Monday, November 15, 2010

A Necessary Divergence: Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps Explores The Blackest Night Elsewhere In The Galaxy!

The Good: Scope, Artwork, Character work
The Bad: Somewhat obvious plot, Moments story fractures.
The Basics: As a tie-in to Blackest Night, Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps” finds the Green Lantern Corps scouring the galaxy to protect planets from black rings and dead former Lanterns risen as Black Lanterns!

For those who might not read my many, many graphic novel reviews, the Blackest Night Saga from the DC universe has been of interest to me since I first heard about it. Because there are so many elements to the Blackest Night Saga, the crossover has a scope that is impressive. It can be so convoluted that I found it useful to write a guide on how to read the Saga (click here for that!). In order to give a sense of realism to the conflict in Blackest Night, there is a whole, reasonable, tangent story that had to be told of the larger galactic conflict that came from the emergence of the Black Lantern and the black power rings. That story is told in Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps.

For those not entirely hip on their Green Lantern mythos – I am by no means an expert in this field – in the DC Universe, the galaxy is policed by ring-wielding Corps of humans and aliens whose job it is to maintain galactic order. They are the Green Lantern Corps and they execute the will of the mysterious, almost omnipotent Guardians of the Galaxy. Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps is the story of the non-Earthbound conflict that erupts during Blackest Night. At the outset of the conflict, one of the Guardians actually slaughters most of the other Guardians and uses their lifeforce to create or raise the Black Lantern Battery. Blackest Night: Green Lanterns Corps explores the interstellar attempts to thwart the power of the Black Lanterns and the Black Lantern battery!

Considering their time on Earth for Heroes day, Guy Gardener and Kyle Rayner are headed back to Oa when they encounter a cloud of Black Rings. Rayner faces off with the Black Lantern Jade, who died pretty horribly and in his attempt to fight the rising Black Lanterns, Rayner prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice. As John Stewart, in another sector, discovers the undead planet of Xanshi and there confronts his love, and Kilowog attempts to defend Oa, Rayner temporarily thwarts the Black Lanterns.

In the process, Guy Gardener gives himself over to rage, becoming a Red Lantern and tearing into the enemies of the Green Lanterns. While the Green Lantern Corps fights back the interstellar undead rising using the combined forces of the Green Lantern, Sinestro and other Ring Corps’, Kyle Rayner struggles to rescue Guy Gardener from the Black Lanterns and his own wrathful power.

The entire concept of Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps is a good one because for the concept to work , Earth (which is the subject of the rest of the Blackest Night volumes) could not be the only place affected. Because the subject of Blackest Night is inherently calling attention to Green Lantern and the Lanterns and Power Batteries, it would have been shortsighted to keep the conflict and story only on Earth. As such, Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps becomes something of a necessary evil where writer Peter J. Tomasi has to use the volume to flesh out the whole concept and it works because Tomasi finds a decent balance between the personal battles and the interstellar ones.

Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps hinges on understanding that the galaxy has just been through a war among the multispectral forces of ring-wielders. That is adequately covered through the synopsis at the beginning of the hardcover volume. What might be harder for readers to adapt to are the peripheral characters who take focus from Stewart, Rayner and Gardener. While Kilowog is interesting, other characters like the nymph-like Arisia simply distract the reader from more important conflicts. On Earth, there are plenty of characters wrestling with dead family members, so Arisia seems like she is dealing with her dead father, resurrected as a Black Lantern, for no particularly compelling reason. In other words, her character elements seem thrown in simply to tell a story that is already being told elsewhere in the Saga (most notably with Donna Troy!).

That said, the nature of the galactic conflict is pretty awesome. This is owed in large part to Patrick Gleason, who penciled Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps. Gleason has a lot to work with as many of the panels involve Lanterns of the various colors battling it out in atmospheres or outer space. The Corps’s are made up of alien lifeforms and this is not like Star Trek where everything looks vaguely human. Instead, the aliens here look distinct, alien and often horrific (in the case of many of the Red Lanterns). While some of the panels adequately capture the full chaos of war scenes as the various Lanterns take on the Black Lanterns swarming them, some are overfull and problematic. Most, however, are well-drawn and have a great sense of movement – most notably the scenes illustrating the defense of the Green Lantern Battery.

Moreover, Gleason gets the primary characters right. It is easy for a newbie like me to open up Blackest Lantern: Green Lantern Corps and tell the difference between Rayner, Gardener and Stewart at just a glance (not just because Stewart is black, either!). There are only a few frames in the entire book where Rayner looks disturbingly like Hal Jordan, but for the most part the artwork is very good and Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps does what a good graphic novel ought to in terms of combining artwork with story dialogue.

What makes the book more readable than just the big battles and the pointless character conflicts is the relationship between Rayner and Gardener that is explored in the book. The sacrifices Guy Gardener makes for Kyle Rayner and the level of commitment Rayner has to his Lanternmate is respectable and readable. The pair has a profound sense of loyalty expressed in the dialogue by Tomasi. But what Tomasi does even better is express the raw human emotions beyond the sense of service both men have. Gardener’s reaction to Rayner’s sacrifice is incredibly well-written and the fact that he turns toward the Red Lanterns is both compelling and creepy.

At the end of it, Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps is a decent addition to the Blackest Night Saga that has more of a tangential story that is important to the overall DC universe than some of the other volumes in the series. And because it is character-driven, the book holds up fairly well for new readers looking to get into the story of the Green Lantern Corps!

For other Blackest Night volumes, please check out my reviews of:
Blackest Night
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns


For other book reviews, please be sure to check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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