Monday, September 29, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Emerald Explanation

Ever since Benjamin Raab took over this title, he has faced great hostility from the critical and fan communities alike. I can think of two writers alone at 411 who made statements regarding last month’s issue that I’d like to address as a Green Lantern history buff and one of the apparent minority who is enjoying Raab’s run on the book.

From Kevin Mahoney’s review of GL #168… “When a story has not one, nor two, but three separate and unrelated interludes, that's a rather large red flag.”

Not really. Actually, I take that as a sign of quality writing or at the very least a sign that the writer respects my intelligence enough to think I can keep track of more than one ongoing plotline. Stan Lee sure never went wrong with having several ongoing plots in his work. And I do believe many of the more popular writers today- Geoff Johns, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore come to mind immediately – made some very popular and award winning series based upon the idea of having a book center around several characters and shifting focus on an issue by issue basis. Consider pretty much any issue of JSA, Sandman, Swamp Thing or the five-part “Jack/Ted/O’Dares/Mikhal’s Day” story arc in which we see the reaction of eight different characters to the events of the same day.

From Kevin Mahoney’s review of GL #168… “If the dialogue of the main character closely resembles a previous incarnation of the character (Hal Jordan) that's an even larger red flag.”

Funny how I don’t hear many HEAT members rejoicing that Kyle now sounds exactly like Hal. Honestly, I haven’t noticed any change in Kyle’s dialogue other than the fact that he’s now being written as an hero with some experience instead of the idiotic novice that he was shown as under Winick and still is portrayed as outside his own title. Then again, maybe Kyle is subconsciously trying to sound more like Hal as he now finds himself trying to become a space-cop in Hal’s old sector.

From Kevin Mahoney’s review of GL #168… When the writer rehashes an ancient sub-plot for new material (Terry's beat down), a reader should resign him or her self to sub-par work.

I’d hardly call a sub-plot, continued on a near-monthly basis, that began barely a year ago “ancient”, but that’s just me. What must that make Issue #169, which refers to the nearly 18-month old “Legacy: The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan” as well as the Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #3, published August 2000? Mesozoic? Prehistoric?

In all seriousness, it is called CONTINUITY. Making historical links? Used to be quite a serious thing for comic writers to keep up with, but many modern writers (Winick in particular) seem to have problems with it. And I don’t mean obscure things like “what issue did Kyle declare he doesn’t like Mexican food?” but simple matters of fact like the identity of Jade’s brother (Obsidian, not Effigy. See GL #142)

From George Gebhardt’s review of GL #168… “Let's start with Terry Berg. Raab, and Winick before him, never seem to deliver when writing Berg's character. First, it looks like he has aged quite a bit--that he's not a high schooler anymore. Maybe DC realized that some problems could arise dealing with his relationship with David and any age difference between them.”

Surely that’s the fault of the artist, not the writer, if the character LOOKS younger? And while the passage of time is rather spotty in the DCU, I seem to remember it being about two years since Terry got hired by Kyle. Since most businesses I know of require interns to be at least 16, that would put Terry well within legal adult range now or close enough to it that the law probably wouldn’t be concerned about the statutory laws. Besides, if David is young enough to get into the teens-only clubs (or maybe it was teens-only night?) then there shouldn’t be any issues with his age.

From George Gebhardt’s review of GL #168… “Next, I still say he should be walking with a cane, to add some dramatic effect to his injuries. If not that, I think seeing him in a panel before going live with "Barry" should have shown his nervousness. Are we to expect that he's this great spokesperson all of a sudden?”

Adversity can do a bit to change people and I’ve seen a lot of people be able to speak with amazing eloquence after a tragedy inspired their passion. And while I agree that some emoting beforehand would be appropriate, a cane would be more melodramatic than dramatic and smack of some of the more pointless “crippling” of a character for dramatic effect that has been all too long a part of comics… particularly in a title where such a thing has happened once too often already, ala John Stewart.

From George Gebhardt’s review of GL #168… Now with Kyle. He wants to prove to the ex-Corpsmen that there's a need for them. Yeah, we get it. Enough is enough with that rhetoric. And why is Kyle being "snookered" all of the time? Gee, no wonder the others don't join.

Hey, Hal got suckered into a lot of “distress” situations where he was called in by the bad guys to do some dirty work, found out who the real good guys were and then turned the tide when he realized he screwed up. Happened to Kyle a few times in the past too... in fact, the whole major driving story arc since Raab took over (busting the Black Circle) has been built around Kyle’s trying to correct some past oversight of being too quick to trust.

As for them repeating Kyle’s goals to rebuild the Corps at the start of each issue, I quote the man who once said “Every comic is somebody’s first comic.”. Certain allowances must be made for the people who just pick a book at random based on the cover and want to be able to read the story without twenty pages of footnotes. And so far, I think Raab has done an admirable job of balancing the accessibility needs of the newbie against the old timer’s need for history.

From George Gebhardt’s review of GL #168… Merayn. She's no longer an item with John Stewart, so why is she referring to him as her boyfriend?

Moving out does not necessarily equal a break up. Based on what she says in GL #167, she isn’t breaking it off with him. Just wanting to move out and find some space in the relationship to find something in her life besides making him happy. God forbid a woman should want to have something for herself besides being a trophy girlfriend, right?

And finally, to confront a complaint I read on a message board, the rebirth of the Guardians in the form of male AND female bodies is not far-fetched nor a violation of the much vaunted continuity of the GL Corps. While is true that the Guardian race (blue midgets) that founded the Green Lantern Corps was made up entire of males and the females evolved along different lines to become beings not unlike the Amazons of Earth (aka the Zamorans), both races descended from the ancient mortal race of the planet Maltus, where the natives were basic humanoids with blue skin- exactly like the toddler grown to maturity Lianna; a one-shot villain at the end of the Winick run, who Raab obviously has bigger plans for.

All this said, I don’t think the Raab run has been completely flawless. As I said, I would like to have seen a little more emotion in the scenes handling Terry. And there has been a little too much faith taken that the readers have read certain key back issues. Consider how Kilowog was presented with it just being taken that the reader has read the story detailing his resurrection. And even then, I would like to have seen the story of how Kyle and Kilowog met and became friends.

Thankfully, I thought Raab was building towards something with the rather slow development over the last five issues and I believe the most recent issue (reviewed by yours truly here) has shown the fruits of those labors as Raab tries to weave a tapestry from the tangled and torn threads of the Winick and Marz runs.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

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