REVIEW: Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #47



In Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #47, Robert Venditti joins with Arttist Fernando Pasarin to finally get down to the climax of the ‘Darkstars Rising’ arc. Spoilers ahead!

“Rising” has so far been a deliberately all-over-the-place storyline which while off-putting has also featured all of the hallmarks of Venditti’s great run so far. Venditti has excelled as “pop” storyteller. He’s had grand, sweeping stories that still manage to feature fun bits of characterization in every issue. High concept and self contained while narratively structured around his characters. Perfect blockbuster fare.
This issue continues the unconventional way this arc has played out. Instead of directly dealing with the matter at hand, our dudes have instead has gone on divergent roads trips to recruit villains previously featured in his run. Indeed it’s fairly obvious that Venditti is running through his “greatest hits” as his time in this corner of the DC universe comes to a close. And while it is pretty inorganic, the content of the story is just that entertaining that I don’t even care. Sure there’s this nagging feeling that maybe our heroes could be doing more about the quasi-cyborg facists rampaging across the galaxy killing at will. And you can give yourself a scab scratching your head wondering why they don’t just call some other superheroes. But the Hector Hammond stuff is a hoot! John Stewart’s plans are working for once! Space Cabbie!
In this issue, we seem to pretty much wrap up all the recruitment stuff in ways that are mostly satisfying. Stewart’s decision last issue to bait Zod into massacring friends of his makes more sense now that we know his plan actually involved getting Kryptonian technology (which I guess Superman doesn’t have?). It’s a little deus ex machina and obviously just Venditti trying to get Zod back in the game. But you understand why. Everyone loves Zod! And after what’s been frankly a series of near disasters of Corps leadership by Stewart the story’s finally got him coming across like he’s a few steps ahead (with Kilowog heavy handedly foreshadowing more to come by issues end).

The strongest part of the issue was Hal’s story. Under Venditti Hal’s character has become more streamlined and I’ve found him a lot easier to root for. The idea that Hal has suddenly had DEEP THOUGHTS about murder as a solution felt a little tacked on this run; Venditti’s story has mentioned it in passing really and Hal is so often singled-minded it hasn’t really clicked for me. At the same time, it reminds us that (though the canon is a bit ambiguous) Hal has had these thoughts before and acting on them – becoming Parallax – has fueled pretty much every Hal story for the last few decades. So it’s odd that it hasn’t come up all that much (or at all). But perhaps that’s wise. Venditti comes up with a pretty quick way for Hal to confront those feelings and seemingly move on for good, all within the confines of the story he’s told over his last nearly hundred issues. It seems a little offhanded how quickly it’s resolved but that’s been fitting with Venditti’s Hal. He’s sorta confronted all sorts of “big issues” in this run. Like legacy, morality, even his own death. But mostly he’s literally just flown through them. But with the energy and fun Venditti’s brought to the character it’s been a feature not a bug. The clever twist – taking a potentially disastrous (and sorta hackneyed) supervillain mind control story and making it a sort of twisted therapy actually helps. Venditti’s greatest strength as a writer of these space epics has been his ability to come up with just the right details or switcharoo to make something potentially stale really sing. It’s the stuff we love packaged in just the right way to make us remember why we love it in the first place.

