Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Expanding The DC Universe, Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps Awkwardly Fleshes Out The Alpha-Lanterns With Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns!

The Good: Consistently good artwork, Interesting concept, Good serialization, Generally good character development
The Bad: Does not flesh out the Brightest Day Saga all that well, Requires a lot of information not contained within the book, Continues to gut the characterization of the Guardians.
The Basics: For their part in the Brightest Day Saga, the Green Lantern Corps is granted Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns, which seems more a catchall story than a vital one.

Sometimes, my wife and I have a day out and she treats me to time reading graphic novels that I have not had the chance to. Yesterday was one such day for us and I found myself cozying up to a couple different graphic novels on my reading list from the Green Lantern Corps, mostly because they were from the Brightest Day and Blackest Night Sagas, which I have been very interested in. Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns seems to be more of a catchall than other DC Universe graphic novels I've read of late. As such, it contains the five chapter story arc from Green Lantern Corps comic books: "Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns," which were originally published in that comic book as issues 48 - 52. This beautiful new hardcover also contains the two part "Curse Of The Alpha-Lanterns," which was in issues 21 and 22 of the same book.

These two stories are all right and I appreciated them more when I began reading Rage Of The Red Lanterns. That volume opens with the tale of the creation of the Alpha-Lanterns, which seems to be a pretty important step in the whole story arc from Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns. Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns is a decent read, even if the stories are out of order; it does what I enjoy most in such things, which is it creates a sense that there is a story and this is only part of it. Unfortunately, it alludes to so much outside this volume and corrupts more what is known about the Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe that it is beginning to become more unfortunate than engaging for the overall storyline.

The idea of the Alpha-Lanterns, an Internal Affairs for the spacecop Green Lantern Corps, continues to be filled with surprises that stymie the Guardians Of The Universe. The Guardians are supposed to be omnipotent and in this volume, they are portrayed more as incompetent, especially as they recover from the Blackest Night and hurtle toward the War Of The Green Lanterns, which has some seeds sown in this volume. But what it is works more often than what it is not and this is an enjoyable and easy read for those looking for a story of interstellar intrigue.

Following the shattering events of the Blackest Night, the Green Lantern Corps is in some disarray, with members like John Stewart rebuilding the cities on Oa that were virtually destroyed. Ganthet, the rogue Guardian, announces to the other Guardians that he is renouncing his position as the Black Lantern Guardian and instead taking up the mantle of Green Lantern of Sector Zero (Oa). While this is happening, a wounded Green Lantern, Hraalkar, is drafted by the Alpha-Lanterns right from the infirmary. John Stewart is visited by the Alpha-Lantern Boodikka, who requests his presence in searching for Green Lantern Stel who went missing near his home planet of Grenda.

But once at Grenda, John Stewart finds the artificial intelligence population entirely missing. There, Boodikka turns upon him and he is captured, with the intent being that he will be made, against his will, into an Alpha-Lantern. Kyle Rayner, Soranik Natu, and Ganthet journey to Grenda after they realize that all of the Alpha-Lanterns have disappeared and they discover John Stewart's situation. Soon, the puppeteer is revealed as the Cyborg Superman, Hank Henshaw, who wants Ganthet to reverse the process that made him an artificial lifeform. With his desire to die overwhelming him, Henshaw forces Ganthet to perfect a process to restore Alpha-Lanterns to wholly organic lifeforms in order to allow him to be similarly restored and then die.

The two-part "Curse Of The Alpha-Lanterns" precedes this tale (chronologically) and finds the newly-minted Alpha-Lantern Boodikka tormenting Green Lantern Harvid. Harvid, as it turns out, has allowed the Yellow Lantern Haasp The Hunter to go free because Haasp is Harvid's brother. Emotionless, Boodikka then returns to her old stomping grounds on planet Bellatrix, where she searches for a load of missing ships. This puts her into direct conflict with Green Lantern Zale, who has taken up with the Bellatrix Bombers, a gang that Boodikka used to run with before she was made a Green Lantern!

More than simply leading into Rage Of The Red Lanterns, "Curse Of The Alpha-Lanterns" illustrates in no uncertain terms the liability that the Alpha-Lanterns might become with their apparent lack of emotion. Boodikka is almost ruthless in her execution of her duty and her refusal to negotiate with her sister, Zale, further illustrates how far she has fallen from the personality she originally possessed. Despite the title of the book, "The Curse Of The Alpha-Lanterns" would have been far more useful at the beginning of Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns because of how it explores the vulnerabilities of the Alpha-Lanterns as well as firmly establishes their personalities (or lack thereof).

This leads us to Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns, which is the event with Cyborg Superman alluded to in Brightest Day: Green Lantern that I was in the dark about. The fundamental problem here is that without knowing all about Cyborg Superman and the Guardians' Manhunters, Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns is missing an essential character aspect. In other words, reading it without the requisite history and without the Cyborg Superman knowledge, I just did not care. The conflict between Cyborg Superman and himself isn't explicit enough to make him a compelling villain. He wants to die. Why?! Recalling the comic books of my youth, the Cyborg Superman is maybe twenty years old. How does a cyborg get so sick of the universe after only twenty years?!

So, Cyborg Superman's convoluted plan to die doesn't emotionally resonate, so this leaves the reader dependent upon the Alpha-Lanterns and the fates of John Stewart and Kyle Rayner to carry the story. Stewart's peril seems surprisingly limited and when Ganthet begins his experiments upon the Alpha-Lanterns, I admired the dark tone, but did not so much care about the outcome. The death of an Alpha-Lantern because Cyborg Superman has the ability to control all mechanical lifeforms elevates the story to one that is more adult and brutal. But as Ganthet struggles to restore Alpha-Lanterns to fully organic beings, I don't so much care if he accomplishes it before he runs out of Alpha-Lanterns or not.

Moreover, with his failure, Ganthet illustrates a fault with Hank Henshaw's methods; it failing to restore the biological components of the Alpha-Lanterns kills them, why wouldn't similar failures kill Cyborg Superman? That is not sufficiently addressed within the text by writer Tony Bedard.

Oddly enough, Bedard does a decent job of bringing some real emotional resonance to Ganthet. As a Guardian, Ganthet has pretty much forgotten emotions, but when Cyborg Superman makes death immediate to him, Ganthet feels guilt and that is a decent detail. Also decent is the book's resolution, which reminds readers of the actual power of a Green Lantern and that is enough to more-than redeem the weaker portions of the book.

The artists in Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns are homogeneously good and it is clear that to help establish the Green Lantern Corps comic book series, DC Comics is pulling its a-listers with Adrian Syaf and Nelson doing the primary artwork for these two stories. All of the characters are recognizable and at no point does the book look like it was thumbnail sketches hastily thrown together into a single book.

In the anthology form, Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns features the covers and variant cover artwork from the assembled comics and it looks great on the pages. It does not, honestly, feel vital to the Brightest Day Saga, whatwith the only direct tie-in being a handful of pages illustrating a subplot in the antimatter universe. There, on Qward, people discover a White Lantern net and given that Boston Brand is the White Lantern at that point, the idea that this is vital to the story is highly arguable.

But it is enjoyable in its own right and there is the sense that this volume, too, is leading into the War Of The Green Lanterns, which promises to be huge. One can only hope, at this point, that it is worth it.

For other Brightest Day works, please check out my reviews of:
Brightest Day - Volume 1
Brightest Day - Volume 2
Brightest Day - Volume 3
Brightest Day: Green Lantern


For other graphic novel reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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