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“Let the ring find someone who deserves it”

In this week’s Green Lanterns #4 writer Sam Humphries turns his attention to character study, taking the time away from dealing with the ever-advancing rage epidemic to focus squarely on the series’ two protagonists.  This issue puts Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz in a position where they really question their ability to be Green Lanterns and in doing so starting to bond as a team as each looks beyond the failings of the other to find common ground.

With Jessica Cruz under the control of the rage plague Simon Baz finds himself ill-equipped to handle his enraged partner when his run nearly runs out of power.  Calling on his past ability to heal Baz summons the willpower inside to overcome his ring’s power problem and once the two are standing on common ground at the base of the Hell Tower the two Green Lanterns face their own inner demons.  In regards to the character study Sam Humphries does a nice job of showing the layers of emotion between the characters real feelings and the exteriors they present to each other.

Humphries spends a lot of time exploring the inner workings of his two lead characters.  By that I mean that this is what makes up nearly the whole issue.  Both Simon and Jessica doubt their ability to wield their power rings and question whether or not they want to continue.  Whether or not you’ll like the issue depends on if you’ve become emotionally invested in the characters or not.  I don’t find either particularly compelling myself so I really didn’t get much out of issue, but I appreciate Humphries ability to get into the heads of his cast and trying to make them more dimensional.

Simon calls on his past to save his partner from the grips of rage

What little plot development that comes out of this issue comes in the form of the unnamed Guardian who appeared at Nazir and Sira’s home back in Michigan.  While the scene only takes up two pages we learn a little bit about the Guardian’s past and about “The Phantom Ring” which served as the catalyst for him to part ways with his kin.  As a veteran reader these two pages served as the most interesting part of the issue for me because it represents a new chapter in Lantern lore.  The scene also hints at the time meddling that was revealed in the DC: Rebirth special and alludes to there being a particular reason that there are two more Earth Lanterns which helps tie the universe together and keep the question alive about the redundancy of our two leads.

To remind us of the greater threat Atrocitus and his minions arrive on the scene in the issue’s closing moments which feels tacked on.  The dialog isn’t particularly interesting other than traditional bad guy threatening the good guy routine.  If Atrocitus had a mustache he’d be twirling it in the final panel.

Visually the book looks okay considering how many cooks are in kitchen.  The original solicitation indicated that Ardian Syaf would be drawing the issue but Robson Rocha is called upon to cover for his artist partner on the book with some help from Ed Benes and Tom Derenick.  It’s a little concerning that a series so early in it’s run is having problems getting the art done and I don’t know if there’s something going on with Syaf that’s prevented him from fulfilling his assignment or if there’s something else going on behind the scenes.  This issue has five different inkers with Blond  handling all the colors.

The two Green Lanterns get real with each other

With that big of an art team there’s bound to be some problems and there are some to be sure but the issue still looks better than the third issue.  I give a lot of credit to Blond in providing some of the consistency that helps hold this issue together visually.  There is some really good imagery here, particularly as Simon and Jessica start to overcome their differences and recharge their rings.

But there’s also some major continuity flaws that hold the issue back for those of us who’ve been around the block a few times with the Lantern books that also extends to the art.  Simon’s sidearm, a topic of conversation this issue, is missing throughout the entire first half of the book and magically appears once the script mentions it.  There’s also a problem with his uniform being presented as having some sort of green yolk over a black unitard that looks odd and then in the latter half of the book Simon’s nose seems to disappear all together.

Art guffahs aside there’s the basic ignorance of how things work in the Lantern universe that may be easy to overlook if you’re new to the lore but hard to excuse as a reader who’s been around since at least the Johns’ era.  A power ring, remember “the most powerful weapon in the universe”, at 2% is at least capable enough to provide simple flight, and once the ring is actually depleted the wearer’s uniform reverts to their civilian clothes because their uniform is ring generated.  Then there’s the sudden appearance of Skallox and Zilius Zox in the closing image – two dead characters who’s passings were some of the more poignant moments of the Red Lanterns series.  I would have hoped that Humphries would have done a bit more homework than he appears to have done, and if the editor doesn’t catch simple stuff like this I’m not exactly sure what he’s supposed to be doing.

Green Lanterns #4 showcases the inner demons of both Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz as the two look to find common ground with each other.  This is a good thing if you’ve become invested in them as characters by now, but if not you’ll likely find the issue pretty boring.  There are some nagging continuity bumps in the road that new readers likely won’t catch, but veteran readers will likely be more difficult to overlook.  Four out of ten lanterns.

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