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“All I wanted was the power ring”

If you’ve been following the coverage of the Green Lanterns title here on the Blog of Oa for any length of time you already know that I’m an outspoken critic of the series from its basic premise to the execution of every issue.  Until today.  This week’s ninth issue has me interested in this series for the first time since it debuted four months ago and has me cautiously optimistic for the second arc of Sam Humphries’ tenure…….very cautiously optimistic.

Green Lanterns #9 flips the script on the standard origin story and looks at Green Lantern history through a very different lens and introduces us to a new character who really isn’t a new character.  Pilot Frank Laminski appeared back in Green Lantern #30 during the Geoff Johns run when he was introduced as the pilot of the Flaming Spear, a test craft that was rescued by Hal Jordan’s rookie days as a Green Lantern, and as the guy who gave Tom Kalmaku his “Pieface” nickname.  Yes, the Flaming Spear rescue was show prior to that but for the sake of modern continuity I’m going further back than that.

Sam Humphries mines Geoff Johns run for a new antagonist for the Green Lanterns

Humphries gives us the background on Laminski that we never knew was important, a telling statement given what we glean from Laminski’s autobiography that makes up the issue.  Laminski’s story interweaves with Lantern history as we see how the impact of the every growing roster of Earth Lanterns leaves its impact on a man who truly believes that he above all others deserves to be chosen by the ring.  It’s a sad descent into self pity and loathing blanketed under a false sense of optimism that eventually collapses under the weight of the realization that he isn’t that special after all.  That is until a very unexpected character shows up in the final pages who sets Frank on a new path which will bring him on a collision course with Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and the Phantom Ring.

Speaking of Cruz and Baz they really only have an ancillary appearance in the book and show up in one panel along with the Justice League.  It’s a risky move by Humphries to spend the entire issue on Laminski, but the story would have been ineffectual had it been handled any other way.  We already know Frank is on his way to Michigan to get the ring but now we have the vital information that gives us all we need to know about his motivations and the emotions which drive him to take the actions he’s about to in order to finally meet his destiny.

The big question of the issue is how the mystery man at the end is back given what happened to him the last time we saw him.  I don’t want to spoil his identity for now but how he’s returned, and which version of the character he may be, are mysteries which I hope Humphries has put more thought into than he did with Zilius Zox and Skallox.  While I haven’t liked much of what he’s written so far Humphries does a great job this issue.

Laminski finds the unlikeliest of allies

Robson Rocha does a great job with the visuals this issue, joined by Blond’s consistent color work.  Both combine to do a superb job conveying the emotions behind Laminski’s eyes as well as recreate some classic moments from Green Lantern history.

Green Lanterns #9 takes an interesting turn by reducing the ring bearers to background characters in favor of looking at the Green Lanterns through a very different lens.  Sam Humphrie’s story fleshes out the Green Lantern mythology by expanding on the story of a “blink and you’ll miss him” character and pushing him to the forefront.  The result is a tale more compelling than either of the regular stars of the series, earning eight out of ten lanterns.

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