Monday, September 29, 2003

Green Lantern #169 - A Review

Written by: Benjamin Raab
Penciled by: Jamal Igle
Inked by: John Dell
Colored by: Moose Baumann
Lettered by: Kurt Hathaway
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

This book is filled with something of a sense of futility. After one more issue, Ben Raab will end his run on this title and Ron Marz, who created Kyle Rayner, will return to do a brief run on the book which will bring Kyle back from Deep Space and return him to Earth to find how things have changed in his absence. This news has been greeted with much joy by Marz’s fans who have argued that the book has suffered in his absence and by Marz detractors (including the inafamous HEAT) who will be glad to have him to kick around once more.

This all distracts from the fact that as everyone waits for the return of the Marz, Raab has done quite a lot to restore that which HEAT complained of the absence of. There is now a Corps, of sorts, though they lack rings at the moment. Kilowog, a fan favorite GL, who gave his life trying to stop Hal Jordan during his time of madness, has been restored to life. And in these last few issues, he has restored the epic “space-opera” storylines for which Green Lantern was famous, which were for the most part neglected during the Marz run on the book. More, he has restored a classic Green Lantern enemy, bringing The Qwardians race back into active duty alongside his own creation: The criminal syndicate known as The Black Circle.

Raab develops all these plots of his own even as he expands and even closes off those plots that were left for him to solve in the wake of Judd Winick’s departure from the title.

It hit me this month about how much Benjamin Raab must write from personal experience.

Think about it; Kyle Rayner was given the most powerful weapon in the Universe despite his inexperience and is trying to rebuild a defunct institution, re the Green Lantern Corps. With only one omnipotent being and a few friends to help him, he must face hostility and nay saying from former members of said institution as well as a harsh and lawless universe in a lonely battle to resurrect the Green Lantern Corps.

Now compare that to Raab, who was given a popular comic title despite his inexperience, and is trying to rebuild a defunct institution, re the Green Lantern franchise. With only one editor and a few plot-threads left by pervious writers, he must face hostility and nay saying from former fans of said institution as well as the critics and HEAT in a lonely battle to make Green Lantern readable again.

Personal connection to his main protagonist or not, one thing cannot be denied. Green Lantern hasn’t been handled this well in quite a long time! Raab handles the neat feat of balancing the complex and complicated history and continuity of the Green Lantern Corps while making each issue accessible and easily readable to newbies. Pair this up with some wonderful artwork, and you have one of the best… indeed, probably the most underrated book in the business.

In this issue, we open on Kyle preparing for battle as he readies himself to journey into another dimension to rescue his friend Kilowog. Kilowog was a Green Lantern who gave his life trying to save the Corps from Hal Jordan and was brought back from the dead (in a story which is summarized quite well in this issue) as a being of vengeance known as The Dark Lantern. Now, Kilowog has been forcibly dragged back into the afterlife he was just as forcibly removed from, just as he was beginning to get a handle on the all-consuming rage that controlled him.

At the same time, Jade engages in some girl talk with Merayn that fills us in on her job hunting and vents about her problems with having a boyfriend who never writes or calls. The fact that he is literally a million miles away doesn’t hurt the authenticity of the scene, nor Jade’s reaction when a stranger asks for her phone number. And in a scene that will send even the most hardened of DC Historians scrambling for their Who’s Who Guides (I’ll save you all the trouble- see GL 80 Page Giant #3, August 2000), the former Green Lanterns from a few issues ago are visited by another figure who has been shown the light by Kyle Rayner.

About the art, I can say little except that it is perfectly suited to this title. I’m not familiar with Burchett’s previous work, but he fills this book with a beauty that was sorely missing throughout the “Urban Knights” crossover. Each character manages a distinct look and personality… and not just because many of them are aliens, have with unusual bodies, strange eyes or have unusual skin colors. Unlike many artists who draw the same face for each female characters, you can tell Jade and Merayn apart based on face alone- not hairstyle, skin color or ears. These unique pencils are well served by the light inking of Rodney Ramos (who knows just when to put in shadows for contrast) and the colors by Moose Baumann.

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