Review: Green Lantern #18 By Geoff Johns and Szymon Kudranski

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Green Lantern #18
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Szymon Kudranski, Ardian Syaf, Mark Irwin, Alex Sinclair, and Tony Avina

The short of it:

In the Dead Zone there is no hope. Hal Jordan and Thaal Sinestro have been trapped there for a length of time they can’t decipher, talking to the ghost of Tomar-Re while untold legions stand in the background. Not quite dead, but trapped in the land of the dead, waiting for some sort of a rescue. A rescue that, one would think, would come at the hands of Simon Baz after his trip to the Chamber of Shadows and into Black Hand’s ring. The problem is, really, that the newest Green Lantern is now also a prisoner of the Dead Zone. He meets our former heroes, Jordan and Sinestro, and Sinestro is not at all pleased that Baz is there looking for Hal, when he feels this is his mission. That’s when they realize…Baz still has the ring. And Sinestro wants his damn ring back!

Tomar Re teaches them a lesson in the will to live being what makes them different in the Dead Zone, where all are dead, but some still have that inkling of a chance at survival. The will to live…mixed with the fact that none of them actually died. However, everyone else there owes their death in someway to Volthoom, the First Lantern. Sinestro and Hal are caught up on him, and we discover why the Guardians had to contain him without killing him, but no new real ground covered otherwise.

That’s when B’Dg finally makes a connection and tries to pull Simon out. His ring duplicates itself, and Hal and Sinestro are left to fight over a ring and way out. One will be free, the other…powerless and abandoned in the Dead Zone. With only one way out. Will he take it?

What I liked:

  • Man, I missed Sinestro. He was the star of this book before Baz, and the looming presence of Hal Jordan made that easy to forget. His confrontations throughout the issue pretty much make it. Especially when Baz hits him with the train and he no-sells it.
  • This is how you do a change of pace artist! The last time a team of artists stepped in to work an issue of Green Lantern, it was the finale of the Black Hand arc, just before the Annual, and it felt the entire time like Doug Mahnke needed to be there. Mainly because those artists did a mediocre job. Right here is a much different story, as Szymon Kudranski does a great job with making the Dead Zone creepy and his art feels perfectly suited to this job, and not like someone brought in last minute to do fill-in work.
  • So that’s why Baz carries a gun!

What I didn’t like:

  • While I understood why this issue needed to happen, putting Hal and Sinestro back into the story, it just felt like way too much time spent explaining last months issue.
  • Ardian Syaf tries to channel Ed Benes, and it really doesn’t work that well. I mean, it doesn’t look bad, I just didn’t really like it. It was Benes lite. The Diet Coke of Ed Benes.
  • I saw the ending coming a mile away. Geoff goes for the obvious cliffhanger to build suspense, but between the happenings of previous issues, and covers we’ve seen for future issues, there’s no real surprise. He’s going to jump, and we’re going to see how the First Lantern deals with a Black Lantern.
  • With news that Geoff is leaving in the next few months I think I just expected more oomph out of this issue.

Final thoughts:

This book features three leads; Hal, Sinestro, and Baz. Two of them I would love to read solo books about: Sinestro and Baz. One of these characters is going to be the lead in Green Lantern under new writer Robert Venditti, which I’ll be buying; Hal Jordan. I’m going to miss Geoff when he’s gone, but I’m eager for new blood. Geoff has done some fantastic things on Green Lantern during his tenure, making it a must read book, creating the Emotional Spectrum and other Lantern Corps. Event after event where I wanted to keep reading more (save for Brightest Day, which wasn’t really a Green Lantern thing after the first few issues). The one thing he never really did though? Make Hal interesting enough for me to want to read about him. Don’t get me wrong, there were times during his run when I didn’t feel that way, early on, but after the Sinestro Corps War we saw Hal go Green Lantern full time, and the mask didn’t come off again until the New 52. Then we got an issue, maybe two, of Hal without a ring and he was…interesting. That went away with the ring. Green Lantern was interesting, but it could have been anyone with the ring and had the same effect.

Geoff is a great character writer when he sits down and picks someone apart, something he has been doing with Sinestro for several years now. His character work on JSA and Flash are what made me a fan of his work, and I felt Teen Titans in its early days was one of the best iterations I’d ever seen (and to be honest, that was the last time a book called Teen Titans was good, unfortunately). He does have a fatal flaw, however, and it’s that he can’t seem to get that same level of character work out of a character that is being used to drive the plot forward on their own. Baz was treated to several issues of character development before being pulled into the plot by someone else. He’s been a passenger, not the driver, and it’s kept him interesting and, more importantly, human throughout. Hal was always the driver, plots furthered around him because he did most everything, and his entire character was ‘guy who moves the plot forward’. This has always been forgivable because the plots are amazing, but it has made him into a hard character to enjoy for extended periods without cool stuff happening around him.

Robert Venditti has impossibly big shoes to try and fit into as he prepares to come on board as the new writer on this book, and he’s going to have to do it his own way. There’s no formula for success save for doing what you do best. Geoff Johns became one of the biggest names in the industry by providing constant quality on three books a month over the course of many years. Venditti will be writing Green Lantern and Demon Knights for DC, and XO Manowar for Valiant, the latter DC title has found a way onto my pull list, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about XO Manowar (really slow to adopt Valiant for some reason). There’s nothing but potential here, and I can’t tell you all how eager I am to see a new top writer in the industry emerge from the pages of GL. I’m being optimistic, and considering the Debbie Downer nature of this issue, some levity was needed.

Doug Mahnke takes an issue off and the army of inkers turns into one guy. Doug is amazing, but I think that talent may be the sort that cuts deadlines close and requires a lot of inkers to keep schedule. But if that’s what it takes for GL to look as good as it has the past few years? Totally worth it.

Overall: 7/10

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