“Nothing can contain me!”
Straying away from the solicited “The Green Impurity” arc this week’s nineteenth installment of the Green Lanterns series once again sidesteps the looming Volthoom plot which took center stage last issue. Instead it looks as though writer Sam Humphries has elevated what looked to be the “b” plot of that story and made it the center of an all new “Polarity” arc. Given the magnitude of the Volthoom story it seems odd to once again see it delayed, but regardless of the reasons for Humphries’ shift this issue reimagines one of Green Lantern’s greatest enemies for the 21st century.
Neal Emerson has always been one of Hal Jordan’s more interesting rogues, his mind altered by his exploration into the real world applications of advanced magnetically driven science he has quite literally lived with an internal against his polar opposite, pun intended. At one time the John Broome creation drove Hal to the edge in a story which really tested his will as he struggled blindly across the barren arctic wasteland in the now classic Marv Wolfman penned Green Lantern #133-135. Sadly Emerson didn’t age well and was killed during the opening chapter of Infinite Crisis in 2005 only to eventually become a member of the Black Lantern Corps and kill his successor off page in Blackest Night #4. Whatever the miracle Emerson is back among the living and still struggling with his dark side.
Humphries re-asserts Emerson’s belief that magnetism is a key that could unravel a number of medical mysteries and ties that to Seth, whose relationship with Emerson is unclear at this point. My presumption at this stage is that Seth is the new John, Neal Emerson’s brother who along side him managed a life in a household with an abusive father. Humphries spins the formula a little in that Seth is knocking on death’s door and that is the motivation for Neal’s current passion for magnetic medicine.
Jessica and Simon are brought in when the Government can’t rein in Emerson and the Polaris personality kicks in out of a sense of self preservation. Polaris has always had the potential to be DC’s Magneto and Humphries thankfully sees that as well and his work in this issue does very well to illustrate who powerful of a character he can be when he’s written well. By issue’s end he’s handily dealt with the two Green Lanterns and left them in a bad situation. One that honestly shouldn’t be an issue for them to escape, but given the situation will likely pose more of a threat than it should.
There’s a subplot of growing friction between Simon and his best friend Nazir that gets a little page time as Nazir struggles with Simon’s new life with a power ring and how much it has affected their relationship. Life as a lantern is a 24/7 gig and Nazir has begun to see Simon as someone who no longer contributes to the family while still reaping the benefits of having a stable place to come home to. Humphries will no doubt expand on this at some point but for now it’s just a footnote in the larger narrative. Jessica has very little to do this issue although she does provide Simon with some insight into this particular subject which makes her appearance at least have some meaning.
Roland Cliquet is back on this issue and he does a nice job with Polaris in particular, visually conveying the power that the character possesses. For some reason he’s drawn Simon with his gun on a panel or two so he must not have gotten the memo that Simon has finally gotten rid of the thing. Stuff like this makes me wonder if comic book editors do anything these days as the lack of visual continuity has been all over the place from day one. Given it’s only one panel here it’s really a small thing but cumulatively it’s an issue that someone at DC needs to get a grip on. Blond does a nice job with colors as usual and the two together make this issue look good.
Green Lanterns #19 is a bit of a quick read but one that does a good job of reacquainting readers with one of Green Lantern’s best Silver Age villains by giving him a solid foundation and realizing some of the potential in the Doctor Polaris character. The detour from the Volthoom story is frustrating but aside from that this issue is one of better this series has seen so far despite being your typical set up issue. Eight out of ten lanterns.