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‘Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corp #43’ (review)

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corp #43
“Darkstar Rising”
Written by Robert Venditti
Illustrated by Rafa Sandoval
Published by DC Comics
Released 4/25/18 / $2.99

 

Issue #43 of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is the second issue in Robert Venditti’s “Darkstar Rising” story arc.

For the last several years Venditti and DC have been slowly but steadily rebuilding the core framework of the Green Lantern space mythos, to reinstate the Corps and the Guardians as the pre-eminent Universal protectorate of the DCU.

Along the way Venditti has had fun drawing on a wide swath of DC’s intergalactic baddies, from the Sinestro Corp, to Brainiac, to the alternate-Hal Parallax, even, most recently, Krypton’s own General Zod (and son).

Now it’s the Darkstars turn.

The Controllers, the Guardians’ ancient hereditary adversaries, have returned, more fanatical than ever, and in a bid to wrest authority from the Lantern Corps they have re-forged a veritable army of their old Darkstar war suits.

Trouble is, the new Darkstar mantles have gained sentience somehow, rather brutally overthrowing their makers. Their collective, now-autonomous mission: to establish themselves as the dominant force for order in the Universe by meting out a particularly lethal code of justice.

The first step in that campaign is to find hosts for each battle-suit, and the first selected for the privilege is Tomar-tu, son of legendary Green Lantern Tomar-re. (He’s the yellow one, with the beak and head-fin.)

Tomar-tu is currently serving time in space prison for the crime of murdering a cosmic despot surrendered into his custody. In our first issue the suit appears with an offer of freedom and tremendous power, at the very moment that Tomar-tu is confessing a lack of remorse for his crimes to Hal Jordan, who just happens to be visiting his old friend’s son at the time.

Tomar-tu accepts the suit, along with its sinister-appearing bonding process, and escapes. Hal, with his knowledge of this new deadly threat, returns to the Corps to convince the Guardians to take the fight to the Controllers home-world.

This issue is the follow-up to that, but things don’t exactly go as planned. The Corps quickly find themselves outgunned and out-maneuvered, with a show of Darkstar force that makes it clear that in a show-down between their very different brands of justice, a newly formed, under-manned Green Lantern Corps may have trouble stemming the tide of a recruitment drive that threatens to make lethal force the new standard of police authority in the Universe.

To kill or not to kill is an old theme in comics, one which has received a variety of treatments, especially since the 80’s.

In keeping with Hal’s status as one of DC’s core icons, it’s not likely that we’ll see much ambiguity here. So far, Venditti has shied away from going terribly deep into any exploration of conflict in the heroic character. Hal himself has never been one for deep introspection, and now with fellow earth-born lanterns John, Guy, Kyle and the entire remaining Corp to handle, there’s not a lot of room for that anyway. Most of the tension in this book seems to be caught up in displays of power, and a good deal of posturing, two things Vendetti has made something of a hallmark for this iteration of Hal and his space-corp buddies.

There’s a rather offhand effort to test Hal’s own resolve on the issue, but aside from a pregnant pause or two – presumably to make the character more relatable to a segment of his audience that Vendetti may have good reason to believe wrestles with these issues daily themselves – there isn’t much doubt introduced.

That’s good given the importance of resolve in a ring-wielder. Neither is there any particularly impassioned defense of the value of life or the significance of restraint when you’re the one holding the biggest gun, however. Maybe that will change. For now though, it’s almost as if we’re being told the exercise isn’t necessary. We know who the good guys are – they’re the ones who just won’t kill to enforce their authority. Period. It’s not yet clear that this story-arc is meant to do more than re-enforce that concept.

Though to be fair, I’m not sure, for the purposes of rebuilding the brand, that it really needs to.

Also, to be fair, one recurring theme Vendetti has managed to address throughout his run – appropriately so – is the importance of free will and the critical significance of personal choice.

This storyline is entirely in keeping with that. With only one more story arc to go before Vendetti ends his run on the book, I suspect he’ll want to drive that point home with this one, and indeed, there’s already a lot of that language in the last two issues. Perhaps he’ll have a compelling twist or two for us in the issues ahead.

This month’s issue is illustrated by Rafa Sandoval. He’s my personal favorite of the too-frequently rotated roster of this book’s artists, if only because his vigorous drawing and eye for staging, to my mind, suits a book that is meant to be epic in its scope. It helps the script achieve a greater sense of cinematic drama, and I’m certainly in favor of that.

All in all, this is a pretty-looking issue, that serves primarily as a narrative bridge to set the stage for whatever happens next. More to come.

 

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