Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke begin to wrap up their introduction of new Green Lantern Simon Baz in “Green Lantern” #16, and in doing so the story starts to pick up a bit, even as it trades in some cliches for new ones in their place. While a few parts will no doubt make readers groan and perhaps roll their eyes, it’s not a bad comic overall.
The old cliche that gets retired this month is the familiar, “New hero isn’t a bad guy but absolutely no one believes him” story. From a rudimentary plotting standpoint it’s easy to see why so many people go to that well; it gives the hero a sense of isolation, putting them in a situation where they’re unable to get help and it lets us see what they’re capable of. The problem is that it’s such a familiar route that it runs the risk of annoying the reader; thankfully, “Green Lantern” #16 finally lets the truth start coming to light for everyone else. It’s nice to see Johns treating the other characters as people willing to listen and understand now, and it makes Baz’s introduction feel less irritating.
Unfortunately, this issue also heads down another familiar route, where the new hero shows the ability to something that was previously thought of as impossible. Building up the new hero by tearing down the old one has always been an odd choice, especially at a company like DC Comics where the older heroes are often sticking around. Baz’s ability to do something that no other Green Lantern was able feels particularly forced here; there’s no indication leading up to or even afterwards on why Baz was able to make the impossible happen save authorial fiat. Hopefully down the line there’ll be a bit more on that front, but right now it feels slightly out of place in a comic where not being able to make that one thing happen probably would have felt more interesting in terms of character building.
One thing that has been nice is that despite being billed as part of “Rise of the Third Army,” Johns and Mahnke have left “Green Lantern” #16 almost entirely on its own, save for the last three pages. It’s definitely one of the best decisions made about the book in recent issues; dumping Baz right into a crossover would have far too easily submerged the new character in plots that overshadowed it, but I think Johns has handled the situation perfectly here. The link to “Rise of the Third Army” (with Baz having Sinestro/Jordan’s ring) works, but it’s not overwhelming.
Mahnke and his team of inkers turn out another solid looking comic. B’dg the squirrel (or rather, H’ivenite) Green Lantern looks both hysterical and yet is treated seriously, just the right balance. The one scene in the dead zone looks particularly nice, in part because of the deliberate contrast between the art and coloring on that page and the rest of the title. And as annoying as you may (or may not) find it, the scene in the hospital has a great deal of emotion as Mahnke and company try to make a scene contain more drama than it otherwise might.
“Green Lantern” #16 in some ways sums up the title as a whole, post-“New 52” restart. This is no longer essential reading, but it’s still a pleasant enough comic. Maybe once things settle down we’ll get a bit more punch to the comic as a whole. For now, it continues to hit the middle of the road; there isn’t much to drag you in if you weren’t already reading, but there’s also nothing to push you away.