Another week, another stack of comics. This time we say goodbye to Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, and watch the Transformers try to struggle against the consequences of their past sins against the universe. Welcome back to Bottom of the Pile, a weekly column discussing some of my favorite comic books of the week. If you enjoy this series, please give it a share on Twitter and Facebook.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #50
“Last Charge” Finale
Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciller: Rafa Sandoval
Inker: Jordi Tarragona
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
And so we bid adieu to writer of one of the longest runs on Green Lantern…since the last guy to write Green Lantern, actually. Robert took over the character right after Geoff Johns wrapped his run up back in 2013 and has been writing the Emerald Gladiator ever since. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of the New 52 half of his run–Relic was a terrible idea that basically insinuated the Green Lanterns using their powers at all was irresponsible since it was slowly killing the universe, and the Lantern Corps as a whole just continued to get slaughtered wholesale by every villain remotely worth talking about. By the time Hal had gone all long-haired and wearing Krona’s glove I was basically out.
Still, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps just goes to show how drastically a change in editorial vision can improve a book. Venditti was always talented, and over the course of the last two years he proved X-O Manowar hadn’t drained all his desire for writing compelling space epics. He started by re-situating the Green Lantern Corps as the primary force for order in the universe, and making them actually look competent, giving a meaning to wearing the Most Powerful Weapon in the Universe. Then gradually, he reintroduced several elements of Green Lantern history, managing to use a bunch of old, forgotten toys without actually breaking them once he was done.
It all culminated in this final arc, a story where the Lanterns were forced to face against a dark, mirror image of themselves. If the Green Lantern Corps were police, the Darkstars were mob rule given power and will. With their numbers still dwindled after several years of whittling them down through various wars, the Corps had to call on every favor they could just to equal the numbers of the Darkstars, but in the end the good guys won out. The DC Universe has a reason to believe in the Corps once again, and Venditti has fifty of the most solid Green Lantern stories this side of Geoff Johns.
In three months, Grant Morrison’s run on the Lanterns finally begins. Described as a space police procedural, it’ll be a much smaller, more intimate ongoing following the adventures of Hal Jordan on his own, exploring sector 2814. I’m not sure how much I believe that given even Grant’s smaller stories tend to have scales most people can barely comprehend, but if it’s true this is probably as good a send-off to the era of GL where every arc had to be a grand epic as possible.
“Grips of Strength”
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Christian Duce
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
I wasn’t expecting to find Flash #52 as interesting as I did; usually after a big arc like Flash War stories tend to gear down for a bit while giving the author time to introduce the next big story they have planned. But “Grips of Strength” pretty much dives headlong into all the insanity unleashed at the end of Flash War. It starts out with an awesome scene of Barry visiting the House of Heroes to discuss with the Flashes of 52 Worlds what happened in his universe, and how there are apparently six brand new forces he knows nothing about now causing chaos in his world.
I love the attention to detail here, as nearly every Flash you see comes from either a documented Earth or happens to be a specific “Elseworlds” Flash. But more importantly, it’s great that none of these other Flashes seem to know what Barry’s talking about. It indicates that either something’s special about Barry’s Earth or something has gone terribly wrong, which makes sense because these Forces had never been mentioned until now. Secondly, I love that one of the Flashes is honest enough to point out for this to have happened someone had to have screwed up bad–which is pretty accurate.
Before he can leave, Barry gets some advice from a handful of Flashes about going on a Force Quest to discover more about his powers. He ignores it though, claiming he’s too busy, but from the looks of this it seems as though he’ll be going on a Force Quest regardless. The Trickster has always been a bit of a joke even amongst the Rogues, but this arc seems to be rectifying that a bit, after starting with him being absolutely terrified of snitching on the prison warden at Iron Heights. After just narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Para-Angels, Trickster finds himself swallowed up by a manifestation of the Strength Force. Now a representative of one of the strange new forces, hopefully Williamson can help lay some ground rules out for these new additions to the DC Universe and what they mean going forward.
In the meantime, there’s something entertaining about watching Flash be forced to work alongside a guy who looks like one of his greatest enemies. Commander Cold should stick around as long as possible, as he plays off Flash well and currently no other speedster apparently wants to work with Barry.
Transformers Unicron #3
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Sebastian Cheng and David Garcia Cruz
As predicted, Unicron exists as a direct result of the ancient Cybertronian expansion attempts. It’s a fitting way to cap off the IDW stories, forcing the Transformers to face off against the result of their very first sin against life other than their own. But just as great perhaps, is watching the Cybertronian colonists get knocked down a peg. As Bumblebee explains the history of how Unicron came to be, both Aileron and Windblade become more and more disgusted by the warmongering history of the Cybertronian race.
It’s been like this since the colonists first returned, and they’ve usually been fairly right in their indignation. The early Cybertronians had a perfect world and blew it with war after war. But Windblade gets a little ahead of herself this issue by pretending the blame is only on the ones who stayed on Cybertron, when in reality this is a shared sin. It’s actually pretty bold, but Transformers: Unicron almost seems not to be posing the question of “Will the Cybertronians win?”, but “Do they even deserve to win?” For literal eons they’ve had superior technology and the long life-spans, and they could just as easily have guided all sentient life into a permanent golden age of peace and prosperity…and instead they chose to become a terror, imposing their will first on one another, then on other planets. Even Shockwave admits he suggested the expansion specifically to stop the Cybertronians from fighting each other.
As the deaths mount up higher in this issue, the question of “Would the universe be better off without Cybertron?” is only going to become more pressing. And with the stories in this world coming to an end regardless, it’s good that John Barber is free to answer that question however he wants.
Wonder Woman #52
“The Enemy of Both Sides, Part One”
Writer: Steve Orlando
Inks: David Lorenzo
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Setting aside the mess of continuity it takes for Aztek to have existed in this universe while Wonder Woman knows who he was (was he in the JLA?), this is a solid issue. Steve Orlando is doing a mini run on Wonder Woman until G. Willow Wilson starts her run in November, but in just two issues he’s already sold me on understanding the character better than just about anyone who’s written the main book in the past seven years aside from Greg Rucka. His Wonder Woman is powerful, confident, but most importantly? Compassionate. She cares as much about her enemies as she does her friends, and that’s great to see.
What’s also great to see is this incredibly odd group of heroes getting an entire arc to themselves. When it comes to smaller characters like Aztek, or even Artemis, it can be pretty difficult to find a place for them. Fortunately Orlando cares enough about his creation to try to give her a consistent appearance in various comics across the DC Universe, giving her a chance to pick up new fans while continuing the story he has set up for her. In this arc, Diana is helping Aztek to track down her sworn enemy Tezcatlipoca, while also in search of a lost Amazonian who they believe to be kidnapped. Orlando is a master of pacing here–taking us from a simple mystery into a quartet of super-powered women responsible for taking on a secret army in only twenty-two pages without things ever feeling specifically rushed or forced.
…But the real secret here is ACO, an exceptionally talented artist I’m ashamed I wasn’t aware of already. They’re just as capable of showing greasy dive bars and moonlit rooftops as they are at showing ancient Aztec super-technology from the gods. And their panel layouts are so good it occasionally just feels like they’re showing off, emphasizing the claustrophobic nature of the maze our superheroes have to travel through by utilizing smaller panels and showing both the women and their enemies struggling to make room. If great takes on obscure heroes don’t convince you on this book, the artwork absolutely should.
See you in seven.