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“You couldn’t even keep us all alive!”

Since 1988 John Stewart has been defined by one moment, the destruction of Xanshi as a result of his overconfidence.  While some found the second issue of Cosmic Odyssey a bitter pill to swallow it has for many years provided John with some depth which many comic reader thought was lacking in the character at the time.  With this week’s Green Lantern Corps #40 Van Jensen gets his chance to put his own stamp on those events and perhaps exorcised John’s demons.

Jensen takes advantage of the Flashpoint effect to re-write the moments of John’s greatest failure and alters history so that Stewart and the Martian Manhunter teaming against a Darkseid threat never happened.  Instead, John and Katma Tui, Stewart’s love interest and successor to Sinestro, are on Xanshi to deal with a rapidly spreading disease.  Both Katma and John are not yet full lanterns at this point and it’s no longer Stewart’s overconfidence which is to blame for the detonation of the bomb which destroys the planet, and perhaps his partner.  While John is still ultimately responsible for what happens his guilt stems more from a lack of experience than anything else.  Jensen’s version successfully recreates the emotional burden for John but keeps the catalyst for those events more in tune with the history that he’s built up for Stewart over the course of his run and it works well on an emotional level.

Flashing forward Jensen uses the foreshadowing of events from his Future’s End tale effectively and has some of those elements play out in a way that maintains an element of surprise.  While John is faced with a very real reminder of his past, he isn’t the same man he was then.  This time a more seasoned, more mature John Stewart has better tools at his disposal to deal with the threat and it will take more than a power ring to seize the day on Zarox.

John Stewart’s past is re-written but is still full of pain and guilt.

The events on Ungara’s moon also play a part in this last issue of the series, and Asile and Von Daggle’s reunion takes a turn for the deadly.  Jensen’s script uses the common threat shared by both plots to shift the story back to Zarox, but not before creating a bit more large scale destruction.  If there’s any dissatisfaction with the b-plot it is that neither character seems to care about the impact the destruction may have on any of the surrounding lifeforms and it left me thinking less of both characters for their inaction.

From a character standpoint Jensen’s final issue of his run is a satisfying journey, complete with moments that will have readers cheering and a resounding final closing scene that leaves one feeling good about the characters.  I think Van Jensen does a wonderful job of making the end his run all about the characters and giving them moments to shine in his farewell to the series.  While this issue is rewarding on an emotional level, from a narrative point of view there are a couple of things that left me a bit disappointed.

Knowing what we know about Green Lantern: Lost Army it’s safe to say that the Shadow Empire gets little more than a monkey wrench thrown into their plans here.  Once they overcome the slight bump in the road that the Green Lantern Corps creates this issue they will be back to business as usual in no time.  Sure Hal and Sinestro will be around, as will the Omega Men, but I don’t see this threat continuing to be a major player for any of them.  I sincerely hope I’m proven wrong as I think the Shadow Empire have the makings of a great adversary and I’d like to see more.  Unfortunately the issue doesn’t provide a more satisfying conclusion to this part of the ongoing story of the Green Lantern universe.

The Shadow Empire will hopefully find their way into future Lantern books as worthy adversaries

The other, greater problem I have with this issue is the lack of connective tissue back to what transpired in the main Green Lantern title.  While I understand that the two books are not in cross-over mode right now it’s hard to ignore that something major is going on after reading Green Lantern #40 and, knowing this is the last issue before some major event is supposed to be happening, I at least expected there to be something which tied this series back into the overall story of the Corps even if only as an epilogue.

In fact, I was expecting something based on the solicitation for this issue that there was supposed to be “a moment that will forever alter the course of the Corps in a final issue that had to be extra-sized!”  There is no moment that has any impact on the Corps in this issue and, to be frank, this issue didn’t need to be extra-sized at all.  I’m glad that DC gave Jensen the extra page count but it wasn’t necessary.  I don’t blame Van Jensen for the claims made in the solicitation, he didn’t write it, but it did create an expectation for the reader that we’d witness something that might bridge the gap between this series and Lost Army.  Frankly, even if I hadn’t read the solicitation I still would have expected there to be something that propelled the Corps’ overall story along given that this is the last issue of the series.

Bernard Chang and Mirko Colak turn in a great issue from an art perspective.  John’s sadness during the flashback sequence which opens the issue is particularly well depicted and Katma Tui is spot on.  Her appearance here made me realize how much I’ve missed seeing her around as she’s probably my second favorite female Green Lantern after Arisia.  I’d kind of expected Chang to stick around and work with Cullen Bunn on Green Lantern: Lost Army, but alas that’s not to be.

Green Lantern Corps #40 serves as a fitting conclusion to Van Jensen’s run on the title from a character perspective.  John Stewart and the cast that Jensen introduced during his time are each given moments which are emotionally rewarding.  However, despite the extra page count given to the finale there is a sense that an opportunity was missed to expound upon recent events in the Green Lantern universe that should have been explored here even if only as an epilogue.  Eight out of ten lanterns.

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