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“Yeah. You GOT me.”

One of the criticism’s fans have had with the Green Lantern family of books has been the prevalence of arc after arc of crossover stories and sprawling storylines.  So this week’s Green Lantern #44 is a welcome surprise with writer Robert Venditti giving readers a standalone issue, and a fun one at that.  We’ve begun to see more depth in character for Hal’s crew over the past couple of issues, primarily when it comes to Virgo and Darlene, the ship’s artificial intelligence.  With Virgo seriously sidelined causing the crew to leave their ship the focus of the issue falls on Hal and Trapper.

Venditti does a great job keeping in keeping the reader on their toes when it comes to Trapper.  While Hal has some safeguards in place there’s a sense that Trapper could turn either way at any given moment.  Even though the relationship between Hal and his captive is one of uncertainty there’s a nice chemistry between them which keeps the reader entertained.  Against the backdrop this issue’s story it adds a layer of character development that leaves you knowing a bit more about Trapper and elevates him above the cookie cutter thug that he originally appeared as.  The reader isn’t given the impression that Trapper has necessarily turned over a new leaf and not knowing which way he’ll turn at any given moment will help to drive tension as the odds continue to mount against Hal.

Hal challenges the Thanagarians to a battle on their home turf.

Normally I’d have cause to question why a writer would choose to take a pit stop when Black Hand is out there destroying the universe one planet at a time.  But Venditti used Virgo’s foolish actions from last issue as a way to create the need for this diversion, which amounts to a space-age western tale of two strangers coming to a town overrun by bandits.  This time it’s a group of Thanagarians serving as the story’s banditos ruling over the spaceport with an iron wing, using the station and its populace as bait.  The resulting showdown at high noon may be short, but it’s certainly satisfying.

The Thanagarians may very well be recurring characters given that Venditti has bothered to take the time to name them individually and they are given a nice one page splash to be introduced to the reader.  They are a welcome set of antagonists given that the growing numbers of the Green Lantern’s rogue gallery seem to almost all have power rings of their own.  Time will tell but I know I certainly hope they stick around and return when it’s the most unfortunate time for Hal to have to deal with them.  Venditti’s clever name dropping of Vath Sarn also helps set up that the Thanagarian prescience is a natural occurrence given the location where the planet Gallun is located.  Whether intentional or not I found the choice of Gallun as the name of the planet humorous considering how much I equate this issue to a western, you know, as in ten “gallun” hats.

Trapper’s on team Hal….for now.

This issue works on a number of fronts between the tension of elements like not knowing when Trapper might stab Hal in the back, the lighter moments sprinkled throughout the issue and the aforementioned character study.  Unfortunately the art doesn’t quite work as harmoniously with the chores being shared between Billy Tan and Martin Coccolo.  Their styles don’t work together cohesively and with the lack of a narrative break to help cushion the transition between the two artists it creates an unnatural flow to the reading experience.

With the wild west of space won the inhabitants of the spaceport slowly return to their normal lives, even rewarding Hal with a bit of show of affection from one of the youngest citizens before the crew ride off into the sunset.  Now that Virgo is back on his feet the issue closes with the Darlene and her crew off to find where Black Hand is headed.

Green Lantern #44 is a fun “one and done” single issue story which has a well balanced narrative hampered by a less harmonious mixture of multiple artists.  Reminiscent of a “wagon train to the stars” adventure the uneasy relationship between Hal Jordan and Trapper evolves a little bit.  A nice well needed pause in Robert Venditti’s “Renegade” Green Lantern era gets eight out of ten lanterns.

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