The Law of Narrative Escalation states, “If the conflict escalates too far, for too long, the thrill of escalation will be replaced by tedium.” Okay, that’s not really a Law, but everyone knows that cranking up the volume only works to a point. After that it’s just white noise and broken eardrums and avoidance. The problem with “Green Lantern Corps” #42, a “Blackest Night” tie-in issue, is that the volume has been cranked up for so long — or at least it feels that way, between this series, the main “event” book, and the “Green Lantern” sister series — that the important moments get lost in the wall of noise.
No doubt there’s skill in the making of this issue. Patrick Gleason loads the pages with detail, clearly delineated by the ink-stained hands of Rebecca Buchman and Tom Nguyen. There is some George Perez/”Crisis” level of noodling here, and it’s impressive in its own right. Taken out of context, ignoring any of the word balloons or captions, this is the paragon of late-20th, early-21st century super-event comics. This is visual megadeath, this is excess for the sake of excess, and its kind of glorious.
But as a story — particularly as a single issue — it falters a bit. It’s all yelling and screaming, metaphorically and literally, and death and blood and explosions and more death. Peter Tomasi has done a nice job invigorating this comic over the past 18 months or so, but this issue feels mechanical. It’s like those scenes in “Transformers 2” where your mind drifts because there’s a whole bunch of action on the screen but none of it means anything. It’s just chaos and emptiness.
That’s what “Green Lantern Corps” #42 feels like for most of the issue, as the dead babies of Corps members rise up against their parents peers, as the Black Lanterns swarm the central Power Battery, as the Red Lanterns are set free to slaughter the undead. I mentioned the emotional void of “Transformers 2” above, but it also reminds me of a scene from another movie — a great movie: “The Wild Bunch.” This comic is the superhero version of what the kids are doing in the opening scene of Peckinpah’s bloody western: they pit red ants against a scorpion and giggle over the battle. Then they set the whole tiny arena on fire, sadistically, gleefully.
So when a major player in the DCU dies in this issue, the effect is diminished. It’s just another ant succumbing to the tortuous flames of the children. It’s supposed to be meaningful, if the final splash page is any indication, but it doesn’t feel that way.