“Eat a wormy nut, Gardner”
With DC Comics on a two month break of sorts, the first new Green Lantern book for 2021 is part one of a two-part anthology series. Future State: Green Lantern #1 contains three stories, two of which are self-contained stories and one which spans both issues and debuts the new creative team on Green Lantern once the Grant Morrison titles wraps up in March. For those not in the know, “Future State” is another DC Comics event that shows the possible destinies of the different franchises that make up the greater DC Universe.
Kicking off this issue is “Last Lanterns” by the creative team of Geoffrey Thorne and Tom Raney. The story is a jarring start to the issue with the reader not having a frame of reference for the events that have led up to the opening moments. Based on what we’ve read outside of the issue, this story is set in 2035 and for some reason the Central Power Battery has once again gone dark, leaving Green Lanterns everywhere stranded. It’s certainly an idea that has become an overplayed trope at this point, but we’ll just have to ignore the lack of creativity here.
“Last Lanterns” focuses on a battle between Khund forces and a group led by John Stewart, featuring Salaak and G’Nort as a part of John’s group. That’s right, I said G’Nort and Salaak, perhaps the last two members of the Corps one would think of when asked to name two characters you could picture as cosmic badasses. The story itself if frenetically paced, composed of one prolonged fight scene. If this is Thorne’s opportunity to show us how he’s going to write John Stewart, it’s a poor choice on his part as he reduces John to little more that a soldier barking orders on a cosmic battlefield in what appears to be a losing battle. Sadly there’s no effort paid to show character or personality when the basic concession of Future State’s trope provides writers the chance to explore the character when they don’t have the most powerful weapon in the universe on their fingers. Sadly, John is more one dimensional than ever here.
I have to address the use of G’Nort here as well. G’Nort has never been anything more than comedy relief, coming from a planet of canine aliens who all are comedy relief. So the depiction of him here as some sort of avatar for Chewbacca is incredibly hard if not impossible to accept, from his vicious nature to his pitbull on steroids appearance. Salaak could at least hold his own, but G’Nort, the suspension of disbelief only goes so far and this pushes the limit a bit too far. And if I’m applying any critical thinking to this story the very first thing I’m asking myself is how come all of these aliens speak English when we don’t have the power ring to handle the linguistic translations? I expect Salaak to be able to carry on a conversation with various species, we’ve seen it in the past, but everyone is spouting their dialog in English like an episode of “Star Trek”.
Tom Raney’s art is hit or miss for me. He does a good job of capturing the energy of the fight scenes, but I felt that the proportions were off in a lot of places, particularly with character’s heads. His interpretation of John and Salaak are fine and shows some creativity, but his depiction of G’Nort underscores how horrible the concept of G’Nortbacca really is.
As the “lead story” this one was the weakest of the three in this issue, and it quite honestly has me more disinterested in the Thorne/Raney series that I already was. For a story full of action, it was boring and unimaginative.
“The Taking of Sector 0123” stars Jessica Cruz and is written by Ryan Cady with Sami Basai doing the pencils. While the title is a riff on “The Taking of Pelham 123”, the plot is clearly more like “Home Alone…in Space”. Here we find Jessica doing her best to be a socially distanced Green Lantern as she deals with the challenges of being the only living being in one of the Corps’ Sector Houses. I began to picture Jessica like the Green Lantern equivalent of Oracle, serving the greater good through the use of technology since she can’t stray outside the confines of her space station.
The story takes a turn and Jessica morphs into a cosmic version of Kevin McCallister, setting booby traps to protect herself when three members of the Sinestro Corps show up and decide to strip mine the station for anything useful. As we might expect, the loss of the Green Lanterns has once again motivated Sinestro to establish he Corps as the authority in the universe. Cady’s script pits Jessica against Lyssa Drak, Low, and Ugg-1 as they are searching for her once they become aware that they aren’t alone on the station.
This story is better than the Thorne/Raney, using the fact that Jessica can’t fall back on the use of her power ring to showcase her character. We know that years have passed since the rings went dry, so we also see how the years have evolved Jessica in terms of how she approaches the challenges before her. While Cady still leans on Jessica’s mental health issues you can see that she’s in a better place with her ability to function successfully despite them, making the twist ending (which I will not spoil here) all the more surprising.
Another positive is that Cady smartly uses the Sinestro Corps as a foil for Jessica, hopping over the language barriers since they still have functioning rings. I also like Basai’s artwork in this one better. Where I do find fault, and a big one, is in the idea the ring bearers were so easily overcome by Jessica’s rudimentary efforts. The Sinestro Corps had the Green Lanterns on their heels at every meeting, so to think that they would be so easily defeated by someone powerless is hard to swallow. This was as simple as turning off life support until Jessica passed out, but instead the Sinestro Corps members where dumbed down to elevate Jessica in a situation where she should have been the minimal of threats. That left me rolling my eyes throughout the story and impacted my experience with it.
The last story, “Book of Guy”, was easily the most enjoyable part of the issue for me. When I saw Ernie Altbacker was writing it I expected this was going to be a good story knowing the stellar work he did on Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Paired with Clayton Henry’s solid artwork the “Book of Guy” stands out for its focus on character and turning the loss of ring functions into a driving part of the plot. Altbacker not only addresses the speech barrier, but he deftly incorporates it as a part of the story itself.
Left alone on a world where there’s two warring factions who view Guy Gardner as a prophet from the stars, Guy is forced to learn how to communicate while also bringing peace to this little corner of the cosmos. As one might expect humor plays a large role in this story, but never at the expense of anyone. It’s pure character driven humor, playing on Guy’s tendencies and unique outlook on life. Despite the page count given the story, Altbacker’s script spans years as we check in with Guy to see how things are going, and we see the impact that Guy is having on the culture, including the establishment of a new Warriors franchise location!
There’s real charm with this story in large part due to Altbacker’s ability to tell a good story and staying true to the rules of the universe he’s writing in. Of all three stories in this anthology this is the only one in my opinion that seems like it would really happen. I was both rooting for Guy to bring peace to both groups and laughing to myself at how he’s leaving his fingerprints all over their cultures while he’s trying to help them. The punchline at the end (again, no spoilers!) was a welcome surprise which really was the cherry on the top.
Despite how much I enjoyed the “Book of Guy” it’s not enough to save Future State: Green Lantern #1. At $5.99 this book needed a strong lead story and this anthology book just doesn’t deliver one. While the Jessica Cruz story was just okay, it and Geoffrey Thorne’s first Green Lantern story aren’t enough to warrant the price tag despite the fun and entertaining Guy Gardner backup story. Five out of ten lanterns.