DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with!
THIS WEEK: Louie remembers the good old days as he recognizes some throwback elements in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, and rings in something altogether new (and satisfyingly weird) in Eternity Girl.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #42
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Does anyone remember when Donna Troy was dating Kyle Rayner? I do. She dumped him because she walked in on a nude model posing for him in his apartment. And also because her ex-husband and their son had just died in a car accident. They remained cordial when they saw each other during space exploits, but they never really picked it back up. Kyle moved on to date the original Green Lantern’s daughter, Jenny-Lynn (whom he first meets by discovering her naked in the shower in his apartment, strangely enough), while Donna’s life got all kinds of complicated.
I collected all of those comics back in the late 1990’s and read them many, many times. I get nostalgic thinking about them. There’s a seemingly bottomless market for nostalgia these days, with movies and television shows being resurrected at an astounding pace. I can’t believe how many shows that I grew up with have made a reappearance after being long dormant. Voltron, G.I. Joe, Twin Peaks, Full House. Even Roseanne is back. Roseanne, you guys.
Nostalgia is all the rage, so I don’t know why I was so shocked to see the return of the Darkstars in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. You’re forgiven if you have no idea what a Darkstar is — it’s been quite a while. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane so I can catch you up.
While the Maltus-born Guardians of the Universe are the creators and (sometimes) executive board of the Green Lantern Corps, they share a lineage with another group of Maltusians known as the Controllers, who prefer a more hands-on approach to policing all of the known universe. The Controllers created a group of enforcers called the Darkstars, who are basically like Green Lanterns except they have powerful exo-suits instead of power rings. They still fly around space and enforce order and all that jazz. In fact, when Hal Jordan went cuckoo in the 1990s and decimated the GL Corps, leaving Kyle Rayner as the only Green Lantern in the entire cosmos with a working ring, several ex-Lanterns went and joined the Darkstars. The most prominent of these defectors was John Stewart, who took on a role of field commander, much like he has currently with the rebuilt Green Lantern Corps. Anyway, back then when Kyle was learning the GL ropes and Donna Troy was wearing a Darkstars uniform, one of Darkseid’s illegitimate children tore his way through the Darkstar army and killed almost every damn one of them. John Stewart ended up crippled and in a wheelchair for years (he got better) and Donna decided it was a good time to walk away. The remaining four Darkstars held it together for a short while but they all died as well in battle a short time later. We’ve been without the Darkstars ever since.
All caught up? Good, because they’re back, baby.
This time around, the Controllers are going even bigger with new and improved exo-suits and a vastly expanded roster. They’ve designed the new technology to override the wearer’s will and allow the Controllers to telepathically command them using the glowing gems embedded in their creepy alien foreheads. What could possibly go wrong?
If I haven’t mentioned it before (and you haven’t guessed), I love this book. It’s not like someone read a few issues of Green Lantern, grasped the general concept and then went and started writing scripts. This creative team did their homework. The Darkstar suit designs are remarkably true to the 1990s versions, with their classic silver shoulder pauldrons and hand masers that shoot yellowish-orange energy blasts, but also updated to look sleek and modern. The terminology and tone of the Controllers is spot on. A much younger me would be happy to know I’m not the only one who’s been reading these books.
Why nostalgia? Because of people like me who remember this stuff and eat it up. The decades-long serial nature of the comic book story form is ideal for making all things new again. This isn’t a new version of an old story, it’s the same story that is still going strong. We invented nostalgia.
I’m not sure how much of these older stories are still in continuity. Green Lantern never got a proper reboot in either the New 52 or Rebirth, though the world around it did. Hal Jordan doesn’t seem to recognize the Darkstar uniform he encounters in this issue, but the look on John Stewart’s face tells me he remembers them all too well.
Is it too much to hope that Kyle gets another shot at Donna Troy?
Eternity Girl #2
Script: Magdalene Visaggio
Pencils, Inks, Cover: Sonny Liew
Colors: Chris Chuckry
Letters: Todd Klein
The teaser at the end of this issue promises that next month “stuff gets weird”. I promise they are plenty weird already. In a nutshell, Eternity Girl started out as a comic book within a comic book. And then, well, let me attempt to explain.
Meet Caroline Sharp, a sci-fi/monster movie type heroine struggling to maintain her humanity. Caroline’s first appearance was as a mock reprint of a supposed 1950’s comic called Astounding Tales that was presented as the backup feature of the recent “Milk Wars” crossover event that straddled two different comic universe imprints. See what I mean about weird? We are talking about a fake comic that was invented to appear as if it was a real comic inside of the fictional comic book world of um, this comic. From the very start this character was an impossible entity. Kudos to this creative team for scrambling my mind entirely in the span of only two pages. Let’s pretend any of that made sense and carry on.
