Review by: flapjaxx

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Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy
Variant cover by Greg Horn

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

I gotta call a spade a spade sometimes. These past two issues of Green Lantern have been all flash and no substance. I like Geoff Johns’ writing, usually. I really do. He’s MVP at DC right now, no question. And it’s really impressive to me how he writes so many books and they’re all such high-quality. But every now and then, amongst the twelve other comics he’s writing every month, I get the impression that he just “mails one in”. I have no doubt that Johns put considerable thought into this issue, but I think most of that thought was directed towards how to move the pieces back in place so the next issue of Blackest Night proper could pick up pretty much where the last one left off. In other words, for all its heralded hype, the little story that GL #50 started really amounts to…nothing. Or very little.

This comic is very formulaic. It’s Geoff Johns at his worst. It’s everything that all the Geoff Johns detractors say about him. They say that his comics are nothing but scenes of a child-writer mashing action figures together, interspersed with scenes of tedious “Oh my, look how desperate everything is!”-routine dialogue. That’s what the detractors say. Usually they’re wrong, ignoring the orchestrating talent at work beneath the rage and fury–but regarding GL #51 the detractors would be very right.

There is so much in this issue that is overblown. There are big, supposedly powerful characters involved here, and they all do big, supposedly powerful things. The problem is, the changes come so fast and furious that they seem hollow. Is there really a DIFFERENCE between any of the big, supposedly powerful entities here? Not that I can see. In the way Johns manipulates them, there’s really no difference between the Spectre, or Atrocitous, or Parallax, or whoever. They’re all just rampaging entities, mouthing routine “Look how powerful I am!” comments. “You think you’re right, don’t you!?!?” “YES I DO!” “OH HO, You’re wrong!! Watch me do…THIS!!!” And then there’s a predictable splash page with an incredibly violent action depicted on it. Johns has done this routine over and over and over lately, with anything “Blackest Night” at times seeming less like a story and more like a huge, rambling, amorphous battle scene, in which characters take on–and change–Lantern “colors” for near-random and dubious reasons.

I remember whenever the Spectre would appear in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. He said little but was SUCH an ominous, imposing entity. He was so interesting. But here in GL #51 the Spectre is just a gigantic, violent asshole/punching bag. His personality is not much different from any other of the big-time imposing entities involved. So many of the personalities displayed here are nearly interchangeable, and that makes me sad because I used to love the uniqueness of the Spectre.

And–sorry, but I have to say–the violence in this issue is a bit much, to say the least. I usually don’t mind violence in fiction, but here it’s dished out at such an exorbitant extent for no reason. Again, this particular issue would prove the Johns detractors right when they call him out for too much violence. I mean…ripping a character’s eyeball out…and then ripping his whole fucking FACE off? Sorry, I don’t think that’s inherently neat to see, because I’m not twelve years old anymore. It’s not even meaningful, since the character those horrible things happen to just regenerates or whatever a few pages later. It’s not meaningful; it’s just disgusting. Cavalier violence is, uh, dehumanizing, sorry. Seeing images of mangled human forms for no reason is not cool. I could go off on a tangent about how it “desensitizes” us or whatever, but I’ll just say that I think the violence here is incredibly overblown and pointless. And make no mistake, I’m ALL FOR images of violence to ANY extent when they add to the story, but here they don’t really add to anything. They’re just there because Johns expects you to get excited over them, at face value, as if you were twelve years old again. And it’s all SO extreme that it’s off-putting, silly and childish, in my opinion. (Hey everybody who puts down old issues of Youngblood, Spawn, Deathblow or Bloodwolf for being stupid and violent: this issue of Johns’ Green Lantern actually has a LOT of similarities with the things you claim to dislike from the ’90s. Just sayin’.)

This actually causes me to wonder how removed from reality we really are nowadays in modern comics. I mean, we’ve got a funny little character here who’s nicknamed “Agent Orange”. Do people even realize what Agent Orange was in the real world, or what it really did to real people? Normally, I wouldn’t even think to ask this, but the amount of pointless violence in this issue makes me wonder: Just what is the nature of this unreality we’re experiencing here, where “Agent Orange” is just taken, matter-of-factly, as a cool phrase to reuse in this way? I’m not saying comics (or any art) “shouldn’t” showcase graphic violence, or that a writer “shouldn’t” ever nickname a character something provocative like “Agent Orange”. But the point is, I don’t know if the author (let alone much of the readership) is actually cognizant of the horrors that this story is suggesting and referencing. Is Johns aware of the horrible realities his stories suggest, or in his mind is it like he’s just ripping apart the bodyparts of action figures? If you’re going to do these things as an author–they CAN make for great, meaningful stories–then you should be aware of the violent weight behind them–and that awful, realistic, grounded, meaningful weight should come through in your story. Usually, I DO think Johns puts enough weight behind his stories. But in this issue, I don’t think there’s much background thought or consideration going on. This time around, it’s all just a bunch of blasting, screaming, ripping and bleeding, and even the brief “respite” panels with Hal and Carol seem so listless, like Johns wrote them in his sleep.

For me, I think maybe what it all comes down to is that in most issues Johns usually includes a few GREAT lines of dialogue, and these satisfy me so much that I don’t really hold the rest of the issue to any sort of standard. But in this issue there was just NO great dialogue. I mean, even in the previous issue, here’s a line Johns gave the Spectre:

“You spend your life without considering consequences. But there is consequence. You will rejoin me and deliver the consequence of living to everyone. Death is inevitable. Judgment must be made.”

Awesome dialogue, perfectly wrought, thoughtful and foreboding. Johns can do soliloquies REALLY well sometimes. But there’s nothing like that in this issue. Instead, at the end we get a(NOTHER) splashpage, with the following words.

“The universe will die now.”

How much more overblown can you get? That line is so ridiculous that it’s silly. I’m supposed to take that seriously and think it’s grim/cool? I want to laugh AT it for being pretty much the MOST overblown and MOST ridiculous way to end the issue. It seems like a desperate attempt to add SOME meaning to the issue, but it’s absurdly belated.

I’m still liking the Blackest Night title (liking it quite a bit actually, despite the tenor of this review), but I think I liked the “Sinistro Corps War” better in that the earlier crossover had some “quiet” chapters interspersed within it. There were also the “Tales of the Sinistro Corps” vignettes in the back of several issues. For the most part–with the exception of GL #49–that sort of “downtime” has been absent from “Blackest Night”, which has been a nonstop, disorienting war scene. I really think the overall experience would have benefited from the Green Lantern series being a little “quieter” than it has been in the last few months. If you have the volume turned up to 10 (or 11) ALL the time, loud awesome music can actually start to seem pointless and annoying. You need contrasts. You need build-ups and reprieves. You need quiet–if not silence–every now and then for a few minutes. Not just raging war all the time, cranked up to 10 (or 11).

As far as the art goes, however, it was absolutely amazing. I’m not talking about the splash pages, either. Even Manke’s panelwork displayed depth, great perspective and great storytelling skills. This may be the best work I’ve seen from him, next to Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D–and it NEARLY tops that. Manke made the Spectre seem gigantic and imposing, even in modest-sized panels. So, even though I don’t appreciate what Johns did to that character, overall the saving grace of the issue (I thought it was “average” overall) was Manke’s art, particularly his Spectre.

Story: 1 - Poor
Art: 5 - Excellent

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