Kyle’s journey this issue is fun but the most obviously padded. While other characters go through exitenstial crisis (or at least beat up Superman baddies) our man Kyle has just been the straight man in a half baked series of low stakes, obvious vignettes. Of course Orion frees him and of course there’s a chase and of course Space Cabbie frets over his ride. Also here Kyle is suffering from what he’s had to endure from so many writers over the years but Venditti has mostly avoided; his character being treated as if he’s the weakest thing in any story he’s in. Forced to be a straight man having things happen TO him instead of because OF him. Venditti has largely avoided this but it seems the desire to just use all the goodies overcame him here. Kyle is a good character with a deep bench and Venditti himself has proven as much. But again I don’t really mind. It’s fun and it’s short enough and it’s packed full of good, silly crap. That said, seriously doing a suicide if someone says “old gal” one more time.
For me the weakest part of the issue was Guy Gardner back on the hamster wheel. We’ve seen this all before haven’t we? To be fair, I’ve long disliked the character but he’s actually been a part of some of my favorite runs of GL ever. He’s deliberately obnoxious in all the ways I don’t like and Venditti has got that spot on. I’ve appreciated the flavor and every good ensemble book has that one loud guy so I was able to overlook mostly and even appreciate him once in a while. There’s no denying though that this issue and Guy’s “arc” within this storyline is a massive retread and features Guy learning the same lesson he’s already learned a hundred times already. Worse, it’s the same sort of lesson every tough guy cliche that Guy is learns in every story. And just continuity-wise, this is at least the 3rd or 4th murderous GL offshoot group that’s recruited him because of his terrible, awful morality. This not only makes it absurd that he gets to keep his ring but it also distresses me personally. Here we just see him run through some grief with his dad, not really resolve it, and have yet another friend talk him down from the edge.
The idea that it’s Arkillo is novel but also pretty predictable. Not to backseat write, but it would have been more interesting if Guy’s mini-arc expanded his being a Darkstar past a single issue and had Arkillo’s appearance be a surprise. It seems even more appropriate for them to have gone down that route considering the baddie casually mentions in this issue that he’s on the straight and narrow which, if you have read anything else with the character, is quite a relief considering how friendly him and Guy are now. Ultimately it’s probably just an attempt to do a full circle callback of sorts to the first tussle between these two characters. At the time it seemed like Venditti was very interested in making that a classic in the running and so it makes sense he’d want to go back. He’s a good egg, let him have his cake.
The one real saving grace is that this story features the only narrative point to show rather than tell just WHY what the Darkstars are doing is wrong. It’s all well and good to say how wrong the death penalty is but without a ‘why’ it’s not a story. While a bit of a stretch that the Darkstars would sanction Guy killing his father (considering who else they’ve gone after), we needed this story element to show the value of rehabilitation.
Venditti seems to want to say that the reason killing our enemies is wrong because it’s against the idea of justice and that people can change. We see this all over his run, actually. Soranik and Arkillo are examples of characters we see make moral changes and demonstrate the valuable profession of morality. This arc features the heroes teaming with villains at various stages of redemption or alliance. It’s all there.
But Guy’s father struggling in front of a bar brings it all home. It’s not easy, it’s not a zero sum game, but it’s doable and it’s worth it. Maybe we don’t have a lot of time for it in these space operas but it’s a bit of a shame the theme gets lost in the merry-go-round of this arc. Especially when, and not to bring up the canon again, there have been loads of stories where the GLs confronted execution as a concept – and some featuring these characters in our modern era. Why not touch on that? Kyle Rayner argued against it and stood helplessly while the Guardians killed his rogues gallery because their prison was too full. Half the background GL extras poured energy into Sinestro to kill him after a whole trial about it. Guy Gardner used captured prisoners as unwilling suicide bombers! John Stewart killed a fellow GL with his bare hands to protect security codes! Maybe it doesn’t help a story to stop and hit all these bits but considering how continuity and reference heavy the New 52/Rebirth GL has been – and the nature of this being a sort of finale featuring these themes – it’s kind of a shame to leave it out.
Having said all that, Venditti can’t help but write an cracking comic. Even with some elements getting shorted, there are things in his run that have been as enjoyable as anything else with the Green Lantern name on it. He’s got a place as one of the best GL writers to helm the series, and the book has been a standout amongst the tempestuous “new new” DC. I’m sad to see him go but excited for him to bring it home. Looking at his track record I think we’re in for a treat over the next few issues.
As for the art: Fernando Pasarin kills it here. His hyper detailed work is definitely one of those “see it to believe it” things. He’s got an overkill of detail and I mean that in the best way possible. There are times where his line work is such that the details and ink work don’t readily distinguish the figures from the background. But unlike other detail oriented artists, Pasarin knows how to direct tone and convey action in a way where the impact hits you like a big green boxing glove. And Oclair Albert compliments the work to such an extent that even tossaway images are at times stunning. I mean I’m sitting here just agape at how nice Hector Hammond’s big ass face looks.
This issue has cleverly timed bits of writing to give maximum narrative impact and Pasarin kills it every time. The reveal of Hal’s cave is majestic but subtle; the background being the overwhelming part of the image but there being almost a grace in the small isolation of his still standing construct. And with minimal space the final pages convey the suspense of the moment and the terrifying coldness of the Darkstars as they enter their endgame. The last image is pitch perfect and considering the derivations the story has gotten into the last few issues does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of pulling us right into the main conflict. And also Mogo looks fucking dope.
Pasarin has been one of a few unsung heroes at DC, and he’s easily one of the best of many artists working on GL books today. He’s criminally overlooked. Especially compared to the star artist in rotation Van Sciver who has fun designs but his sense of perspective and space is as warped as his worldview. Pasarin needs to get a big gig. With the right inker his name should be on one of those big flashy crossovers we all waste our paychecks on; maybe then we’d finally get a classic.
This issue has two covers I’ve seen (in modern comics how can we be sure how many there are), one by Barry Kitson and the other by Tyler Kirkham. I’m a fan of the former and in the past been a critic of the latter. In this instance, Kitson’s is fun as a deliberate throwback and as always has appealing structure and is pleasant to look at. However I think they should have leaned into the gimmick more as the overall effect is a bit halfbaked . Kirkham has actually been putting out some pretty cool covers the last little while on this book. Typically I just don’t like his style (it’s very much of a studio that I’ve never been a fan of) but the level of detail and laser focus on creating non-issue specific but iconic imagery is really paying off. The perspective seems a little off on this cover but it’s pretty fucking classy and feels like you get your money’s worth.
Overall the issue, and the arc in general, both swims and sinks due to Venditti’s atypical storytelling. And as usual he ends the issue with just the right oomph to make me want the next one. Out of all the serialized superhero books (and its biweekly!) on the stands Hal & the GL has been the most enjoyable and I’m legit bummed that it’s ending. Get it while it’s hot.


Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #47 earns a 3.5/5

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