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“The Darkstars are the new law”

With the “Darkstars Rising” prelude out-of-the-way, this week’s Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #44 goes into recruitment mode as the Corps find themselves willing to once again take up strange bedfellows in times of crisis.  Knowing that we are rounding the final turn in Robert Venditti’s near five-year run on the Lantern franchise I think it’s fitting that he’s calling back upon his past stories to fuel this one.  This issue has multiple call backs as the forces are gathered to face the Darkstars.

The book opens and closes with Hal Jordan’s return to Earth, his recruiting mission sidestepped by Tomar-Tu’s murder of Goldface.  We knew this moment was coming and death comes quickly to the man who killed Tomar-Re way back in Green Lantern volume 2 #198.  Hal’s investigation leads to a very welcome visit from Barry Allen.  Seeing the Flash and Hal together is something that I don’t get tired of and Venditti uses their friendship to great effect as Barry is the perfect person for Hal to share his moral crisis with.  As much as I enjoy the dynamic between Hal and Ollie Queen there is some very special about Hal and Barry’s friendship that runs deeper, and Venditti makes their conversation very realistically.  As much as the return of the Darkstars is a threat to the Corps, their ideology challenges everything the Corps represents.  With Tomar-Tu leading the Darkstar charge Hal is facing a crisis of conscience that strikes close to home.  Barry’s observations and support of Hal as he doubts himself is the emotional anchor here and one of the high points of the issue.

Barry helps ground Hal as he questions himself

Before we circle back around to Hal Venditti shows us where the rest of the Four Corpsmen go to find allies.  Guy Gardner’s bar stool reunion with Arkillo is great fun and exactly what anyone would hope it would be.  Whether this means Arkillo is bringing the rest of the Sinestro Corps with him remains to be seen, but I fully expect that Arkillo isn’t going to show up for the big showdown alone.  Meanwhile Kyle Rayner meets up with Space Cabbie to help him call in the debt owed to him by Orion.  Kyle saved Orion’s life back in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #29 and if the Corps are going to get help there aren’t much bigger guns in the universe than the New Gods.

The most exciting part of this “gather the forces” issue is seeing John Stewart return to Jekuul to negotiate with Zod.   It was only a few issues ago when the Corps were sent packing with their tails between their legs and now John returns despite Zod’s decree that the Corps leave him in peace.  John pulls of a great tactical move to gain the upper hand which I won’t surprise here but I will just say that it caught me completely by surprise.

John gains the upper (but broken) hand

The issue rounds out with Hal trying to pull Hector Hammond into the conflict, only to be interrupted by the Atomic Skull.  This sets up the next issue as a continuation of the alliance building as no one’s subplot goes beyond the initial stages in this installment.  I’m not terribly concerned with the advancement of the plot here as we have four simultaneously running subplots that all are interesting and need room to breathe.  The major point being that the issue is very entertaining and well-rounded.  I don’t feel like I’m reading fluff and Venditti’s writing provides the right mixture of humor and adventure that makes it a fun read.

Brandon Peterson returns to the book and does a wonderful job overall.I like his character work for the most part, although there are some issues when it comes to the fine details.  There are missing power rings and rings on the wrong hands particularly during Guy’s trip to the space bar, and Arkillo seems to have gotten all of his fingers back.  I guess one could argue that his species, like Isamot Kol’s, can regenerate body parts over time and the missing appendages have grown back.  But other than that the issue looks great.  I also have to talk about that stunning variant cover by Tyler Kirkham.  The understated titles gives his spectacular artwork plenty of cover space to shine and he delivers an absolutely gorgeous image.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #44 is another example of just how rock solid this series has been.  It’s easily the book I look forward to the most and deserves a much higher position in the sales charts than it’s getting.  That said, this one is highly entertaining, full of heart with just the right amount of humor and action.  Nine out of ten lanterns.

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