Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I can see the destiny you sold/Turned into a shining band of gold

This one's for Ragnell. She knows why.

Probably because my comics habits overwhelmingly favor DC's superheroes, I tend to distance myself from the works of Geoff Johns. I like to think I don't have any particular bias against Mr. Johns, and I've followed his titles in the past. However, I've also dropped a number of his books, including JSA and Teen Titans, and I was very frustrated with his Flash tenure.

I was therefore leery of his Green Lantern revamp, mainly because his comments leading up to its release seemed to indicate that he considered most of Hal Jordan's growth as a character in and after the Denny O'Neil years to be a mistake. Hal should be resolute, steadfast, possessed of an indomitable will, I heard Johns saying. By contrast, I thought Hal's self-examination not only facilitated his own development, but also fueled a healthy skepticism about the nature of his bosses, the Guardians of the Universe. Nothing stopped Hal from finding his inner fighter jock, but at the same time that fighter jock would constantly test the limits of his ostensible superiors' authority over him. At least, that's what The Right Stuff taught me about test pilots.

Therefore, I've been pleasantly surprised these past few years to find myself more happy than not with Johns' Green Lantern. I thought Johns did a credible job of rehabilitating Hal and reviving the Green Lantern Corps, and the ongoing Green Lantern book has been pretty solid space-superhero adventure ever since.

I joked a while back about Johns writing his ultimate Green Lantern story and explaining once and for all How The Rings Work, and here we are with a Sinestro Corps, a Star Sapphire Corps, and probably four other color-coded Corps on the horizon.... Anyway, in the Rebirth miniseries, Johns cast the GL Corps in a quasi-mystical light, explaining that Parallax fed off fear and another entity fed off willpower. We've seen in the recent Star Sapphire story that the Zamarons' power gems use love, although there it seemed like the weird, candlelit-photo-shrine kind of love. Maybe I was reading too much into that. Maybe I've said too much.

Regardless, that brings us at last to the Sinestro Corps Special, which apparently kicks off the Sinestro Corps War. Opinions seem to vary as to its accessibility to the non-GL/non-DC reader, but I found it fairly efficient in its exposition. Thanks to the Internet, I kinda knew what happened in the Ion miniseries, but I didn't read the miniseries itself. Explaining why two Superman villains were in a Green Lantern book might have been helpful, as might an explanation of the Cyborg Supes' connection to the original, but maybe that's coming up later. As the first part of what looks (please, Lord) like a storyline with a definite end, the Sinestro Corps Special got things started well. Since I like to compare Green Lantern to Star Trek, this was "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1." And yes, that makes Para-Kyle Locutus, although with the space-bug controlling him he should really be Chekov.

In the old days a Sinestro Corps wouldn't have been possible. The yellow power ring -- which I take it runs on a different yellow energy than the fear-based Sinestro Corps rings -- was, if memory serves, powered by siphoning energy from Green Lantern rings and batteries. It was a unique item (there might have been two, but my memory's fuzzy) that in theory was actually more powerful than any single GL ring. It had no impurities and no 24-hour limit. When Guy Gardner acquired Sinestro's ring after being booted out of the Green Lantern Corps, it was a big deal.

The idea of a Sinestro Corps, like a Star Sapphire Corps, therefore shifts the focus of Green Lantern away from the mechanics of a power ring and towards its underlying meaning. The Green Lanterns are fueled by willpower, the Sinestros by fear, and the Sapphires by candlelit-- okay, by love. In theory this makes the Sinestros the most powerful, because if fear is dominant then it can crush willpower and love. (I suppose that love includes the fear of having it taken away, but I don't want to get too New Age-y here.) Accordingly, Johns needs to be careful not to make the Sinestros either too powerful or too easy to neuter. They can't turn into the Borg. They need to be White Martians: used sparingly and only to indicate the most dire peril. Hopefully the fact that Superboy-Prime and the Anti-Monitor are both involved speaks to this caution. After this, Johns might do well to leave these two alone for another twenty years or so.

I should probaby read Rebirth again, because I don't remember Sinestro having quite the mad on for Kyle. I do think that Kyle was handled pretty well in this issue. His utter humiliation was a bit much, bordering on the old "hurt/comfort syndrome" of fanfiction, although the overall effect showed how eevil Sinestro was, and not how easy Kyle was to defeat. In fact, the Special might have gone a little too far in the other direction, with all the "Angel of the Corps!" talk and the buildup of Kyle as the Super-Lantern.

I would also have enjoyed more John Stewart, considering that this was his first appearance in a Green Lantern book in several months. Giving him a ring-constructed rifle also seemed out of character for an architect, but that's a debate for another day. Seeing Ch'p and Arisia made up for it, though.

Overall, the Sinestro Corps Special was a fun book to read. Not "fun" in the sense that I enjoy seeing carnage, sadism, and (off-panel) death; but "fun" like the first act of a good adventure story should be. The stakes get raised, our heroes get tested, and through the application of their own gifts and talents, they pull through. The fun lies in seeing how they do it. That's why I read superhero comics, after all.

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