“Damn it all to hell”
When it was announced that BOOM! Studios would be publishing a Green Lantern crossover with the Planet of the Apes franchise I’m sure I was far from the first person to raise a skeptical eyebrow. Sure the team-up with Star Trek felt like a natural fit, but this was something I’d never entertained before. When the covers were first released I felt pretty relieved, and when Justin Jordan was named on the writing team I felt a lot better. This week the first issue of the crossover was released and, to be honest, I think my first instinct was correct.
This first installment leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how these two franchises intersect which is something you have to surrender yourself to if you’re someone who has to know those kinds of details right out of the gate. I’m fine with a little mystery, especially because I fully expect that more is going to be explained over time. So for now I’m talking that voice inside my head that’s trying to parse the Apes timeline with DC continuity off the ledge.
The introductory issue expects that the reader has some familiarity with both franchises and doesn’t do much to help readers unfamiliar with either franchise. There is little exposition about either and that could be an issue for someone who isn’t familiar with them. It appears that the story takes place between the original movie and the sequel if my memory serves me correctly, and Jordan, in scripting Robbie Thompson’s story, does set the stage for how the apes’ world has changed in the days since the arrival of 20th Century humans. They are understandably unnerved by it all and lines are being drawn.
Novelty aside, from a Green Lantern perspective the story is more than a little reminiscent to the recent “Phantom Lantern” arc of Green Lanterns. The “Universal Ring” bears a striking similarity to the Phantom Ring with the added time manipulation element thrown in for good measure. I’d like to say I’m surprised that no one at DC warned Thompson and Jordan about the similarity but I’m not. I think many Green Lantern fans will avoid this series because of the surface level similarity between the plots of the books.
That aside I have to say I’m officially over the whole “Guardians keeping secrets” thing. I’m all for learning more about the history of the Guardians and unlocking untold mysteries from the past, but the notion that Guardians are somehow misguided beings with questionable motives who have deep dark secrets is just overused at this point. I really do miss the days where the Guardians were portrayed as highly evolved beings with altruistic motives who have evolved to the point where they struggled to relate to the very universe they are trying to protect. It’s become an overused trope and it smells of lazy writing. Between this and the unfortunate similarities to recent books I found myself much less enthused about this series than I was when I picked the book up.
There’s also the bit where the temptation can’t be resisted to put Hal Jordan in the Taylor role when he washes ashore after landing in the Ape timeline. It didn’t seem like an earned moment and was crammed in there because someone thought it had to be that one “wink wink, nudge nudge” scene that would make everyone happy. No doubt everyone gets the reference but without a good set up the punchline doesn’t land in a rewarding way.
I also found myself scratching my head with the attack of the Red Lanterns on Oa. How the Reds came up with the idea that the Green Lanterns abducted Bleez, or for that matter how they thought a handful of them would accomplish anything storming Oa, is puzzling. The absence of Atrocitus and a realistically sized invasion force seems like an incomplete thought as the scene doesn’t serve any purpose other than to be the introductory moments for the Green Lanterns. In the end it seems like a waste of panels that could have been used better building the narrative a bit more strongly.
Lantern fans might recognize Barnaby Bagenda’s name from his run on the Kyle Rayner led Omega Men miniseries from last year. I’m not a big fan of Bagenda’s style but I knew he was on the book going in so I read the issue with lowered expectations after being wowed by the various covers that BOOM! Studios put together. I personally prefer more detail and cleaner lines and to me the Green Lantern parts of the book looked like they were drawn by a junior high school student. When Dex-Starr attacks Arisia he looks more like a humanoid feline than an Earth cat. The robed Sinestro that starts out the issue has what looks like bare arms and both he and Hal are missing their power rings a few time. There are many panels where proportions are way off and in the end it all just took me out of the story. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of lame constructs Sinestro and Hal were fighting each other with. That said, the Apes parts of the book did fair better in my eyes.
The coloring of the issue also isn’t a bright spot to be sure. My God the white boots are everywhere, and they aren’t even consistently white throughout the issue! Arisia in one panel looks like she has black tights on.
Planet of the Apes / Green Lantern #1 is off to a rocky start and I’m not sure if the novelty of these two franchises is enough to keep me buying the series. With the premise being eerily similar to the most recent Green Lanterns arc, some shaky plot elements and questionable art the creative team needs to step up their game if they expect readers to stick with this crossover. Five out of ten lanterns.