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“It’s good to see the roses for a change”

Writer Robert Venditti has several plates spinning in the Green Lantern series and in this week’s forty third issue we see him keeping those plot points moving while adding yet another element for Hal to have to deal with, adding yet another complication which will delay him in his quest to find out what happened to the Green Lantern Corps.  While the issue doesn’t have many action beats it proves to be a rewarding character drama and sets the stage for a reunion between Hal and Black Hand.

Black Hand opens the issue with a sequence which really shows the desperation that has taken over him as he struggles to comprehend what has happened to him due to his encounter with the Source Wall.  Venditti’s take on Hand shows how childlike he still is and with just two pages Venditti has made Hand a sympathetic character who presents an enormous danger to those around him.  Half Medusa, half Midas, Black Hand is faced with changes he can’t cope with, and looking for something familiar, longs for home thinking everything will be better for him there.

Meanwhile on the Darlene we get to see Hal finding a bit of calm before the storm as he affords himself the rare opportunity to experience the wonder of being among the stars, something which is often overlooked in the Lantern books.  The scene between Hal and Virgo is a nice character development bit which allows the two to find a way to bond and find commonality given the circumstances that they find themselves in.

The last temptation of Virgo

Seeing Hal look for ways to accomplish tasks without relying on a ring or a gauntlet was very refreshing and seeing him floating there during his space walk reminded me of how alone in the universe Jordan is right now and why he is more than just another Green Lantern.  The character has often been minimized by over use of the impulsive side of his personality and here Venditti reminds us that Hal isn’t just the hotshot pilot who hot dogs to get the ladies.  Passing himself off as a scientist Hal gets close enough to Relic to learn some crucial information which connects the dots between Black Hand and the Source Wall fragments drifting around the universe.

The moments where Virgo is taking to steps to do what he believes he must to assist Hal are intercut with the conversation between Hal and Relic do a really nice job of building suspense as the reader can see the situation unfolding in front of us in real time, knowing that at any second Hal is going to be compromised.  The same can be said for the succeeding sequence as Hal struggles to save everyone’s skin once Relic is turned on to Jordan’s ruse.

Some of the best moments of this issue are those where we learn more about Darlene and what her motivations are.  Darlene’s pursuit of freedom while being tied to masters who’s aims rely on her servitude puts her at odds with every crew she’s had on board.  I can imagine her being dumped from one master after another, deeming her more trouble than she’s worth, particularly after seeing how she tries to manipulate Virgo to abandon Hal while he’s on his space walk.  The dynamic between her and Hal is entertaining as their verbal jousting is fun to read, yet there’s something more at play between them as we see Darlene actually open up to Hal and reveal what exactly she wants for herself.

Darlene picks the most inopportune moment to open up to Hal

The final page reveal injects another twist to the series by bringing another faction into the mix, the Gray Agents, who are for some reason on the trail of Hal.  It’s another plate that Venditti has begun to spin and while we only get the barest of glimpses at this new threat my curiosity is piqued about what they represent.

You cannot talk about this issue without commenting on the art by fill-in artist Ethan Van Sciver.  I interviewed Ethan about a year ago (you can watch it here, or listen to it here) and  I remember at the time saying to him that, to me, he was the artist who defined Green Lantern for the Modern Age much as Neal Adams did for the Bronze Age.  So it was a great joy to see him return to the Green Lantern series and his work here reminded me so much of why I wish he was on this book as the regular artist.

While I enjoy Billy Tan’s design work I’m not as keen on  his character work, specifically when it comes to the title’s lead character.  Van Sciver’s Hal Jordan in this book is instantly recognizable despite the changes in wardrobe and hairstyle and, at least for me, makes the new look seem real because Hal looks like Hal.  While Venditti’s script does a nice job a making the reader feel for Black Hand, it’s Ethan’s art that really helps to convey Hand’s emotional state.  After reading the issue I felt like Oliver wanting to turn to DC and saying, “please, Sir, I want some more.”  The good news is that Van Sciver recently posted a page he was working on which contained Saint Walker so I’m hoping that mean we’ll be getting more soon (pun intended).

Green Lantern #43 is the calm before the storm while giving readers a treat with Ethan Van Sciver’s brilliant artwork.  The issue may be judged by some for not having enough action or enough plot development but I think that the issue’s strength lie in letting the reader, like Hal, stop to see the roses for a moment.  A strong issue in terms of character development it rates eight out of ten lanterns.

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