The Box: Venom Lethal Protector #3, Brave & The Bold #157 & Adventures Of Superman #473

To be completely honest, this installment of The Box is a bit of a cheat. First off, I read a pair of terrible comics I literally have nothing to say about. I won’t say what they were, but they were both mid 90s Image books that did nothing for me. I don’t want these posts to be completely negative and I also want to have some fun, so those books went right into the recycle bin. I also actually specifically purchased the latter two books at a flea market, so they’re not as random as the other picks, but we’ll get back to that next week, I’m sure. Did I succeed at picking out good comics for myself to read? You’ll have to read (or scroll) on down to find out.

The one random comic from this post is Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993) written by David Micheline and drawn by Mark Bagley. Venom’s not a character I’ve ever really been into, but there was always something a little cool and dangerous about seeing these comics in the pages of Wizard or on comic stands when I was looking for the books I wanted.

This issue really has all the components you’d expect from a 90s comic starring Venom. He cracks wise while beating up on bad guys wearing a LOT of armor. There’s actually a solid story underneath all that with a guy trying to get revenge on Venom for his dead son.

Overall, it’s a fine story. I think it’s hard to take a book with so many spikes and pouches seriously these days, but that was the mode of the day. On the other hand, though, Bagley’s art doesn’t look as jagged and crazy as a lot of the popular artists of the day. He is just a damn solid, classic style artist that looks rad no matter what he’s drawing. I won’t be keeping this comic nor will I be tracking down the rest of the issues, but it was a fun read for a few minutes and now I’m ready for the next thing.

I chose this comic for one simple reason: I wanted to see how Jack Kirby’s Last Boy On Earth found his way to Gotham to team-up or tussle with Batman. Brave And The Bold #157 (1979) was written by Bob Haney with Jim Aparo artwork and unfortunately, it’s pretty boring. The story revolves around a new super powered enforcer on the scene and Batman trying to figure it out. However, since we know that Kamandi’s in the issue and doesn’t show upfor a while it’s not much of a surprise that it’s him.

The worst part though is that the scenes between Kamandi and Batman just aren’t that fun or interesting, I just kept thinking about how much cooler this issue could have been or how rad the team-up between the two of them was on the wonderful animated version of this comic from a year or two back. It also sounds like the BATB issue where Batman goes to Kamandi’s time was a lot more interesting.

I think even if I wasn’t comparing this issue to those other stories that I wanted, I still would have hoped for less Batman-talking-to-people and more Kamandi-punching-people. I’m just simple like that, I guess.

It was neat seeing Aparo draw Kamandi, though.

I grabbed this issue of Adventures Of Superman #473 from 1990) because it’s not part of the wonderful Man Of Steel trade series, it has Green Lanterns in it and that Dan Jurgens cover sure looked neat!  Written and drawn by Jurgens, the issue was great looking, but it was the kind of story I’ve read before. Basically Hal Jordan’s being held captive by a giant alien who crashed and remained underground for many years. He sens out a distress signal for Superman who winds up teaming with Guy Gardner. Unfortunately, this is also the version of Guy that really grates on me: the asshole loudmouth who never shuts up. I’m more a fan of the confident, but layered version Beau Smith wrote in Guy Gardner: Warrior.

So, while the main story felt like something else I’d read (another Superman story? something with the Fantastic Four?) I was actually more interested in what was going on back at the Daily Planet because this was right after Lois and Clark got engaged the first time. I came to Superman a few years after this when he was killed, but a lot of what was going on in issues from this time were referred to when I came on and even well after Supes returned.

While I wasn’t really ennamored with this issue, I will hold on to it. I kind of want to fill all the post Crisis Superman holes that exist between the existing trades and when I started collecting. Just thinking about that makes me a bit sleepy.

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

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.

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?

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Rebirth

Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ethan Van Sciver
Collects Green Lantern Rebirth #1-6, Wizard X
Welcome to a new semi-regular feature here on the blog called Books Of Oa which will look at various Green Lantern-based comics, starting with Geoff Johns’ run on the book. Starting with Green Lantern: Rebirth, Johns has been the main architect behind the return of not only Hal Jordan but the entire Green Lantern Corps ever since, which, as many of you know, includes a whole rainbow of newly minted lanterns running around causing trouble. I’m returning to the series along with Green Lantern Corps for a few reasons. First off, I’m curious to see what seeds were planted six years ago that are still sprouting up today. Second and most importantly I want to actually read the whole epic in order. I dug Rebirth the first time around, but didn’t really take to GL or GLC‘s early issues. I’ve since gotten all the trades up to a certain point (still need to get the Blackest Night books and some of the ones before and after) and I read the issues as they came out for a long period of time, but I’m fuzzy on a lot of the early stuff, so I figure it’s a good time to go back and re-read everything in order. I’m a big fan of the GL concept–specifically the Corps–and I think that this is one of those classic runs, one of the few long-term ones we’ve got going on in comics right now (Brubaker on Captain America is another in my opinion) and it’s always fun to go back and see how we got from point A to point F and how that will inform later points we haven’t even seen yet. Finally, I want to get a better grasp on Hal Jordan as a character. I’ve talked this over with friends and he just seems to be kind of a cocky jock, but I’ve always had the feeling I might be missing something. Maybe I’ll find it and maybe I won’t on these re-reads, but it’s something to look for.

