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“The Corps needs to get right with the universe”

The main Green Lantern title finds itself in an interesting position just two issues away from DC’s big Convergence event with a considerable number of loose threads left dangling from recent events that there really is no way for writer Robert Venditti to effectively wrap them up.  What Venditti does with issue 39 is shift the focus away from all the external threats that are still out there (i.e. Relic, the traitorous Indigo Tribe, the Source Wall Titans and the new threat that burst through the Source Wall in Annual #3) to focus on the effects that all those events have had on the public perception of the Green Lantern Corps.

What this does is set the stage for whatever major status quo change that the creative teams have in store for March.  This issue is filled to the covers with foreshadowing what is to come and is very effective in building the anticipation for what next month’s issues have in store for the Green Lantern universe.  I’ve got some hunches as to what might be store, and I’ll share those ideas later in this review, but there’s more to this issue than simply teasing the future.
The issue’s opening sequence shows events which cause great concern for the New Guardians, enough for them to summon Hal Jordan to their chambers, although the Corps Leader has his hands too full rescuing an illegal mining outfit to drop everything to head to Mogo.  The Guardians’ narration plays up the severity of the events which are unfolding, however what we see happening on some faraway planet, and the ripples it sends out, seems only to be important in their symbolism since they are never really touched up on again.  I presume that the meteorites are fragments of the Source Wall and the idea that an extraordinary amount of debris with the potential to turn things to stone is a terrifying idea.  Once Hal meets up with the Guardians they are never discussed which leaves the issue feeling a little disjointed.
While the issue may be short on action, what’ there is is visually spectacular.
Hal’s deep space rescue is the high point of the issue in terms of providing the main action beats and they provide a fun and exciting sequence as he rescues the mineral poachers from an asteroid field.  Billy Tan and the art team do a great job in making the scene exiting and it’s a visual treat despite my continued dislike for Tan’s rendition of Hal’s physicality.  It’s also this sequence which starts planting seeds in Hal’s brain as he becomes more and more aware as the issue progresses that the universe doesn’t necessarily want the Green Lantern Corps policing them anymore and perhaps it’s time for the Corps to re-invent themselves for a universe which no longer trusts them to be the authoritarian figures that they’ve been for millenia.   
More of the fracturing of the Corps rears its head on Mogo as Muk Muk and Vath Sarn butt heads in expressing their frustrations over how the universe is treating them these days.  There’s a little bit of an art hiccup here as Sarn is shown with human legs and it is he who is regrowing a right arm instead of Isamot Kol and I’m a little disappointed with the apparent lack of editing that seems to be going on in the entire Green Lantern family.  Other than that the scene is important in continuing to paint the picture that while the Corps is not enduring their Blackest Night they certainly aren’t enjoying their Brightest Day, either.  The tone continues to be reflected as Hal and Kilowog share a few moments, with Kilowog actually wishing the old Guardians were there to be held accountable for their actions for all the universe to see.
The Corps are at a crossroads in a universe which no longer trusts them
When Hal finally gets to meeting with the New Guardians the exchange is not what I expected nor what the issue’s cover would imply.  For once Hal is not chastised for his leadership but praised for  his success despite the questionable tactics used to overcome the challenges that have come the Corps way since he took over as Corps leader.  It’s interesting to read this in light of the comments the Guardians made to John Stewart in issue 38 of the Green Lantern Corps title and it almost seems a little too convenient that everyone seems to have forgotten the spying and lying that they’ve done.  
While not shown there’s the potential that the Guardians have asked Hal to do something to reclaim the Corps reputation, something said off panel which no doubt is what is running through Jordan’s head by the end of the issue.  It seems that the overheard comments from Gorin-Sunn combined with those we’ve heard uttered throughout the issue are all that Hal needs to hear to guide him towards making a decision, once which we know will have a great impact on the mythology.
The question is – relying on him to do what, exactly?
So what’s going on?  Well there are a number of quotes from this issue that are important in my mind an drive my train to thought when it comes to speculating on what’s to come.  Such as:

“Wash up Jordan.  Clean house. The Corps needs to get right with the universe.” – cop during the asteroid rescue.

“Everyone needs a fresh start” – Kilowog

“Show the universe the system works, even when it comes to our own. Especially then.” – Kilowog

“You are the public face of the Corps’ mission throughout the universe. And so, if there is any reversal in the Corps’ standing, it must begin with you.” – Guardians

Whether the Guardians have tasked Hal Jordan with a specific task or they’ve left it up to him to decide how to “reclaim the Corps’ good name” is unclear, but what is certain is that, like the Corps, Hal Jordan is at a turning point and whatever his decision is the issue symbolically ends with Hal choosing to leave his jacket, ring and lantern behind, reinforcing group editor Matt Idelson’s recent comment in the channel 52 entry that “the ring will no longer be the thing”.

I’ve got three working theories right now, and here they are from what I think is the most likely to the least likely:

  • Hal Jordan, either under secret orders from the Guardians or a result of his own decision, decides to make an example of the Guardians to the whole universe, arresting them for public trial.  This “betrayal” will right the perception of the Corps.
  • Hal Jordan, as the face of the Corps, turns away from the Corps, serving as the fall guy and taking public responsibility for their actions and either sets out to earn the universal community’s trust once again or by becoming a bit of a pariah.
  • Hal takes on the Corps itself to eradicate any wrongdoing in the ranks, serving as a one man enforcer who holds each Lantern accountable for their activities.

It could very likely be a combination of these things, or it could be something entirely different.  At any rate it’s the first time in a quite a while that I find myself enthusiastically speculating about what’s coming next.  As a fan that’s a great thing when a book inspires you to want to try and figure out what’s around the corner and all credit goes to Venditti for effectively building anticipation.  If there’s any narrative weak point in the issue it lies in not connecting the event which open the book to anything and appearing like it exists only as something to look at while reading the Guardian’s monologue.  For someone not entirely invested in the series and the cast this issue will come off as completely uneventful.

Hal makes a fateful decision

Visually Billy Tan is a hit or miss this issue, but that largely depends on whether you’ve been a fan of his work on the series so far.  Despite my personal tastes the asteroid sequence, as previously noted, is excellent, however where the art suffers a little is when Tan is called up on convey emotion, especially in that latter half of the issue where it would help the reader to see what’s going on behind Hal’s eyes that we can’t get through dialogue.

Green Lantern #39’s strength doesn’t come so much from what happens in the issue, but from what it builds towards and the excellent foreshadowing by writer Robert Venditti.  Billy Tan’s artwork both propels the script to exciting levels and undercuts the emotional beats of the issue.  Regular readers will likely find themselves eagerly awaiting the next issue to see how the build up plays out but it is likely to be less appreciated by those who are casually checking the book out.  Four out of five lanterns.

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