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John Stewart gets his turn being on the receiving end of the First Lantern’s wrath, and it turns out not to be so bad. For him, I mean. For the readers, it’s actually a god awful and torturously frustrating reading experience. It’s a shame DC couldn’t get someone remotely interested in John Stewart to write this issue.
I’ve always found John Stewart to be kind of a curious case. By all rights, he should be occupying a bigger portion of the Green Lantern spotlight. His role in the DC Animated Universe has made him basically the Green Lantern of the mainstream crowd. I think he may even be the most prominent Green Lantern in Young Justice too. Hal Jordan has really only managed a failed movie and an animated series that only lasted a single season. So there is this whole Justice League Unlimited/Young Justice-based fandom somewhere out there where John Stewart is the man. Yet almost without fail, he gets the short end of the stick in comics.
Think about it when Geoff Johns relaunched the Green Lantern franchise. Hal obviously got a series. Guy Gardner got a series. Kyle Rayner got a maxi-series. John Stewart got to be Hal’s largely unseen partner in the Green Lantern book. John got screwed and stayed screwed for years until getting a role in Green Lantern Corps alongside Kyle. See, Guy left that series to get another of his own, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors. This was an improvement for John just by virtue of getting to appear somewhere regularly, but his role was overshadowed by Kyle for the most part. Then, Kyle left for his own series Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Guy came back. So now, John got to play understudy to Guy. And that brings us to now.
Why am I talking so much about John’s pitiful role in this new golden era of the Green Lantern franchise? Well, it’s relevant to this issue. And there’s really not much substance of this issue to talk about anyway. Peter Tomasi has long been obvious that his primary focus is Guy Gardner, and to be fair, he writes a pretty awesome Guy. But this has always come at the expense of whoever shares the stage. Tomasi wrote a pretty awful Kyle and only showed some glimmers that he was beginning to put some thought into the character toward the end. John hasn’t fared much better in the New 52, as this issue shows.
The gimmick in Wrath of the First Lantern has Volthoom forcing characters to live out altered versions of moments in their pasts in order to feed off their emotional responses. So far, this has translated into each character getting a spotlight issue featuring a few scenes focusing on these past moments. Both Guy and Kyle had some pretty decent ones already, and their scenes were given just enough room to be fleshed out and explored. John, however, doesn’t get anything even resembling that.
First off, John has to share his spotlight issue with Fatality. Yes, there is a clear connection between the two characters, but the point is that Guy and Kyle didn’t have to share. John does, and it’s unnecessary. Tomasi tries to force some deeper relationship between John and Fatality into being here, but he hasn’t done the groundwork to earn it and really doesn’t put the thought into it here to give it substance. Oh, there’s definitely the potential. There’s been that potential since Fatality became a Star Sapphire years ago. It’s just never really had the attention it needs to develop, and Tomasi trying to flip it on like a lightswitch doesn’t work.
Secondly, all of John’s past moment scenes are brief and pointless. I don’t even get the sense that Tomasi is trying. Why bother with the scene where John decides to pull the trigger on himself after Xanshi? Seriously, what does that do? John knows he’s not freaking dead. Volthoom isn’t forcing him to live through anything there. It’s the same with having John and Fatality randomly kill each other or one of the others where John quickly dies. There’s a thematic purpose to it that Tomasi is going for, but it just doesn’t work for the story. A dead John isn’t going to give Volthoom anything, and most of these scenes are so baseless that there’s no reason for John to even react emotionally. A scene where it’s John who panics and is about to give up Oa’s security codes? What is that? That doesn’t even make sense.
I’m not an expert on John Stewart, but is it new that his mother was assassinated while running for the Senate? I can’t imagine that being something new. It has to be some kind of obscure part of his old history that’s being brought back, right? Or something Tomasi has already established as part of John’s New 52 history? Because there’s no way I can believe a writer would think it’s a good idea to introduce some major change to a character’s history in a rushed and random scene like there is here.
Really, the quality of this whole issue is summed up by the big double page splash in the beginning. It’s the gimmick image in every Wrath of the First Lantern issue where you have the character reflecting back through his previous incarnations against a collage of their past moments. None of them have honestly been that good so far, but this one is a new low by a mile. Apparently, Fatality was Boodikka at some point. She also doesn’t appear in her old “Green Lantern hunter” look. And in John’s, he appears in both the black and indigo versions of his look from War of the Green Lanterns. But he doesn’t appear as a Darkstar. Or in his Guardian-esque Mosaic look. Or in a wheelchair. Or as a freaking Marine. And don’t even try to tell me some of these things may no longer be the case in New 52 continuity. That didn’t stop Guy or Kyle from getting some of their old looks in. There’s just no real effort being made here to do John’s history justice.
And as I said, that sums up this issue of Green Lantern Corps perfectly. There’s just no real effort being made to do John Stewart justice. It’s not like he’s lacking in the history department. Xanshi, Mosaic, being wheelchair bound, going Darkstar, killing Mogo, etc. Tomasi barely uses any of this material, and rather than give any fully developed scenes, he presents everything in stilted bulletpoints. This issue has the emotional and dramatic weight of styrofoam, and that’s especially frustrating when dealing with a character who rarely gets this kind of spotlight.