Alright, let’s address the giant, baseball cap-wearing elephant in the room. Green Lantern without Geoff Johns is different. Johns left such an indelible mark on the franchise that it seems almost blasphemous to hear another’s words coming out of Hal’s mouth. But you know what? Change can be good, kiddies, and with this first issue of the post-Johns era, writer Robert Venditti aims to build off what has come before while making it all his own. Expectations for the title are obviously high, and while Venditti doesn’t necessarily break new ground, his debut issue reaffirms that GL will continue to be the fast paced, action packed book we’ve come to expect.
Green Lantern #21 wastes no time getting to the action, jumping ahead to a firefight some time in the near future. An unknown assailant (and presumed new heavy) is taking the Corps to task, and it’s up to Hal and his new recruits to repel the threat. Sadly, the new trainees are a bit green (heh), and their inexperience proves costly. This fast forward jump gives an intriguing view of what’s to come for Hal and the rest of the Corps in this arc, aptly titled “Dark Days Ahead.” From there the issue returns to the present, as the Lanterns try to move on from their confrontation with the Guardians and the First Lantern. A decision by the new Guardians puts Hal into a new leadership role (despite Kyle Rayner’s protestations), and before you can say “Mine!”, Larfleeze appears, orange minions aplenty. There’s also a quick bit between Hal and fellow color cop Carol Ferris, again focusing on what an absentee boyfriend Hal is. This particular subplot has been beaten over the head with a construct hammer, so here’s hoping that their relationship won’t regress after years of development.
Venditti does a nice job balancing all these different plot points, but there is the sense that there’s just a bit too much going on. The opening sequence is exhilarating and fun, but from there Hal just hops from set piece to set piece in rapid fashion. Everything moves so quickly that it’s hard to really enjoy some of the book’s more exciting moments, and the pacing leads to some quibbles that would otherwise be minute. Larfleeze’s appearance in particular feels completely random and lacks any real reasoning other than he wants more stuff, and the last second entrants to the issue, while a nice surprise, seem to appear way too quickly considering what happened moments earlier.
Despite the nitpicks, Venditti does do a nice job of putting his own spin to the series as he shuffles the Lantern ranks. Hal has always been a leader, but more by example than by actual rank. Putting him in charge of the rookies is a fun twist, as the brash flyboy suddenly has to deal with others looking to him for guidance, not just a ring to follow. It’s also fun seeing Kilowog out of his element (though he could really use a bigger chair), and even Sciencell warden Voz joins a battle topside. Though the changes are welcome, it’s the constant that sells the book. Hal is still Hal; Venditti does a wonderful job of keeping the core personality and ideals of our favorite ring slinger intact, embodying the character with all the virtues and flaws that make him great.
Also debuting this issue is new series artist Billy Tan. Tan immediately proves a perfect fit for the epic scale of the GL universe, his panels expansive and cinematic. Though his body work is odd at times – Hal and Kyle seem particularly thick in their scenes together – Tan shines when it comes to action and spectacle. His sense of scope is great, allowing for some exciting technicolor battles. Hopefully Venditti turns up the heat in consequent issues so that Tan can really go to town. Also, I demand to see more of the catfish in the GL sweater. Alien catfish FTW!
Taking over such a well established franchise is a daunting task, and it’s one that Venditti and Tan almost manage to pull off. Though the first issue has its pacing issues and rough spots, the seeds for success are definitely there. Venditti and Tan seem to be aware that they’re under the microscope, and they aren’t shying away from the challenge. Ultimately the important thing is that Hal Jordan lives on, and the future of the series has the potential to be very bright indeed.