Green Lantern: War Journal #4 puts John Stewart through a character defining trial as he fights for his very existence against the Radiant Dead infection spreading through his body and soul. Before Phillip Kennedy Johnson puts John through the ringer, he pauses for a moment to let us see just what kind of leader the United Planets has in their leader, Lord Premier Thaaros. Thaaros is the very picture of a disgusting politician, putting personal gain and image over the greater good.
Like John Stewart, Thaaros is unimpressed with Varron, and as the leader of the United Planets (UP) finds out that Varron has gone missing after violating the quarantine of Sector 2814, he ditches any semblance of civic duty to issue the order to send a hand picked group of Green Lanterns to send to Earth to investigate. Considering the ring energy charged throwdown between Hal Jordan and Sinestro is Green Lantern #6 the UP are going to have their hand full of dealing with their most formidable exiled ring bearers, provided John Stewart survives the plague of the Radiant Dead coursing through his veins. The scene accomplishes a few things, one being a peek at some of the politics in the UP and the other setting the stage for events that will no doubt unfold further on down the line.
The scene shifts to John Stewart, Shepherd, and Kyle Rayner as they try to deal with the plague of the Radiant Dead from within, with the three on a rather metaphysical “soul trek”. As John and Shepherd battle the metaphysical manifestations of the infection, John imparts some wisdom to Shepherd about the overreliance on a power ring. It showcases one of John’s defining traits in his style of leadership, and allows Shepherd to see glimpses of the version of John that he’s more accustomed to. It’s a nice scene and provides some good moments of characterization.
Unfortunately the “soul trek” only slows the oncoming infection, forcing Shepherd and John to visit Steelworks with Varron’s Green Lantern ring in hopes of using it to stem the rising tide. The rest of the issue is John battling the infection and gaining control over Varron’s ring, which has be altered by the former Green Lantern’s own journey of becoming one of the Radiant Dead. Seeing John overcome the infection and becoming the master of the unique ring is a trial that will help greater define John and does a great job of showing why John is one of the greatest Green Lanterns. When John comes out of the other side of his trials he’s seemingly overcome the Radiant Dead, equipped with a new uniform and a ring that will help them hunt down their adversaries.
One detail of John’s journey involved interacting with the Radiant Dead in another plane of existence, in particular the presence of the Darkstars symbol found in the side of a giant rock. We’ve seen the same symbol on the Revenant Queen’s ring, so while it’s not surprising it is perhaps a clue that their a greater link between their universe’s Darkstars and the terrible darkness connected with the Radiant Dead. I appreciate the forethought on Johnson’s part in crafting a new mythology that builds on the familiar, but adds something more to it.
Visually this issue is a bit of a downgrade from the previous three issues. I don’t know if it’s the inking or coloring, but the art looks a little muddier and lacking in detail. There are also a few places, and even on the cover, where the Green Lantern logo is not oriented correctly on the power ring. It might be a little detail to some, but for me when something as essential to Green Lantern as their power ring isn’t drawn wrong it’s a sign of a lack of focus or being rushed and not paying attention to detail. This issue had to pass in front of several sets of eyes and yet no one caught it? To me it’s like giving a pass to drawing the Batsignal with the silhouette of a spider instead of a bat and thinking that it’s okay.
John’s new uniform is like an amalgam of John’s traditional uniform and Shepherd’s, which makes sense. I’m a little ambivalent about it since we’ve only seen a little bit of it, however count me as not a fan of the thigh high look. I’m not sure if this look will stick around long, but for now it’ll do the job.
Green Lantern: War Journal #4 is a good issue, with a bit of a stumble in the art department. John Stewart faces a threat from within and emerges triumphant, ready to go on the offensive against the threat of the Revenant Queen and her minions. Eight out of ten lanterns.