“It was a test, Simon. And you failed.”
A brief preface
When it comes to this week’s Green Lantern Rebirth #1 I’m not quite sure where to begin. The Blog of Oa has been the outlet for my personal expression of my love of the Green Lantern universe and as nothing more than a fan I sometimes struggle to share my opinions about books when the creative direction doesn’t line up with what I love about the universe. Case in point – when the Larfleeze series came out I found the book such a poor representation of the character than I dropped the series after two issues. I’m finding myself in a similar position with this title.
DC Rebirth was an opportunity to get back to what’s great about the DC universe and when it comes to both the Flash and Green Lantern families I think the company has failed those properties by leaving them overcrowded with characters that, in my opinion, makes being a speedster or a person with a power ring less special than it should be, and in the case of the Green Lanterns I quite honestly feel that DC is using the franchise as a lazy way to show diversity in their lineup. It’s also certainly not, again in my opinion, the “swift kick in the pants this franchise needed” as Newsarama claims it to be. So while I’m going to do my best to remain as open as I can to this direction I can’t say for certain how long I’ll cover this series, but I want to make sure that anyone reading this understands my perspective.
The issue starts out very much like I’d expect a Green Lantern tale to begin in a comic with Geoff Johns’ name on the cover. There’s something previously unknown out there, it’s powerful and it’s dangerous, and this secret carries a grave threat to the universe. The Guardian of the Universe is a previously unknown character and while we don’t get a lot of information here it’s probably safe to say that his past is not unlike the Templar Guardians based on his wardrobe and the fact that he feels fear as he is surrounded by the Dominators – personally one of my favorite alien races in the DCU. As this new power is unleashed the energy takes on the pattern of what is very likely a new symbol for this as yet unknown power and it would not be a surprise if at some point one of our leading characters may become the wearer of this new ring.
The Geoff Johns / Sam Humphries script shifts location back to Earth where they give readers a few pages to get introduced to Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. New readers are likely unaware of either Baz’s or Cruz’s backstory and while this issue skips on the details it provides you with enough information to get a sense of their history. For Cruz this is a bigger issue as not much is known about her civilian life and it’s a shame that more space wasn’t devoted to her with her past being the much bigger question mark.
Johns and Humphries try a little too hard to show that the two don’t get along with each other and Simon is pretty out of character at this point. His disdain for Guy Gardner is incredibly off base considering the relationship they developed during Godhead and we haven’t seen anything about the two that would indicate tension between the two. The whole sequence seems forced to show that the two don’t get along, and when Hal Jordan arrives to scold the two for not working better together the story goes off the rails for me.
DC seems intent on selling Simon Baz as a rookie and the problem is that he isn’t. The writers even go so far to say that Baz has only had his power ring for a few weeks longer than Cruz who has only just gotten hers. But the fact is that Simon got his ring during 2012’s Rise of the Third Army. He’s served as a member of the Justice League, fought during the Trinity War, battled Volthoom and the New Gods and has served as the Green Lantern of Earth during Hal Jordan’s tenure as the leader of the Green Lantern Corps. He’s also been to the Edge of Oblivion, stranded in the universe before our own, for a considerable period of time. So I’m not sure where this three weeks comes from let alone how anyone can consider him a rookie at this point. And that Jessica Cruz doesn’t even know she has a power battery is just so hard to understand considering she was casually talking with Hal over in the Rebirth Special – are we really supposed to believe that she’s that clueless at this point!
The issue is over almost as soon as it began with the reveal that that the narrator who began the issue was Atrocitus and he has a plan for the Earth that our protagonists will have to deal with which includes the unknown power that opened the issue. And with Baz and Cruz literally connected at the power battery they’ll have to learn to set aside their differences to save us all, although I’m sure the Justice League could help in a pinch. While the book does a good job in helping new readers who might be trying the Green Lantern universe for the first time understand a little about Simon and Jessica it provides too little context about who the Red Lanterns are for newbies to understand their importance or the nature of the emotional spectrum.
Both Ed Benes and Ethan Van Sciver share art duties and the results are hit and miss. Van Sciver’s cover is an ode to Green Lantern Rebirth #1 which certainly didn’t go unnoticed. His interior work is exactly what we’d expect from him and the full page spread showing Hal Jordan’s arrival is arguably the best looking page in the book. Some of his work later in the book isn’t quite as strong, notably some awkward arm length and positioning with Jessica Cruz later on, Simon Baz’s kooky eyes which really show why his gimp mask is a poor design choice and his cheeky rendition of Wonder Woman. Those are slight issues compared to Benes’ work.
Most of Ed Benes’ pencils look rushed and he’s never been one to do well with facial expression and this issue is no exception. Apparently everyone in Michigan walks around with squinted eyes and Benes seems all but incapable of depicting faces with a depth of emotion, or many facial details at all for that matter. He doesn’t even seem to be able to get Jessica’s trademark eye symbol correct. His lack of detail runs counter to Van Sciver’s attention to detail and even the wonderful coloring job by Jason Wright can’t make them look cohesive.
In the end I feel that this book is a bit of a let down. It’s certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read but it’s just average in my opinion. It also doesn’t give readers a true sense of what to expect from the series because, other than Sam Humphries, no on else working on this issue is working on the the ongoing series. How much of this issue is Humphries’ voice and how much is Johns’? For anyone on the fence like myself I can’t get a clear sense of what Humphries’ writing is going to be like to determine if he can win over my general dislike for the premise of the series with this freshman effort.
In the end Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 is a mixed bag with the unveiling of yet another intergalactic threat tied to secret Guardian history. Simon Baz is given the disservice of having his firmly established Green Lantern resume overlooked in favor of trying to sell readers on having rookie status which, while new reader friendly, essentially tells the long time reader that what they have read before doesn’t really matter. Ethan Van Sciver once again graces the pages of a Green Lantern book with his spectacular artwork, although co-contributor Ed Benes falters with his share of the book. A generous six out of ten lanterns.