Saturday, July 28, 2012

Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green Showcases Two Adventures Of Guy Gardner!

The Good: Two good adventures, Interesting character mix, Interesting sense of voice in the first half of the book.
The Bad: No real character development, Feels like a lull between more important acts, Inconsistent artwork
The Basics: As the Green Lantern Corps is rebuilt, Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green tells two Guy Gardner stories that flesh out some of the newer members of the Corps.

The more stories I read of Guy Gardner during the rebirth of the Green Lantern Corps, the more I like him. Kyle Rayner becomes something of a nonentity and John Stewart disappears from the Green Lantern narrative until a plot-convenient moment. But Guy Gardner is consistently doing things in the DC Universe and I actually like that. He has been transformed from an obnoxious, monolithic character into one who is fun to read and who actually makes sense as an Honor Guard Lantern. So, when I finally got in Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green, I was – if anything – biased in favor of it. Unfortunately, it is stiflingly average.

Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green comes at a time in the Green Lantern narrative when Hal Jordan has been resurrected and is on Earth. So, Guy Gardner has left Earth to go train new Green Lantern recruits in the new, better-than-before Green Lantern Corps. He is an awkward leader, but one whose adventures tend to get him into trouble when he is off Oa, in between training the new recruits. Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green introduces more elements to the Corps that are intriguing and some of the new characters work so well that I found myself wishing that they had been in other parts of the narrative!

The trade paperback anthology Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green is two stories in one book. The first story is “The Dark Side Of Green,” while the rest of the book is dominated by a second arc. “The Dark Side Of Green” is a three-part adventure that teams Guy Gardner up with new Lantern recruit R’amay Holl, a butterfly-like alien woman. The pair is sent with a message from the Guardians to Corona Seven, a frozen wasteland world on the edge of the known universe. There, they find Daggle, a shape-changer who has an allegiance to the Corps that is not made immediately clear. The mission from Oa, however, is exceptionally clear: Daggle, R’amay, and Guy Gardner must stop Dominator scientists from creating a new, more deadly race of Dominators that can threaten Earth once again. Mutating through the use of a powerful asteroid, a new Dominator leader plans to finish off the galaxy, starting with Earth!

There is actually quite a bit to like about “The Dark Side Of Green,” not the least of which is the way R’amay Holls speaks. She uses-speaks with language that frequently reflects-inflects the multiple layers of meaning she wishes-needs to convey at any given time-moment. It does not take long to realize what writer Keith Champagne is doing with the dialect and it works incredibly well to create a new, distinctive character. Moreover, the moments R’amay’s word choice contradicts itself, it illustrates well how conflicted moments can be and that is a nice touch.

The mission utilizes some pretty cool conceits. Because the three officers are going undercover, they cannot use their Rings. So, Daggle provides them with essentially a pill that gives them Green Lantern powers for a few days at a time, without their rings. This leads to some very cool character design elements that make this part of the story look and feel very fresh. Shrouded as they are, the trio gets into more dangerous situations, including Guy Gardner having his mind violated by a blind, mutated, telepathic Khund.

What character development there is in Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green comes exclusively within this first story. First, R’amay Holl is hardly as na├»ve and powerless as she might initially appear. She becomes such an interesting and vital character that it actually upset me that she has not popped up in any subsequent storylines. She and Guy Gardner made an interesting team. Guy Gardner, whose heart is pretty much broken from the death of Ice (though at this point, she may have already been resurrected and just asking him for time to get her bearings again), is still something of a pig (checking out R’amay Holl while they are flying through hyperspace), but he seems to develop a genuine emotional bond with her over the course of the mission and that makes the whole adventure have a more realistic and compelling quality than yet another alien who wants to destroy the Earth.

“The Dark Side Of Green” would probably have meant quite a bit more to me had I read any prior work in the DC Universe that involved Dominators. As it was, there was nothing in the story that was incomprehensible, it just didn’t seem like any more of a threat than usual.

The latter (slightly more than) half of Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green is a four-part story that brings together some disparate elements and storylines in the Green Lantern Corps. Starting with Salaak busting Guy Gardner for another year, Gardner is sent to assist two rookies in reassembling the multiplanet nexus Clustral. While Soranik Natu heals people on Korugar and works to overcome the prejudice against the Green Lantern Corps there, Vath and Isamot Kol visit Mogo. There, Vath hopes Isamot will get over his wife’s infidelity. But when the reptile encounters Green Man and is weirded out by him, he refuses to enter Mogo’s forest for healing. Kilowog, however, does not make the same choice. Frustrated by bickering between Soranik and her new partner, Princess Iolande, he visits Mogo and enters the forest.

There, Kilowog is infected by a fungus that turns him against the Corps. When Guy Gardner is accused of killing the two Lanterns he is annoyed at given complications at Clustral, Kilowog becomes furious at the due process he is given. With Soranik’s help, Isamot, Vath, and Guy Gardner journey to Mogo to find out what has gone wrong there . . . and to stop Kilowog from harming any of them in the process!

The second story in Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green has a distinct lack of focus. The portion of the story that focuses on Guy Gardner seems all over the place until the tie to Mogo is made. The idea that Gardner might be accused of something horrible seems unfortunately familiar. However, at this point in his character arc, there is not likely to be any reader who actually believes that Gardner is a murderer, so it pretty much guts the character aspect of the story.

Like many Green Lantern Corps books, Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green tries to service too many characters in the latter half. Vath and Isamot have pretty much already resolved their inherent issues as a Rannian and a Thanagarian. Soranik Natu, who has one of the longer character arcs, fits well with Princess Iolande and Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green marks the beginning of their partnership. But Iolande, especially, has her own motivations and character complications that make it harder to buy when she just joins a team-up story. For a change, realism gets in the way of the story being told. By contrast, when Iolande and Soranik have to stop the Children of the White Lobe, that story is engaging. But, it does not contribute to the larger Mogo-related story; it’s a big universe with a lot going on.

This arc in Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green is characterized by mediocre artwork. In fact, as the story opens, I swear the artwork takes on the form of Muppet Babies as Salaak and Soranik look like underdeveloped, childlike versions of themselves! The artwork is generally simpler in the second story and that makes the quality of the first story stand out.

The artwork is not enough to sink Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green, but between the inconsistent artwork and the very predictable plot structure of the second story (and the lack of real character development there), Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side Of Green is much more average than extraordinary.

For other Green Lantern Corps books, be sure to check out my reviews of:
To Be A Lantern
The Sinestro Corps War Volume 1
Tales Of The Sinestro Corps
The Sinestro Corps War Volume 2
Ring Quest
Sins Of The Star Sapphire
Emerald Eclipse
Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps
Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps
Revolt Of The Alpha Lanterns


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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