In that first appearance (check it out in January’s JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1) the captions reveal that the writers of Caroline’s character originally intended her for one genre, but editorial at the time forced the writers to cram the story into an entirely different genre. Please remember that both the fictional story itself and this meta-textual commentary on the story’s creation are the story. As we watch Caroline survive the detonation of a nuclear device, the explosive off-panel tension between the publishing office and the creative team appears to be felt strongly by the character herself. She finds herself mutated beyond recognition as she is torn apart in this strange world, screaming (almost at the reader) “WHAT HAVE I BECOME?!” And thus the Formless Girl was born.
The next chapter of the brilliant Milk Wars crossover (Mother Panic/Batman Special #1) brought us another two-page appearance, once again in the guise of a classic comic reprint. The captions there inform the reader that twenty years after the original cancellation of the book, Caroline’s story was resurrected and retooled to fit the current 1980’s comics marketplace: new costumes, new settings, new characters. In that short reprint, we see her utter despair and horror as her main co-star is murdered by the editorial stand-in character, Madame Atom, no doubt because the book needed some shock factor to goose the sales. Caroline, now going by the codename Chrysalis, loses her shit at the mindless tragedy and lashes out at Madame Atom in a fit of righteous anger, gruesomely killing her while her supporting cast looks on in horror. She’s not adjusting well.
With one final reprint (Shade the Changing Girl/Wonder Woman Special #1) we begin to see the pattern. Another series reboot, another refresh of intellectual properties. Caroline is brought back from death by her arch nemesis and looks around in confusion at Madame Atom: “Aren’t I dead? And didn’t I kill you?” Silly girl. You’re a comic book character owned by a massive corporation. They will never let you die as long as they can turn your adventures into cash.
Here’s where things get interesting (as if they weren’t already). When the Milk Wars came to an end in a classic all-out, old fashioned reality reboot (February’s Doom Patrol/JLA Special #1), Caroline Sharp found herself already existing as a wild narrative, not firmly planted in the “Earth Prime” universe of the story’s action nor as a fictional comic book character written by inhabitants of that universe. Hers was an in-between existence, hanging out in the gutters between panels as the Justice League and the Doom Patrol scrambled to hit the reset button on creation. When the teams call their final Hail Mary play, using Flex Mentallo’s powers of the absurd to create the universe anew, Caroline squeezes herself unnoticed into one of the newly formed panels, astutely observing, “I don’t know if I can fit.”
Which brings us, finally, to this series and to this version of our heroine, who has been called by many names and has led many different lives, none of them free from the pressure of outside forces. She finds herself now as a thirty-something woman who can’t die — no matter how hard she tries. Caroline Sharp, the Eternity Girl.
Her daily existence isn’t so unusual, really. She struggles with her job problems and talks to a counselor twice a week. She finds it draining to keep up an appearance of normality when in public. Sometimes she drinks vodka until she passes out and wakes up feeling lost. And yes, she jaunts across the multiverse with her arch nemesis on a quest to wipe out all of existence. Anything to alleviate the utter pain of day to day survival in a world that doesn’t fit her.
While obviously a commentary on the comics industry, where characters never truly die and entire universes get regularly rebooted as a matter of editorial course correction, Eternity Girl also hits a little closer to home as well. If you’ve ever felt trapped in a story with no point and no end, that you’re not sure you’re in charge of and you wish you could step out of, this might be a book that speaks to you.
Worlds will live, worlds will die, but the story must go on. And it’s apparently about to get weird.
- I wasn’t especially grabbed by The Immortal Men #1 this week. I can usually appreciate Jim Lee’s art, but the entire thing looks rushed. And I thought the whole point of these “New Age of Heroes” books was that it was an artist-first collaboration? I can’t imagine what happened here. The layouts aren’t imaginative, absolutely none of the panels jumped out or impressed me. The story was all right, but is this book necessary? I can name a dozen other existing characters who deserve a monthly book more than this concept. I didn’t hate it, I just found myself wondering why it exists.
- No wait, I’m not done bitching about The Immortal Men #1. How long am I going to have to read books with that Joker Batman from Dark Nights Metal and his little Robin goons? It was old a long time ago. It was implied that he was taken care of in the Metal finale earlier this month, but here he is doing the same old thing like that story never happened. Can I assume then that he won the fight and the (pardon the eye roll) other Joker is dead? I’m guessing not. I think I’m supposed to believe that they settled their differences and both walked away. Oh, comics. Nothing like a first issue featuring a slew of new characters to showcase that there are no new ideas.
- And yes, I realize that this issue was originally intended to come out prior to the finale to Metal, before publishing got delayed. For FOUR MONTHS. For crying out loud, why not just delay it another couple of months and take the time to make it good? The more I think about this book the angrier I get.
- (Say something nice, say something nice…) Um, the lettering looks pretty?
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Louie is a freelance writer, editor, and desert dweller. He manages TimeIsBroken.com where he writes about comics, meditation and football. When he’s not reading Green Lantern, he is likely to be found crying over the Cleveland Browns.