Books Of Oa: Blackest Night Black Lantern Corps Volume One

Blackest Night Black Lantern Corps Volume One (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, James Robinson & J.T.Krul, drawn by Ardian Syaf, Eddy Barrows, Allan Goldman & Ed Benes
Collects Blackest Night: Batman #1-3, Blackest Night: Superman #1-3 & Blackest Night: Titans #1-3

After putting quite a distance between re-reading the three main Blackest Night collections, I finally went back to check out the Blackest Night miniseries’ collected in the pages of this trade. The reason I skipped it back then was because, first off, I had just read a TON of Green Lantern comics and wanted a break, but I also didn’t really have fond memories of these tie-ins from when they originally came out.

I was less critical this time around, but I think a big part of that is that I got this trade in a Swap. I think there’s a big factor that comes in to play when you pay for something and how you wind up feeling about it. I’m more forgiving when I get something for free or super cheap.

Anyway, this book collects three BN minis that basically zero in on specific groups of characters as they experience the Black Lanterns using their dead loved ones against them basically instead of doing in-series tie-ins. This makes sense when you remember that Grant Morrison was doing his Batman thing, the whole New Krypton thing was happening in the many, many Superman books and, well, I have no recollection of what was going on with Titans, that book got BAD.

I don’t want to get too far into the details of the stories. Basically, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake’s parents come back in the Batman one, Superman and Supergirl’s dads return in the Superman one and pretty much every dead Titan pops up in the last one. The basic idea is the same: how do these heroes deal with the idea that their loved ones are back and wicked mean. Here’s the problem with the series’ though: they are completely unimportant to the larger story and wind up all being, essentially, the same story. Hero’s doing their thing, encounters a Black Lantern, wants to save deceased loved on, realizes they can’t and eventually comes up with some last ditch way of getting rid of them. It would have been fantastic if the methods used in these books wound up being important in the main series but as far as I remember that wasn’t the case.

I understand that you can’t ignore what Superman or Batman were doing during a gigantic event like this, but the real question I have — and it’s a bad one to be left with after reading a trades — is, what’s the point? For some, it’s enough to just see how those characters responded given the situation and from a very specific period of time for each of them. But, from a larger story point of view, there really is no need for any of these three miniseries’ to exist, unless you just want to see Donna Troy feel bad. Speaking of which, I know Krul came under fire for knocking off Red Arrow’s daughter, but the way he throws Donna Troy’s dead husband and baby at her is also pretty cruel. No thanks.

Books Of Oa: Rage Of The Red Lanterns & Agent Orange

GREEN LANTERN: RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Shane Davis & Ivan Reis
Collects Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns #1 & Green Lantern #36-38
Okay, I know I said in my reviews of the Alpha Lanterns story line (which is also collected in this book) and the Secret Origins trade that I don’t like when comics are split up and not collected in actual order, but I’ve got to say that this one works out pretty well. As I mentioned in the Secret Origins review, that entire story takes place in the past with absolutely no mention of what’s going on in the present, so jumping from the end of issue #28–which turned Lost Lantern Laira into a Red Lantern–right to the poorly themed Final Crisis one-shot (which only briefly mentions what’s going on on Earth with the death of a god) and then into #36 because that’s basically the chronological story (in the DCU, not the real world). That’s a lot of parentheticals.

Anyway, the actual Rage Of The Red Lanterns story actually kicks off with the one-shot which is still rad, even if it probably never needed to be tied into Final Crisis. For whatever it’s worth, I love Final Crisis, but think it was a great story by one guy that got turned into an event, though it probably shouldn’t have been. So, FC: ROTRL turns out to be a kind of origin story for Atrocitus, the head of the Red Lanterns and denizen of Ysmault, the planet visited by Abin Sur in “Tyger” (see the above link). We learn that Atrocitus’ entire sector died thanks to something the Guardians did (we’ll find out more about this later), Sinestro is being escorted by a group of GLs to his home planet of Korugar for execution, Hal visits Earth and chats with Cowgirl, Ash finds the Anti-Monitor’s helm, the Controllers make an appearance a, Dex-Star makes his first (I think) and we get our first look of a Blue Lantern. It’s a LOT going on in one issue. The rest of the story has the Red Lanterns keeping Sinestro prisoner on Ysmault, Hal visiting Odym the base planet of Ganthet and Sayd’s Blue Lanterns and there’s a mini war of the light as Hal tries to save Sinestro from the Red Lanterns while the Sinestro Corps members have the exact idea in mind. Hal finds himself sporting the red ring after Sinestro kills Laira which only goes away when Saint Walker places a blue ring on his finger as well.

