here is Relic, a new major villain to threaten the Green Lantern Corps, and he’s not only thrashing the Corps but the central battery has also gone out.
When we return to the present day Hal and Carol are doing that dance that they always do. It’s a very familiar dialogue that fans are used to as their relationship continues to be stuck in a weird romantic Mobius strip. They are finally in a place where they could finally make it work, but of course Carol finds that the having isn’t as enjoyable as the wanting and once again she and Hal find themselves in that same old spot we’ve seen time and again. Excised seems to be Hal’s job in the Air Force and now he’s back to being a test pilot for Ferris, perhaps as a repercussion of DC’s re-launch or something which occurred off-panel. Either way the scene reminds us that while Geoff Johns has shown us that the two end up living a life of happiness together the road ahead still has a lot of potholes, or it could be as Venditti recently said that the Book of Oa as was revealed to us might not be completely accurate. In any case this part of the issue demonstrates Venditti’s understanding of the dynamics in their relationship and as a long-time fan I think it’s a very good sign of the things to come.
Hal and Carol continue their romantic tango…and the cycle contiues
I have to praise Billy Tan’s artwork especially in this sequence as both Hal and Carol look great and if you were to take away the word balloons you could still get the gist of the story. In general Tan does a great job with his own first issue of the run with perhaps a little drop in quality in both Hal and Kyle when they appear together in the next scene. As Hal arrives on Oa at the behest of the Templar Guardians he finds that the surviving Guardians have a lot of catching up to do so they plan to leave Oa and the Corps in what they think are capable hands despite Hal’s protest that he’s not the guy they want in that position. Kyle is perhaps a little too willing to throw Hal under the bus but his contribution serves to lighten the tone overall.
As a leader Hal has a lot of growing to do and his first action definitely gives Kilowog a bit of indigestion. The sole survivor of Bolovax Vik has taken on a new job as well in the wake of Salaak’s resignation as the Protocol Officer. In typical Jordan fashion Hal overturns the apple cart and starts recruiting new members rather than wait for Oa to be rebuilt in prepararion for an increase in numbers. From one perspective this allows the creative teams to easily start introducing new characters, but it also allows Hal to be put in a leadership position where he can’t so easily rely on the skill level of those around him. In the past he could just be himself when surrounded by veterans of the Corps but in this new dynamic he will be tasked with providing leadership and as the opening of this issue indicates it is one thing to shoot from the hip when it’s only your own life on the line and it’s another when those with less experience are counting on you to get them out in one piece.
Larfleeze is forever a creature of opportunity
Larfleeze arrives on Oa to take advantage of the Green Lantern Corps’ weakened state and the rest of the issue is spent trying to repel him and his Orange Lantern constructs. This creates an opportunity for more character introductions including a fascinating character named Nol-Anj kept behind lock and key in the Sciencells. As the issue comes to a close some of the new recruits seen in the issue’s opening arrive on Oa for the first time and show more than a little disinterest in being Green Lanterns. There’s also a neat one page image which you can see below that teases a little bit of what’s to come in the next year. It clearly presents the idea that Venditti and the new creative teams have a lot of ideas about the journey they’ll be taking the Green Lanterns and the readers on in the months to come.
I’ve stated before that I’ve been optimistic about the changes to the Green Lantern teams even though it’s hard not to make comparisons to the Johns era. Having read Venditti’s run on the superb X-O Manowar reboot any anxiety I had about the fate of my favorite character disappeared and this issue reinforces my belief that while this is a new era, it will be a good one.