“Who are you – the ring police?”
With the new Phantom Lantern on the scene this week’s Green Lanterns #11 shows us the first adventure of the newest ring bearer of Earth as Frank Laminski finally gets to embrace his destiny. The question is – will he finally have his brightest day or will his emotional instability make this his blackest night?
I admittedly am not fond of writer Sam Humphries’ characterization when it comes to Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz but his writing of Phantom Lantern Frank Laminski is an interesting study in hero worship gone amok so I was pleased to see his story continue to be the focus of this arc. Frank’s not an evil person and his true intentions seem altruistic on the surface, but it’s how far he’s willing to go to get his validation and obsession with personal glory which pushes him beyond the realm of the rational. Setting fire to someone’s home somehow seems justified to him because in the end it allows him to finally achieve his goal and ascend to what he believes is his rightful place in the universe. Surely he can’t be allowed to keep the ring and he must atone for what’s he’s done to get it, but there’s also the empathetic side to this where one has to recognize that Frank is not a villain so much as a man who’s lost his way.
Humphries makes Frank’s fall all the more dramatic by first elevating him in the eyes of the world, letting him gain the first taste of what he’s been starving to attain. When the Green Lanterns arrive to take it all away the story takes an interesting turn as Laminski gains the upper hand by casting doubt on both Simon and Jessica, striking at their insecurities which is a far more effective story telling tool than simply devolving to fisticuffs. With the world, Batman and Carol Ferris included, looking on as Simon fumbles with his interactions, Frank has the upper hand until Jessica triggers his instability.
For me I really would have liked to have seen this gone on longer, for Frank to have kept and enjoyed the high ground in order to put the screws to the Green Lanterns. Frank’s hair trigger and rapid descent felt rushed and wasted the potential that was there for this to be a much more powerful story in my opinion. With Volthoom clearly pulling the strings Frank had the potential to be strung along for a while, making him the helpless victim of his own failings, a tragic pawn rather than a full on villain. Alas, by issue’s end Frank has quickly taken a very public fall from which he cannot recover and the story reverts to a more traditional heroes versus villain tale, albeit an antagonist who is now even less in control of himself than he was before.
Frank’s words are more powerful than any construct he could have mustered. For a moment the Phantom Lantern has the press on his side, but Jessica manages to find Frank’s weak spot out of sheer dumb luck. To me it would have served her character better had she figured it out through learning about Laminksi and relating back to her understanding of her own insecurities. I think that would have shown more growth for her but at least we’re not seeing her hide from a conflict this time around. Batman and Carol Ferris’ cameos provide the deprecation this issue instead and I do hope that this isn’t going to be one of those cases where an issue or two later both do an about face as a not so subtle way of propping Simon and Jessica up.
Robson Rocha has been this series saving grace when it comes to the artwork and he turns in a solid effort this issue as well. I’m a stickler for visual continuity and I was happily surprised to see that for once Simon Baz’s holster remained a constant throughout this chapter of the story. Rocha’s character work helps sell the emotions behind Humphries’ dialogue and enhances the reader’s experience. I felt some of the expressions on Frank Laminski’s face were a little over the top and looked unnaturally exaggerated and cartoony, but all in all the issue looks great, particularly the opening sequence where Laminski rescues a boy and his dog from a tornado.
Green Lanterns #11 is one of the better issues in the series thus far, albeit I think that Sam Humphries would have been better served in letting the Phantom Lantern enjoy his time in the sun and putting the pressure on the Green Lanterns before giving us his fall from grace. Robson Rocha’s expressive artwork compliments Humphries script nicely in this second chapter of “The Phantom Lantern”. Seven out of ten lanterns.