“I Will Never Forget This!”
Green Lanterns #26 deviates from the adventures of Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz to add another chapter to the secret history of the Green Lantern Corps. It’s a little bizarre in my opinion as this story saps all the momentum that Sam Humphries built up last issue and leaves the reader dangling about the fates of the series’ lead characters in favor of fleshing out the relationship between Rami and Volthoom ten billion years ago. It reminds me a great deal of issue 18 when Humphries used a similar tactic to shift the focus away from the ongoing narrative to fill in the blanks about the First Lantern. It seems a better tactic would have been to juggle both plots to some degree which would on one hand keep the reader engaged with Simon and Jessica’s story but would have also distracted from what is a pretty compelling story on its own.
Jarring narrative shift aside the issue as it stands on its own provides a great degree of clarity about Volthoom’s sanity and the de-evolving of a friendship with Rami which underscores Volthoom’s actions in present day. Humphries adds ties to previously understood lore about the transition of the Maltusans of old to the Oans who served as the Guardians of the Universe which gives the historical context of his tale more substance. I’m still trying to parse how this all fits in with the rise of the Manhunters and the chronological paradox this version of history seems to have with what we’ve come to understand as the way the Green Lantern Corps came into being.
Humphries also continues to use the Great Heart as a means to provide initial power to the mysterious first power ring that just appeared from nowhere. We know the Great Heart was buried deep beneath the surface of Maltus as originally introduced during the “Wrath of the First Lantern” (Red Lanterns #17 to be precise) and it’s not hard to presume that once they were able to get Volthoom under control they chose to hide it away and try to wipe the knowledge of its existence from history. I do feel that the creative team struggles with the depiction of Rami who seems far to animated and emotional for someone who partook in the shedding of emotions.
The big mystery to me is the origin of the first power ring. I rather liked the idea of the Guardians developing the idea of power rings as a product of their own initiative and I’m not sure how I feel about the concept that some mysterious benefactor bestowed it upon them. I’m hoping we don’t get some sort of time travel trope where someone from the future is reaching back through time to hand the ring off to the Maltusans and time will tell whether that mystery gets solved.
The strength of Humphries’ script lies in the build up of the friendship between Volthoom and Rami, who Volthoom views as the one scientist who might be able to help him rescue his planet. Rami’s discovery about the truth of Earth-47’s destruction and the unraveling of Volthoom’s psyche as a result of their experiments prove to be the undoing of their camaraderie. Even though we knew it had to end badly and there’s some predictability on how it plays out, the work Humphries does to get the reader to emotionally invest in the situation still lands a punch to the gut when it finally comes to a head.
Humphries also gives us another reveal about one of the first lanterns this issue, this time around a power ring chooses Calleen, a plant elemental from the planet Alstair. Alstair is not a new planet in the DC universe, having been established back in 1961 in the pages of Justice League of America #3 in a story written by the legendary Gardner Fox. Alstair was the home planet of Hyathis, a plant elemental who served as Queen and became an adversary of the JLA. I like that Humphries is mining some of DC’s rich history and I give him credit for not doing the easy thing and just making things up.
Ronan Cliquet is back again for the art chores on this installment, doing both the pencil work and the inking. I appreciated Cliquet’s ability to show Volthoom expressing a wider range of emotions that what we usually see which gave weight to the story when he finally does go over the edge. I think Cliquet did the same thing with Rami which would have been fine under other circumstances, but as I stated previously Rami’s emotional range should have been more stunted due to the his participation in purging himself of them. The artwork seemed a little flat in places which I attribute to the coloring work. It’s serviceable but I think Cliquet’s pencil work is not given the support it needs.
Green Lanterns #26 takes a sharp detour which could leave readers scratching their heads after the cliffhanger Sam Humphries ended the last issue with. With Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz nowhere in sight, this issue is one big information dump surrounded by the story of a friendship destroyed. While the story gives some interesting background on the history of the Green Lanterns at the end of the day it seems like it could have been handled in a way that didn’t leave readers disconnected from the title’s protagonists. Seven out of ten lanterns.