Saturday, April 5, 2014

Green Lantern - Sinestro Corps War

First, let me get out in front of this one.  I did not enjoy this story, whatsoever.  The only saving grace was Jerry Ordway’s inks over Jamal Igle’s pencils.  Beautiful.  Other than that, this was a bad comic.  In my opinion.

The caveats: 
-  This story is seven years old (in comic book terms that can be a lifetime), and I was already aware of many of the revelations in this narrative. 
-  There’s a good chance this may have read better in monthly installments.  There’s a magic that can occur with comic narratives, those done well, when the readers has weeks to stew and ponder over what they just read.  Similar, in a way, to serialized television – the format can dictate creative choices that will enhance the experience for the audience. 

Given these above points, it is possible that the proclamations of this storyline’s greatness were not overstated, at the time.  [though, I’m more inclined to believe it was more hyperbole than genuinely good storytelling]  Geoff Johns & co. were certainly shaking up the status quo without treading on the history of the Green Lanterns, and they even managed to weave many facets of that history, and DC history in general, into this new age for the corps. 

I remember how crazy the response to the Anti-Monitor’s return seemed to be on the internet and within the comic-reading community, but within the context of this narrative – standing alone as it does now in collected form – that felt so lackluster.  Yes, it’s the Anti-Monitor, the big bad we remember from the Crisis – THE CRISIS, not the echoes that followed years later – but he feels so insignificant in the way he’s utilized within this story.  He just stands around, for the most part, looking tall.  It never felt, to me, like he was spurring this great cosmic war with the Guardians and their corps. 

But, again, this could be the result of my being spoiled on his return.  Which isn’t an absolution of the creators and the story.  Now this may be unfair, but let’s look at a different example of a comic story that drastically changed the status quo for the main characters – Swamp Thing #21, by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, & John Totleben.  This is where Moore made his stamp on the character, “revealing” that the Swamp Thing wasn’t Alec Holland transformed into a muck monster, but actually the consciousness of Holland that had animated the muck to form a body with which he could relate.  The impetus for the character to this point had been his desire to find a way to change back to a human.  That was thrown out with this second issue of Moore’s run, and the character would never be the same. 

Now, in both of these stories, the status quo is shaken up (the introduction of a second lantern corps, the rewriting of GL law to allow deadly force, the reintroduction of the Anti-Monitor vs. a wholly new take on a character and its motivation), and I have read each of these stories after a point where I knew of the “big change(s)” within the mythos.  With Sinestro Corps War, though there are specific plot points toward which Johns, et al. are moving, it mainly feels like they’re just spinning their wheels for the most part, as little really occurs other than a lot of fighting between Green and Yellow Lanterns, over the course of ten-plus chapters.  And even those main plot points feel diminished somehow.
(it could be the fact that, due to the frantic nature of many “mainstream/action” comics today, the characters are never afforded a chance to stop or slow down.  And without those quiet moments of reflection, there is no ebb and flow to the action or the narrative throughline, losing the core of what can make for a good story) 
It’s one long fight scene, basically, through multiple issues of this story, and any character moments or nuance gets lost in the clutter. 

Then there’s Swamp Thing #21.  Moore imbues his story with heart.  It’s a story of horrible sadness – the realization that the thing you wanted so much to return to is now beyond your grasp and was, in fact, never possible.   We have all experienced the desire to get back what we once had, whether an old girlfriend or boyfriend, our childhood innocence, something material or spiritual; it’s something to which we can relate, quite easily.  It is this core that makes this tale so affecting and so effective.  Despite this character being covered in weeds and tubers and muck and moss, readers understand him, feel empathy for him, and are moved by this story, told in a single comic.  No small feat, that. 

It seems like, as is often the case, the lessons gleaned from previous works held up as exemplary are the wrong ones.  It feels, in Sinestro Corps War, like the main point of the story was to move toward these big “reveals.”  Anti-Monitor.  Sinestro Corps.  Green Lanterns being allowed to use deadly force.  These facets seem to be the driving force behind the narrative, and one could argue that the big “reveal” that the Swamp Thing is not Alec Holland but a husk of plant material pretending to be Holland was the main impetus of issue #21 of Swamp Thing.  And though that might be what many people remember, that is not what has made that issue, and that run by Moore and his artistic collaborators, the high water mark to which people return for multiple readings.  Moore did not rely on the twist ending to hold that story together.  He filled it with emotion and humanity and terror – so ably abetted by Bissette and Totleben, without whom I don’t think this story could have worked as well – and hinged his story onto some very true feelings that resonate with readers. 

Swamp Thing #21 has a cool twist at the end, but it stands up as a well-told story because the twist wasn’t the prime motivator for the authors.  Sinestro Corps War has multiple cool twists, one could argue, but once you wash those away, you’re left with a lifeless husk of a narrative, similar to what was left of the Anti-Monitor the last time anyone had seen him prior to this storyline.


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