WARNING: Major spoilers for previous Green Lantern stories abound, particularly War of the Green Lanterns. If you don’t want to have the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer or the last of the Cylons revealed then look away now.
Seriously. Right now.
Alright. Don’t blame me when I spoil the fact that Hal Jordan is really David Bowie with L’oreal.
Of all the entries into the New 52 I’ve read, this is the one I was looking forward to second-most (behind Batman). Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run has been one of my favourite books for the last few years, bolstered by the absolutely amazing 2009 crossover Blackest Night – ranking in my top 5 comics of all time. Since 2005 he’s been crafting this wonderfully epic and at the same time personal journey for Hal and his crew, and so far it’s managed to balance the far-reaching nature of a space opera involving multicoloured aliens without sacrificing the smaller, more human elements that make it a relatable undertaking.
So I was quite eager to get cracking on the first new volume following the Flashpoint reboot, but after finishing Sinestro I realised a lot of my excitement had either been abated by the story’s transitory nature or just plain eradicated by delving into a book that is definitely one of the blander GL stories I’ve read in the last few years.
One thing that separates this book from the rest of the New 52 is that there really isn’t a reboot present; not that one was needed, since the current arc is still relatively fresh by comic book standards, but it does deny the story a bit of the newcomer accessibility that’s been present in the other texts I’ve explored. Despite numbering it Volume 1, Sinestro feels more like a continuation of the old story rather than something traditionally new.
This isn’t to say there’s some innovation present; following on from the explosive finale of War of the Green Lanterns, Hal’s been kicked out and Sinestro’s been kicked in as the new Lantern protector of Sector 2814. The story picks up not long after Hal’s been booted back to Earth as he tries adjusting to a life without the ring, but doesn’t last a day when Sinestro shows up claiming he can bequeath Hal’s ring back to him if he helps Sinestro destroy the Corps he founded during his angst phase back in 2007. While initially reluctant Hal eventually relents, going off on an intergalactic quest to engage in an epic battle with one of the most formidable enemies in the entire history of the –
Wait, what? That doesn’t really happen? Oh.
This is one of the big problem areas I have with this book; the battle, in my mind, is a huge anticlimax. Having read and thoroughly loved The Sinestro Corps War and having seen the horrors they can inflict upon other GLs as one of their staunchest opponents, I was left scratching my head at just how easily they end up being defeated. Granted, they end up imprisoning our dynamic night-light duo in a power-absorption cell halfway through, and there is a really creative use of Sinestro’s ring that’s utilised to initiate their escape, but at the end of the battle the deus ex machina to win them the day makes the victory feel far too quick. A story like this really did need to be spread out a bit more, especially since it’s established beforehand that what the Sinestro Corps is doing to Korugar is so deadly and deep-rooted that it’d take a while before they can really get them the hell out of there.
Instead, all it ends with is Sinestro taking his Lantern into the yellow battery and putting all the SC members planetside into a forced coma. That’s it. If Sinestro hadn’t explained the proper way to knock them all out – instead of telling Hal “You must’ve done it wrong” when Hal’s attempt to shut them down ended with him being disintegrated temporarily – and had instead flown straight into the battery as soon as they hit Korugar then the story would’ve been far shorter than it already was. The stakes seemed pretty raised, and with the creative ring use mentioned beforehand there was potential for a really intriguing, unique kind of hard-fight ending that would’ve left me feeling satisfied. In the end I just feel like the story nicked the ending of Stargate: The Ark of Truth and re-wrote it to include a Lantern battery instead of an Ancient artifact.
This is not to say the story is entirely bad; I have definitely read worse GL stories (see Mystery of the Star Sapphire and the abhorrent artwork to go with it) and the characters of Hal and Sinestro are still really well-written. I actually kind of like the unlikely pairing of the two, since it gives Hal something of a leash from being all mindlessly gung-ho all the time and it adds another layer of personality to Sinestro’s former moustache-twirling self. Given what I’ve heard and read about the Indigo Tribe story that follows this one, I get the feeling this is all going to come to a head that sounds quite satisfying and is worth all the build-up that stories like Sinestro provide.
Because that’s what Sinestro feels like – a build-up story. There’s a lot of references to the Guardians’ ominously-named “third army” to replace the GLs, there’s some great character development between Hal and Carol and as stated above the relationship between Sinestro and his former protege is really interesting. The final issue dealing with Sinestro going after Lyssa Drak adds a lot of foreshadowing that seems likely to pay off shortly – and if everything presented in that one-page future sight proves true, it’ll make for one hell of a story.
The artwork is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Doug Mahnke – visually gripping, with a dash of uncanny valley added for good taste. He still has a habit of making Carol Ferris look like Barbra Streisand’s ugly twin, but the colours are pretty and Hal’s six-pack is quite appealing. He did however make construct-Carol, that Hal creates when he thinks he’s about to die, look prettier than her real-life counterpart; so the ring can obviously look past physical imperfections, then? Gotta get me one of those – oh wait, I own one. I’ll have to try that trick out later.
The dialogue is one of the better aspects of the book, as Geoff Johns’ trademark snark-riddled smug-speak is still prevalent in all the major characters presented within. Hal is still a jerk, Sinestro is an even bigger jerk who seems to channel Peter Cushing, and Carol lactates penis-envy for Hal with every syllable. This is, however, turned on its head when smartass Hal returns after the Korugar battle and speaks to Carol about wanting to really make their relationship work; the dialogue is believable without being out of character, and it does show signs of Hal finally starting to grow up and become more responsible. If Johns can keep the balance of grown-up Hal with jerk-ass Hal and make a well-rounded character in that respect it’ll make for a very multi-faceted characterisation further down the line – I guess that’s something of a reboot, isn’t it? Kinda. A bit.
Is this book bad? No. It’s pulp, popcorn fun with a slightly rushed story that does a good job reiterating how awesome it is to wear a power ring. However, since I’m judging this book alongside the other New 52 entries, I have to say that Green Lantern: Sinestro does the worst job of orientating new readers to its canon that I’ve seen so far in the reboot. It’s an enjoyable read, but I think prior readers of GL canon will appreciate it more than newbies; from what I hear, Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: New Guardians do a better job for neophyte ringslingers. If you’re keen on checking out Hal’s story – and, quite frankly, there’s not a whole lot that’s better than the salient elements of Johns’ run – then go back a bit towards Green Lantern: Rebirth or The Sinestro Corps War.
Whatever you do, don’t see the movie first.
BEST QUOTE: “Your training really did end after I left, didn’t it?” – Sinestro