Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wrestling With Consequences, Setting Up The Next Chapter: Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War!

The Good: Good character development, Decent artwork, Engaging story development
The Bad: Incomplete story, Somewhat predictable
The Basics: Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War turns the focus on John Stewart and Guy Gardner as they are manipulated as part of the Guardians’ machinations to bring about the rise of the Third Army!

As I finally have a little more time to read, I have been catching up on the various graphic novel series’ that I enjoy. While I have generally enjoyed Green Lantern, the companion book, Green Lantern Corps tends to be undervalued and underrated. Perhaps it is because the protagonists in Green Lantern Corps are John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and the non-human members of the Green Lantern Corps that the title is treated as the ugly stepsister of the DC Universe. The truth is, I like the nonhuman Green Lanterns because they afford the writers decent opportunities to explore alien planets and create different dynamics that involve tensions that can be written about easily because they are not taboo (it’s easy to make religious and political allegories when the characters are from different worlds and their issues are at least given the appearance of being something other than what educated readers will recognize them as). As for Guy Gardner, he was an obnoxious Green Lantern created during a phase when Lobo was popular and John Stewart always bore the burden of being one of the replacements for Hal Jordan; the initial premises of the characters turned off more readers than the characters they have developed into.

Still, with time enough to read on my breaks, I happily picked up Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War, which is Volume 2 of DC’s “New 52” line for their (somewhat awkward) continuation of Green Lantern Corps. I write “somewhat awkward” because the Green Lantern section of the DC Universe includes the most references to pre-New 52 reboot DC Universe. So, as the Green Lantern Corps’s story has continued despite the rest of the universe getting revamped (including, oddly enough, new meetings between Batman and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern for the first time), it has actually become one of the stories I enjoy more if for no other reason than I was enjoying the direction of the Green Lantern Corps going into Blackest Night and Brightest Day. Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War picks up where Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome (reviewed here!) left off and it acts, in part, as a prologue to and continuation of Rise Of The Third Army (reviewed here!). As the Green Lantern Saga is heavily serialized, without reading Fearsome or knowing anything about the plotline involving the Third Army, Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War loses some of its punch. The magnitude of some of the events in Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War are diminished.

In the wake of John Stewart killing Green Lantern Kirrt Kallak while both were being tortured for information by a hostile alien force in order to save the Green Lantern Corps and possibly the entire universe, Stewart and Gardner are part of a team to bury the Yellow Lantern power battery on OA. Gardner, pissed about the tactical ramifications of burying the power source that feeds off fear on OA knocks the massive battery on its side and when he is called in front of the Guardians, he assumes it is to be reprimanded. Instead, he is given a promotion to the new, unique, rank of Green Lantern Sentinel and retasked to act directly in concert with the Guardians themselves. At the same time, the Alpha Lanterns receive a transmission of Stewart actually killing Kirrt Kallak (without the events that preceded or followed it) and they arrest Stewart.

John Stewart’s arrest sparks a loud, angry debate in the Corps and divides the Green Lanterns between those who believe Stewart should die for his crime and those who believe that the Alpha Lanterns have vastly overstepped their jurisdiction. Guy Gardner, not content to sit on the sidelines when the Guardians tell him to lay off the Alpha Lanterns, mounts a force of Green Lanterns to stage a jailbreak for Stewart. The resulting conflict between the Green Lanterns and the Alpha Lanterns leads Alpha Lantern Varix to make a sacrifice that sees the end of the elite group of Internal Affairs Lanterns. After an interlude with Guy Gardner’s backstory, the Guardians continue their plan to replace the Green Lantern Corps with the Third Army by dispatching John Stewart to the farthest reaches of the galaxy in search of Mogo (who might be reforming) and sending Guy Gardner on a task which will divide his loyalties and attention.

Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War develops the characters of Guy Gardner and John Stewart well and Peter J. Tomasi deserves quite a lot of credit for that. Tomasi takes what could be a very plot-based story and makes it feel very character-driven. Gardner, Stewart, the Green Lantern Corps and Gardner’s adversary Xar are each working as pawns of the Guardians. But instead of a conspiracy theory story, the machinations of the Guardians are executed in the background of the book. That makes the motivations of the Alpha Lanterns, Guy Gardner and John Stewart stand up independent of the conspiracy the Guardians are executing. The Alpha Lanterns have jurisdiction over judging Stewart’s crime, but they lack a clear mandate/set of guidelines. The conflict is organic in Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War and there is a decent added complication with John Stewart’s unwillingness to fight his fellow Lanterns or the will of the Guardians.

Moreover, the artwork in Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War is exceptionally good. All of the characters are recognizable and the vividness of the coloring in the book is wonderful. Bright coloring is pretty much essential for a Green Lantern book and Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War possesses that. The characters are so well-defined and clear that when Fatality makes an appearance late in the volume, she is instantly recognizable despite having been absent from the Green Lantern narrative for quite some time.

Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War does well what so many graphic novels fail to do; it continues the story that precedes it and foreshadows the elements of the next chapter while still telling a complete story of its own. While the flashback story of Guy Gardner’s origins as a Green Lantern might be redundant to some, it was actually the first story I read that had it. That divergence sets up the significance of Xar’s return and use by the Guardians and it helps illustrate the magnitude of Gardner’s actions in the final chapter of the book.

In the end, Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War is a good volume that does much of what one hopes for in a graphic novel and it is enough to convince readers that the Green Lantern Corps is still a vital part of the DC Universe!

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 movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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