Green Lanterns #11
Writer: Sam Humphries
Pencils: Robson Rocha
Inks: Jay Leisten and Cam Smith
Letters: Dave Sharpe
There is no shortage of butt-munches in the world of fictional media content these days. While the number one eye-roller in my book right now is The Walking Dead’s Negan, Frank Laminski is running a close second. A complete butt wipe and major sociopath with an interstellar inferiority complex, this is the absolute last person you might want to obtain a power ring. But that is just what he did in the previous issue. And now Simon and Jessica have to clean up the mess. But they might be getting more than they bargained for.
The issue opens with Laminski taking a geographic tour of multiple climates and environments around the world courtesy of the protection offered by the Phantom Ring; a power ring that offers an amalgamation of every color power in the spectrum. Space, farmlands, under the sea, forests, the Himalayas…Laminski gets his jollies replicating the act of peeing his name onto a snow-covered mountainside to cap off his leisurely excursion. Returning to his rent-controlled apartment, which he is likely squatting in, Volthoom, the first Lantern (whom I insist on referring to as Voldemort), tells him enough with the screwing around and sends him off to do damage control on a raging tornado in Kansas. Frank rescues a boy, the town declares him a hero, but then he is confronted by Starsky and Hutch, aka Lanterns Baz and Cruz. They work the Phantom Lantern up into a tizzy, finally causing him to fire-burst from a Green Lantern into an Orange Lantern. And we’re setup for what looks to be a big clash in the next issue.
Humphries has been really nailing it on this series, which has been one of my favorite of the DC Rebirth initiative. What I dislike about this issue and the Phantom Lantern series is that the villain is a little non-threatening for me. I know he has the Phantom Ring. And I get that he is a complete loon. A dangerous cocktail to mix in the super-hero world. But his maniacal mood swings come off a bit more whiny jealous villain from the 50s and 60s than modern-day Joker (post-Frank Miller). So I am having a difficult time looking at this guy as anything other than a certified ass-clown. I’m also growing a tad weary of the whole angst of Baz and Cruz self-loathing, anxiety, and self-doubt. I get it. These two are supposed to be finding their inner-strength together, with neither measuring up to the mettle of the previous Lanterns pound-for-pound. Every Lantern before them has had to work out realizing the worthiness that made the Rings select them in the first place and find their way in the world to be a hero. But after 12 issues, the equivalent of a year’s worth of a series run done in 6 months under DC’s Rebirth double-shipping business model, I want to see them moved forward in a more deliberate manner. Right now, Humphries moves them forward one step in an issue, only to have them relapse the next. Admittedly, this is just a passing dribble of frustration in a run that is overall a gangbusters hit for me.
So what takes center-stage this issue is the art. If you are going to do a Lantern book and have to cover all of the colors of the rainbow, you’d better have great chops as a colorist. Leisten and Smith deliver. I love the light blooms and bright orange’s and emerald’s in this issue. Near the end, there is a bit of sketchy storytelling in a few panels. It is when Laminski is switching from Green to Orange, an apparently laborious process that occurs over a stretch of time and not quite instantaneously. Rocha draws the camera in tight on close-ups of Laminski’s arm and leg. But because of the blue-grey phantom effect in the colors, it was difficult to tell what was going on and what I was looking at. The neutralized colors make the body parts look non-descript and I wound up staring at those panels for a few seconds trying to untie exactly what I was looking at. Rocha’s facial work is amazing, contorting Laminski’s face into macabre and cartoony renders to evoke just how much of a lunatic he is. One could perceive that the massive bending breaks the grounding of more realistic portraits, but I took the effect as an excellently timed step-away from trying to display anatomic realism in a manner that enhances the story, rather than detracting from it.
I need this Phantom Lantern to evil-up pretty quick, and move away from the 1960’s Bat-villain-esque treatment that he is getting now. Let’s get on with the sinister. Still, this book remains solid, and I am sure we are going to get Laminski turning the bend and saying “eff it, I’m straight-up evil now”. I’m also hoping that, while he has all of the power spectrum at his disposal, Baz and Cruz are able to find a way to take advantage of the fact that he is still a rookie (more so than even they are) in handling the ring and bringing its full power to bear. What might be the real story here is the conflict between Volthoom and the renegade Guardian who has been kidnapped. Either way, I am sure that we are in for a great chapter in two weeks. This issue still shows good stuff, even though not a whole lot happens here. Some of the blame for that goes to the pain that shows through when there are two issues coming out in a month. Not every issue can move the story forward in a great leap, and so these inch-stone issues are going to happen. But I really need the creative team to bang the drum next issue.