I’ve been saying for awhile that John Stewart has been in need of a character defining run that adds layers to his character while finding the right balance between his military and architect histories. After chatting with Phillip Kennedy Johnson a few months back in episode 223 of The Podcast of Oa I had a good feeling that if anyone was going to do this it was him. In putting down issue three of Green Lantern: War Journal I’m pretty confident in saying that is a seminal run for the character and the best he’s ever been written.
Varron is a great foil for John now that the former Green Lantern has been turned into one of the Radiant Dead. In a way I hope he sticks around because his smug arrogance makes him someone you want to see John go up against. After having infected John in the last issue, Varron ups the ante by trying to force John into using his abilities, hastening his own transformation. Putting Shirley Stewart in imminent danger puts John in a lose-lose situation, one that he cannot resolve on his own.
Thankfully Green Lantern Shepherd arrives and deals with the situation, introducing himself to John as he collapses and getting him and his mother to Steel’s medical facilities for care. John’s arm is in bad shape and the infection is spreading, but the arrival of Shepherd is something that takes precedence over the matters at hand (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Shepherd is less than impressed with our universe’s John Stewart, but the Green Lantern of another universe helps John stave of the seemingly inevitable transformation.
I thought back in the first issue that the voice coming from Shepherd’s ring was that universe’s Kyle Rayner, and in this issue we do find out if that’s true or not. John and the owner of that voice do share a few panels where John is made to realize that he’s going to have to make a gut-wrenching decision to abandon his mother’s side in order to save her and everyone else.
The next few pages are some of the most heart breaking pages I think I’ve ever read in over 45 years in the hobby. The pages drip with a palpable sadness and regret that anyone who’s lost a parent can instantly relate to. My own mother passed nearly 20 years ago and it was so sudden I never got to say goodbye. Shirley’s situation is absolutely horrifying to me and while I envy John just a little for at least being able to talk to his mother and say a goodbye, I am thankful that my own mother passed quickly rather than fade out of existence. I know this sounds preachy, but if you listen to anything I’ve ever said then please listen to me now and take the time out of your day to enjoy your parents as much as you can if you can.
This scene is so well written and illustrated it conveys the emotions perfectly. Montos’s creative page layout and panel design takes Johnson’s already pitch perfect script and takes it all to another level. It’s powerful and heartfelt and does for John something that the character has needed for some time. Kudos to both of you!
The issue ends with Varron back in the Amazon as he grows the army of the Radiant Dead. Unlike the familiar Black Lanterns, the Radiant Dead are not confined to human beings. The new members of the Radiant Dead include wild animals and anything that lives, creating frightening visions of how this could potentially evolve in the coming issues. It does lead to one concern I have about the scope of the threat on Earth that I mentioned last issue – that’s the idea that Earth’s superhero community will somehow turn a blind eye to the magnitude of the situation. I’m not sure how Johnson is going to deal with that, but right now I trust that he will not overlook this issue and address it in some manner.
Green Lantern: War Journal #3 is another gem of a Green Lantern book and as a fan it’s great to see. Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Montos are a fantastic creative team, and this issue is a shining example of how two talents can complement each other so well to put together something special. Nine out of ten lanterns.