To give some context to Rebirth, I’m going to give a brief recap of the history of Green Lantern and my history with the characters and mythos. When I was 6 or 7 I invented the Green Lantern concept while playing with the Kryptonite ring that came with Super Powers Superman only to eventually discover that I had been beaten to the punch in 1940 when Alan Scott was created in All-American Comics #16. Though he would eventually be explained away as being related to, but not a part of the Green Lantern Corps, he was, in real life, the first GL. The concept was re-envisioned in 1959 when Hal Jordan became a member of the intergalactic space cops known as the Green Lantern Corps in Showcase #22. Hal kicked around as GL for several decades until his home town Coast City was destroyed by Mongul in the wide-sweeping Reign of the Superman storyline in the mid 90s. Hal lost his cool, went on a rampage tearing through many of his fellow GLs and destroyed the Guardians along with the GL power battery–the source of the entire Corps’ power–thus wiping out the entire organization. Ganthet, the lone surviving Guardian created one last ring and gave it to young artist named Kyle Rayner who was the sole Green Lantern for years. Kyle eventually resurrected the Guardians and discovered he could make GL rings to some extent, giving one to former GL and Darkstar John Stewart. So, it was basically just Kyle kicking around for years until Johns came along and brought Hal and the Corps back. In the meantime, Hal came back a few times in big events, restarted the sun at the end of Final Night and eventually became the Spectre’s human side.

I started reading Green Lantern when Hal went crazy. I found out later that a lot of people hated that story, but it made a lot of sense to me at the time, plus I thought this younger Green Lantern was pretty damn interesting. So, I read Kyle’s entire run in the book which lead up to Rebirth. I was split when I heard the news about Hal coming back because, frankly, I didn’t care about him as a character and I thought it was cool that one of the JLA/Silver Age biggies had stayed dead for a while. On the other hand, I REALLY liked the idea of the Corps and felt like I had really missed out on some cool potential stories not having it around. I was in college when the miniseries first started coming out, so I only read it in chunks every few months when I’d get home to my pull list, so some of the details were fuzzy, but there were some very specific parts that had lodged themselves into my memory (specifically the way Johns described each GL using their power ring and Ollie using Hal’s ring).

I had a lot of fun reading this book again, which turned out to really work for the three reasons I wanted it to. Rebirth acts as the very foundation for everything that Johns has done since then. He completely revitalized a dead, though cool, concept in a way that really made it make sense. He included the very origins of how this whole green energy/willpower thing works: the main power batter basically absorbs all willpower from sentient beings who use it. Same goes for fear, hence Parallax and his bond with Sinestro which comes into play to a much greater extent in future volumes. Johns also really did his best to explain how Hal was corrupted by the Parallax entity and, as far as I’m concerned, it all works well and in a way that seems crafted to appeal to both Hal fans and Kyle fans (many of us expected him to die in this book, a kin of out with the new, in with the old idea, but I’m grateful that Kyle’s still kicking around).

In addition to laying all the ground work for the immediate future of the GL franchise at the time, Johns might have even hinted at the White Lantern idea that’s being examined in Brightest Day as we speak (I’m a little behind, so maybe this concept has been explained and I haven’t seen it yet). It’s a very brief moment, but check out what happens when Hal’s ring touches Sinestro’s when they’re throwing down: white light. Interesting.

Anyway, I think I also got a better read on Hal as a character. Yes, he is arrogant and cocky, but there’s something about him that made him become a hero instead of a villain as you might expect from someone of his ilk. Basically, that’s his dad who plays the same role as Jesse Custer’s dad did in Preacher: the father who offers his kid a way to compose himself before going off to die. In Hal’s case, it’s to show the world that he wears his dad’s jacket like a good guy should. Hopefully, I’ll get a better handle on him as a character as I read on.

Finally, you can’t talk about Rebirth without talking about Van Sciver’s art. I was completely blown away by this guy when I first read these comics, especially in the scene I mentioned above where Hal explains how each GL’s ring constructs are different (Guy’s are like a facet, Kilowog’s make a sound, John’s are designed from the inside out, Kyle’s are constantly being revised and Hal’s are simple yet practical) and Van Sciver shows exactly what he means, but he had been doing it before that too, especially in John’s case. Some of the characters come off as stiff or maybe a little too alien looking at times, but overall I appreciate the detail he puts into his pages, even if that means they can take a long time to get out. Personally, I’m sick of seeing boring panel backgrounds in modern comics. I don’t really understand why they don’t just have EVS working on graphic novels instead of monthlies. Give the guy a script that will be important in a few years (something we know Johns can do) and just let him go to town. I’m sure that’s much easier said than done, but it’s a thought.

I give Johns a mountain of credit for not just rebooting a character, but an entire franchise in a way that makes sense (comic book sense at least) and really takes various levels of continuity/readership into account. It would have been seriously easy to just pop Hal back into the GL uniform and forget about Kyle or John or Guy Gardner (another favorite character who he handles better than 90% of the writers who try tackling him, though not as good as Beau Smith in my humble opinion). By bringing the Corps back along with Hal, it seems like Johns and DC hedged their bets by offering Hal his own book and then Green Lantern Corps which would go on to be filled with all the other Lanterns you’ve come to know and love along with a whole crew of rookies who have become pretty damn important over the years. So, if Hal’s not your flavor, read GLC, basically.  Overall, I think the franchise has been well handled, though all the tie-ins and one-shots for Blackest Day seemed to just be filler and everytime I see or hear about a new event I get more excited, though they’re getting harder and harder to keep up with, especially with my lax comic-buying habits. At least I’ve got the trades to keep me busy for now. Speaking of which, I applaud DC for actually giving Rebirth the proper TPB treatment. In addition to an introduction by Brad Meltzer who also mentions other simpler ways to bring Hal back that aren’t as interesting or creative, there’s also a cover gallery and a reprinting of Johns’ Rebirth pitch which shows how well crafted of an idea this was from the beginning. Next up will be the Green Lantern Corps: Recharge miniseries and then on into the first arcs of each series and an eventual detour into the Ion series which I think I liked more than most people. It’s fun to have a project!