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My faith in Wrath of the First Lantern is renewed. Or at least, Green Lantern: New Guardians has left me feeling just a bit more optimistic about the whole event. After last week’s pitiful John Stewart issue of Green Lantern Corps, I was about ready to write the whole story off. Some of the previous issues were decent, but nothing really impressed me. That is, until now.
The shame of it is the story that finally feels like it makes good on Wrath of the First Lantern’s gimmick doesn’t even focus on any of the Green Lanterns.
Having already put Kyle Rayner through the alternate history emotional wringer, Volthoom comes for other members of the book’s cast, namely Carol Ferris, Larfleeze and Saint Walker. They get the same treatment as the Green Lanterns have already received with the exception that they each only get one trip through altered history. And you know, that’s fine. You really can’t ask for more from a book focusing on an ensemble cast like this. There aren’t the pages to do anymore than this. And honestly? I think it works out better. These single scenarios are better developed than the multiple ones Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and John Stewart got. It’s like having choose just one for a character forces the writer to make the most of it.
Though technically, Larfleeze does get two scenarios, but they’re short and feed into a singular point with him. This is actually one of my favorite little Larfleeze stories so far, which is great since good Larfleeze stories have gotten hard to come by. The character has suffered from his own popularity. Remember how scary and dangerous Larfleeze was at first? What happened to that? He gets portrayed more as a clown these days. This story gets back to the truth of the character. The humor in it is dark, and it doesn’t sacrifice the actual drama of the character to get a laugh. Hopefully, the upcoming Larfleeze series will capture a similar tone. ...I highly doubt it.
Star Sapphire gets the biggest chunk of the issue for her story, and for once, it puts her in an admirable light. Look, I’ve always felt that Carol Ferris is a pretty awful female character. I’ve struggled to have any respect for her through Geoff Johns’ whole time on the Green Lantern franchise. Hal Jordan sleeps with other women and generally treats her like crap, but she remains his lovesick puppy. Her entire role has been his lovesick puppy. It’s really kind of pathetic. Volthoom twists history to give her a less pathetic life, and in it, she actually gets to shine as a human being. Hal’s obviously involved in it, but it expands her sense of love into something greater than just being about him. The plot is too convoluted with Iran, Atlantis and some shady weapons manufacturer, though. Bedard would have been better served tightening the meaningless plot of Carol’s fake life, but the message still comes across well enough. And for once, I actually have a little respect for Carol.
Saint Walker’s story is a little more streamlined, featuring him in a history where he was chosen by a Green Lantern ring to save his world rather than becoming a Blue Lantern. It’s a nice story that also conveys the message that Volthoom can’t change their true natures no matter how he toys with their lives. But to be honest, it’s the weakest of the three stories. Saint Walker’s hopefulness has already been pretty well established, so this doesn’t really strengthen or reveal anything new to us about him. It works for the issue, but it’s not the strongest part.
The art is divided between three artists, each of whom handle one of the character’s stories. Jim Calafiore is probably my favorite with the Larfleeze sequence. It’s short, but you’ve got to love how he captures Larfleeze’s moments of greed. Hendry Prasetyo’s style gives Carol’s sequence a nice energy to it, which works well since it’s largely action. Javier Pulido, unfortunately, is a let down with Saint Walker. The character becomes a Green Lantern, and all he wears is the utterly generic Green Lantern uniform. What is that? To not even design a look for him ruins the whole fun of seeing Saint Walker as a Green Lantern.
This issue highlights another major flaw in the Wrath of the First Lantern story arc. It... doesn’t really make any sense. What is Volthoom even doing? I get that he’s basically recharging his batteries off emotion, but how does any of this accomplish that? He has these people who are basically paragons of their respective emotions, and he’s trying to manipulate them into feeling... different emotions? I just don’t get it. Saint Walker has a ready supply of hope to feed off of, so why try to get him to feel despair? Why try to get Larfleeze to feel something other than greed? Why even target these people if Volthoom isn’t feeding off the emotions they’re powered by? I mean, I know the actual answer. That’s the gimmick. The fake histories and everything. But in the story, I don’t know what the answer is.
Green Lantern: New Guardians gives us the strongest chapter of Wrath of the First Lantern so far, but it’s a shame that it stars the side characters rather than the main players of the franchise. For the first time, I’m not looking down on Carol Ferris. Larfleeze isn’t played primarily for comedy for once. And we get to see Saint Walker as a Green Lantern, though with a disappointing effort from the art. Sure, Wrath of the First Lantern is being exposed as far more of a gimmick than a real story, but at least that gimmick gives us some good character beats in this issue.