It’s kind of shocking how much is crammed into four issues. I say that as a compliment. A lot of comics feel too padded and lack action, but there’s so much world-building and a bevy of poignant character moments, that, had I bought these issues as they came out in monthlies, I think I’d be pretty happy with my purchase. The problem with reading comics that way–as I did at Wizard when the issues were originally coming out–is that it’s really difficult to absorb all that stuff. GL comics were a hot commodity while I was there, so you had to kind of burn through the issue so you could pass it off to whoever had dibs next. I think that’s why a lot of my memories of these comics are fuzzy and why I’m having so much fun reading these issues again altogether now.

GREEN LANTERN: AGENT ORANGE (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Philip Tan, Eddy Barrows, Ivan Reis, Rafael Albuquerque & Doug Mahnke
Collects Green Lantern #38-42, Blackest Night #0
Most of the action in Agent Orange takes place on a planet called Okaara which not only houses the orange light and it’s greedy bearer Larfleeze, but also was the place that Fatality trained to become the great warrior who traveled through space to kill Green Lanterns. I failed to mention in the Rage review that the Star Sapphire’s had rehabilitated her. That comes into play here as she confronts John Stewart and talks to him about love. It’s great to see John actually get a bit of the spotlight after being widely neglected since Rebirth. Meanwhile, Hal continues on his galactic tour that keeps putting new rings on his fingers. He’s got the blue one at the beginning of the story. Since the blue energy feeds off of hope (and also can’t do much but fly without a Green Lantern in close proximity), Hal needs to figure out what he actually hopes for in life to get it off his hand. It’s a pretty interesting mystery that gets pretty close to “JUST TELL ME ALREADY” territory, but didn’t quite get there for me. I was always interested, then something cool would happen and I would focus on that, then the question about hope would pop up and I’d be reminded of it again. Fun stuff.

Also fun and interesting is the big war between Green and Orange on the surface of the planet while Larfleeze tells Hal that he accidentally stole Parallax from someone which put him and his gang on the Guardians’ radar. In an attempt to escape, they wound up on Okaara where Larfleeze and one of his boys found the orange lantern. The Guardians said he could keep the lantern if he stayed in his sector as long as he never left. Larfleeze sees the Guardians as having broken the pact which brings things closer to the Blackest Night. Oh, at the very end, we see Ash and Saarek finally discovering the Black Lantern. CRAZY!

In addition to the action packed story, the collection also includes some of Philip Tan’s Orange Lantern character sketches–I didn’t remember liking his art very much the first time around, but this time around I really liked the textured elements it had–as well as a one of those Origins & Omens back-ups DC made everyone do at the time, the origin of Orange Lantern Glomulus and Secret Files-like run downs of all the Lanterns. I really appreciate them putting the extra effort into a book that felt thin, but still had five packed issues.

These being the last two trades leading up to Blackest Night, I figured it’d be a good place to talk about a few things that have been on my mind. First off, and this is something that’s always bothered me, I don’t understand how Hal Jordan can be in the Air Force and NEVER BE ON EARTH. I know some higher ups know his secret identity, but the military is all about accountability and it seems counter-intuitive to have someone as part of that organization that can’t be around. Maybe it’s that I don’t understand the Air Force as much as, say, the Army, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. Why he’s not still just a test pilot, I don’t know.

A few more quick complaints. For as much as Johns and company have paid attention to past Green Lantern continuity from the Alan Moore short stories to Kyle Rayner’s adventures, it confuses me that he has the Guardians talking like they’ve been around for millennia when they had actually been killed and either resurrected or recreated by Kyle Rayner. I don’t perfectly remember how they explained that back then, but it gives me a geeky twinge every time Scar says she’s been in the universe forever. It also seems like the Guardians are just making stupid decisions and are far too susceptible to Scar’s machinations. This is more going on in Green Lantern Corps, but it bugs me. I get that they’re anti-emotion, but them being so easily swayed seems a little ridic.

Okay, that’s all the complaints. I really dig the book otherwise and a lot of these are quibbles to be honest. I absolutely love how much thought Johns and his peeps have put into the different lanterns. All of this makes so much sense (aside from willpower being an emotion, or the fulcrum of the emotional spectrum in actuality). Of course the greed-based Lantern won’t let any of the rings go! Of course rage literally consumes the bearer! Of course love can be used as an excuse, well, anything! It’s all great in my book.

One of the things I wanted to really examine with this re-read project was to get an idea of Hal Jordan as a character. I think I’ve got that, but it more comes from how he interacts with his own corps and members of the others and much less from the Earth-bound stuff they seemed more interested in in the beginning of the book. Let’s be straight, it doesn’t make sense for a space cop to hang out too much on Earth. I get that Earth is important and it makes sense for Hal to stop home every now and then, but with Carol about to become Star Sapphire again, why not just let them be together flying around space and kicking ass? That’s what I’d do with the character and leave his Earth-based adventures up to the JLA. But hey, who cares what I say?