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Subj: Green Lanterns #12 - Between Frank and Jessica....
Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 at 03:09:05 pm EST (Viewed 303 times)
Yes, it's Green Lanterns... what can I say. No, really, what can I say about this latest issue....?
How to find an even level by which to to judge this current storylines intended tone is proving to be more challenging by the month - is Sam Humphries writing the story of Frank Laminski as a deliberate send-up and parody of Green Lantern-Hal Jordan's origins, or is he being quite serious and earnest about Frank and his pathetic background?
I can't gauge what the intention is, Humphries' script for this months chapter is as derivative and unfocused as it has been for the last two issues, and yet sprinkled in amidst the (literal) emotional meltdown of Frank Laminski writer Humphries injects some genuinely worthy moments of moral questioning thanks to Jessica Cruz' pausing to consider poor Laminski's struggles and how they parallel her own past internal struggles. Jessica being the one to stop and consider Laminski's plight is contrasted by Simon's hardline, and achingly ironic, attitude in seeing only a thief and dangerously unstable figure with an almighty weapon of destruction on his hand. That Humphries uses Jessica to be the reasonable one in amidst all this chaos is a potentially key turning point in the plot, as it is she more than Simon who can recognise loneliness and desperation and duly empathise with the unstable and arguably misunderstood Laminski. As Batman once stepped forward in her moment of greatest need now it is she who recognises a similar moment approaching for her to try and help the desperately empty soul of Frank Laminski.
Of course that reasoning may be hopelessly naive, perhaps Simon's simple and direct assessment will be proved correct instead, on the surface of things Laminski appears to be so unstable mentally and emotionally that his behaviour is nothing less than deranged. We saw the exact same ramblings and delusions coming from Hal Jordan when he became Parallax. But while the scripting in this instance is lacking in discipline and focus it is still to Sam Humphries credit that he sets forth some potential hope for the sad suffering of Laminski, as the newly titled Phantom Lantern drags himself back to Volthoom and collapses in an emotional puddle there is only harsh words from his manipulative Guardian, but those words prompt some effort to regain control for Laminski and an instant that might almost be inspirational he reflects back to the same will and ferocious self control that made him a worthy pilot originally. The effort is made subtly powerful thaanks to a well judged tight central panel of Frank coming into focus on the page as the beleaguered Phantom Lantern struggles to compose himself. This single page by Eduardo Pansica is my favourite scene in the book, as like Hal Jordan's struggles against his conversion to Parallax it shows that even this pathetic fallen figure of a man is still potentially able to summon forth the finest traits within and overcome, however briefly, the terrible struggles he is currently submerged within. It is thoughtful moments such as this that make me love reading these books.
If Jessica Cruz is the sensible one in Green Lanterns then Simon Baz is the... what? The Practical one? The self assertive one of the duo?
If one judges him by his lack of any compassion towards Laminski and the silent admission to coveting The Phantom Ring as his own, as a more powerful replacement to the Green Ring, then Simon is either a profoundly selfish person and fundamentally unworthy of the Green Lantern mantle, or else proof that even the briefest of exposure to the wild energies of the Phantom Ring can coax forth and make prominent a persons true deepest impulses. Certainly a strong seam of selfishness has always been one element of Baz's make-up, from the moment we first meet him it is made quite evident that this is no paragon of virtue racing the streets in his latest stolen vehicle. Sam Humphries then is only bringing forward something that has been long unaddressed in the character, it is only unfortunate that the context he does it within here may come across other than he intends it. Nevertheless Baz's indifference to the pleas of Jessica concerning Laminski, and his own temptations concerning the special Power Ring he now holds, are not so much a diversion from his established character as a return to the character as he was established. This acknowledgement from Sam Humphries shows promise for the books future as it sets a building and strong contrast between the two leads and their as yet unspoken need for the other as a balance...
There are reasons then to be optimistic for Green Lanterns. The frustration however lies in a bemusing, and puzzling, lack of clarity in the narratives presentation. Whether I am being asked to feel pity for Frank Laminski or rather sneer and laugh at the sheer inadequacy and foolishness of the man is something I need answered. It might be true that the wild unfiltered energies the Phantom Ring channels are warping his actions and emotional state, but when Sam Humphries interrupts to flash back to a time in the past when Frank takes a girl to the Coast City fair the scene presented is genuinely charming and affecting in light of his present, we see a glimpse of a happier time then Frank Laminski at peace and living a normal life filled with possibilities. And then the tone of the piece wrenches away from this touching romance to show Frank ditching the poor girl in the fairground as Green lantern is spotted in the sky above, and we next see him on the floor of his shabby apartment frothing on the need for "dedication" and the "loneliness" and "pain" being not meaning a thing to him. All inflected while performing one handed press-ups, while naked.
Seriously. The dilemma then - Am I to take this character, and the story, as something to be concerned over. Or is this all merely good natured tongue-in-cheek parody? Perhaps it is intended as being a hybrid of both? Such a thing can be accomplished certainly, Garth Ennis has made a living out of combining thriller with acidic Parody over the foolishness of the Superhero concept, and you won't find a better example of it than his well regarded The Boys with partner Darick Robertson.
But Sam Humphries Green Lanterns isn't anywhere near as being on the nose as Ennis' skillfull balancing of satire and thriller, instead it seems to float in an area not quite either, a non-committal effort yearning to be seen as something amusing, yet produced by a creative staff who don't agree on what the joke actually is. And it may be that in as much as anything this failure to set the tone is due to the lack of a direct communication with the artists involved. If Robson Roscha and Eduardo Pansica were informed of the required and intended tone needed then I am sure they would adapt their style and approach to the project accordingly.
If he is strong enough...
Available to Read, for Free! Fantasy Express #5. Go Back to 1983 - and meet Alan Moore in full, Read all about Countdown, And then there's Johnny Future...
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #36 - In Search of a Legacy.
A Peculiar Effect on the BBC - The Story of Bernard Wilkie.
Arrow Jan 16th - Divided.
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