Last month, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month two of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Green Lanterns #2
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Robson Rocha
Inker: Jay Leisten
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Kyle Pinion: *clears throat* Alexander Lu, please don’t make me read this comic ever again.
Alex Lu: And why shouldn’t I, Kyle Pinion?
Kyle: Well…when I cracked open Green Lanterns #2, I continued to hold out hope that Humphries’ rookie cop duo concept would win me over. Rebirth had me intrigued, but then the first issue seemed to have trouble balancing out its character work with its need to establish big concepts in the Johns mold. This subsequent issue is more of the same, yet somehow, much worse. We get a pretty vapid opening with Atrocitus that info-dumps those same vague McGuffin-terms like “The Rage Seed” and “The Hell Tower”, but this time all concentrated on one page so it ends up sounding even more like gibberish than before. The rest of the issue is taken up mostly by the Jessica Cruz character, who admittedly I think is probably the more intriguing of the lead pair, fighting off her sister and a number of other individuals in some kind Red Lantern version of 28 Days Later.
While all of this is going on, we’re getting these really hamfisted bits of internal monologue between both Jessica and Simon that bends over backwards to make sure the reader understands “Jessica really hates being outside” and “Simon is really reckless and grew up on the mean streets of Detroit”. Unfortunately, it never gets much richer than that and I found the flashback scene between Jessica and Sara painful to read. I’m glad there was a moment taken to underscore the relationship between the two while they’re exchanging blows before and after, but the dialogue is so poor in those moments, that I literally could not wait to get off those pages and move back to the action, and I’m somebody that *loves* character moments like that. When I finally got to Sara’s “You were always there for me when we were kids? Not anymore!” I think I loudly groaned.
I’m also just not a big fan of how the book itself looks. Robson Rocha’s art is very much in that 90’s superhero vein – just with more rendered coloring, everyone has rippling muscles and gnashing teeth. I don’t think Humphries is aiming for a grim spectacle here, but the way Rocha presents it, you’d have a hard time not thinking that. I’ll just say, it’s a not style for me, nor the kind of superhero comic I’d typically would ever buy. It looks like the sort of New 52 stylings that DC has needed so desperately to move away from, and has shown signs of doing so between DC You and Rebirth. But not here…oy.
In other words: RAGE!!!! I really don’t like this comic at all. Alex?
Alex: Well, you know I’ve been holding out on this book for a few weeks now. I think its underlying premise of a good damaged cop, bad damaged cop team up is strong. Sam Humphries’ script has shown flashes of brilliance that realize that concept’s potential. However, by and large, I’ve come around to your opinion of Green Lanterns.
On a macro level, Humphries and Rocha still have not developed my interest in the Red Dawn. In issue #1, Humphries’ script seems to express the idea that the Red Lanterns are fighting for their survival. That is a really interesting idea. However, in this issue of Green Lanterns, the direness of the group’s situation and their desperation to cling to life are not what seems to drive them. Instead, they are propelled by a loose sense of manifest destiny that makes for the most basic and uncompelling of villains.
On a micro level, I enjoy the story more– particularly the elements with Jessica. I know you didn’t enjoy the flashbacks, but I personally thought they were effective from an artistic standpoint. I appreciate the restraint inker Jay Leisten and colorist Blond show when they’re going over Robson Rocha’s pencils in those scenes. When Jessica is combating her fear, flashing back to her past as her rage-filled sister goads her in the present, you can really feel her focusing all her strength into the moment as everything else fades to white.
That said, I have to agree that on the whole, the script is painfully two dimensional. I appreciate that Jessica’s character is one we rarely see in superhero comics, but the amount of narration that is devoted to hammering home her anxiety is simply too much. Worse yet, the cast that surrounds her lacks dimension of their own. Simon only seems to exist in order to force Jessica to move towards the greater conflicts in the plot and crack some jokes. Jessica’s sister Sara has a complex relationship to her sister that has me somewhat intrigued, but she’s already been frozen out of the story.
Rocha’s art is fine, but it’s not my cup of tea either. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it 90s, but it certainly doesn’t reflect the progressive standards that we expect from modern comics. It errs too close to things we’ve seen before. The art is not technically weak, but it fails to produce pages that inspire.
I’m okay to drop this if you are, Kyle. As much as I hate to see interesting characters like Jessica and Simon fall by the wayside, I don’t think Humphries and Rocha are a team that will propel their storylines forward with the intricacy and grace we need in stories about such marginalized and complex heroes. What say you?
Kyle: It’s a shame to see such a lost opportunity occur before our eyes, but that’s basically where Green Lanterns has left us. There’s a lot of promise in pairing up Simon and Jessica, and establishing their core characteristics. As we’ve said before, they’re blank slates basically, they can be anything that Humphries and Rocha want them to be. Yet, to this point there’s nothing here that prompts me to move forward and find out more about what makes either tick and how they’ll gel as a team.
I think going for the big cosmic battle right out the gate was the biggest mistake as it already pulls all that valuable development time away, which they both need so desperately, to set up this chaotic situation. Imagine, if you will, a number of “done in ones” instead; maybe an issue where they have to team up to fight Dr. Polaris or The Shark. We could have at least gotten a better sense of how Simon and Jessica clash and verbally spar without the need to deal with a world-wide threat, and who knows? Some fun might have actually peeked into the Green Lantern side of the DC universe for once. Humphries is a funny guy and I know he’s capable of that. But, everything about this just feels ill-fitting throughout.
I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. Here’s hoping next week’s launch of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps will cause me to a bit more optimistic about the future of this franchise. To answer your question, yeah, I’m done.
Final Verdict: Pass