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“Are we still doing pancakes tomorrow!?”

One of the criticisms leveled at the Green Lanterns series has been that, while we’ve been beaten over the head with the fact that Jessica Cruz suffers from anxiety, the book hasn’t made her situation understandable to the large segment of the population who can’t relate to it.  This week’s Green Lanterns #15 strives to provide that missing component and comes out being the strongest issue of the series so far.

For readers looking for the solicited story about Jessica dealing with the deaths of her friends, this issue isn’t that story.  Instead writer Sam Humphries takes this one-off single issue to give readers a “day in a life” tale that spends the bulk of the story inside of Jessica’s mind as she wrestles with a condition which is very real for many people around us.  While I wouldn’t call the story a good Green Lantern story I would say that it’s a very good character study that goes beyond being a regular comic book.  By that I mean that it’s something that transcends being your regular escapist fiction to be a very real human story which, in my opinion, could be used by people who suffer from anxiety to help those around them better understand the challenges they face.  From that perspective this issue really succeeds.  I know first hand how hard it is for loved ones to understand the struggles you face because they have no frame of reference.  I’ve talked a little on the Podcast of Oa about my own birth defect and I can tell you that, even after over thirty years together, my wife still doesn’t really understand what I go through.  For someone who suffers from this mental condition this issue could very well provide the first real glimpse into what their life is like to their loved ones.

While superheroics take a back seat for most of this issue, the Green Lanterns still find time to make a difference

That said this issue is a good jumping on point for new readers and, quite honestly, the series would have greatly benefited from having a story like this much earlier in the run.  One positive about waiting until now is that the timing makes the evolution of the dynamic between Cruz and Simon Baz feel very organic.  The Simon who struggles to find a way to support Jessica is a far cry from the one that didn’t find the value in having a partner.  Simon still feels more like a supporting character in his own book at this point which is something that Humphries needs to do a better job with.  He’s really given a very disproportionate amount of attention to Jessica thus far which hassn’t served Baz well at all.

Even though the character work in the issue is very good, there are a couple things that continue to plague Humphries’ scripts.  One thing that pops up this issue is the habit Humphries has of making it look like Jessica’s doing something super amazing when it’s really pretty average for a superhero.  This time around Jessica manages to use her ring to stop a submarine that’s flying through the air.  No small feat to be certain, but Humphries completely oversells it with the reactions of Superman and Wonder Woman and then underscores it by having Jessica think to herself that she showed Superman up.  It almost read like the two veteran heroes were being patronizing to Jessica as if patting her on the head to boost her ego like you might a child.

It’s also hard to see the Green Lanterns fighting a giant monster so skillfully in the opening pages only to see them perform like complete newbies when faced with a normal human brandishing spurs and a six shooter later on in the issue.   These kinds of moments, and the one where Batman asks for help near the end of this issue, seem very forced and contrived which takes away from Humphries stronger suit, characterization.

Simon Baz continues to get the short end of the stick, but plays a crucial role as Jessica’s partner

Regardless the issue serves its purpose in helping the reader understand Jessica better and it’s a chance for the reader to catch a breath before plunging into the next adventure.  With books seeming to move from one big story to another without the characters having time to catch their breath Humphries wisely gives the Green Lanterns and the reader a respite.  Some comics fans don’t like the idea but as far as I’m concerned series benefit by building in time to make sure we see the humanity of the characters shine through more clearly than they might when in the thick of a world threatening crisis.  One odd omission is in not showing Rami/Volthoom at all this issue given his new found importance.

Miguel Mendonca handles the pencil work and he does a wonderful job conveying emotions through the characters facial expressions.  Worth noting is the one page spread where Mendonca provides a visual representation of Jessica’s panic attack and the sincerity in Simon’s face as has a heart to heart conversation over pancakes late in the issue.  The ongoing magic disappearing gun is still an issue that seems will never go away so long as the creators insist on Simon Baz toting around.

Green Lanterns #15 is an example of what the comics medium can be when it tackles social issues.  While not a great Green Lantern story per se the issue admirably succeeds in taking readers inside a very real problem shared by many of our fellow beings.  Share this issue with someone you know who struggles with anxiety issues and have your own conversation over a pile of pancakes.  Eight out of ten lanterns.

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