The Alpha-Lanterns have been around for a couple of years now, but they haven't done much other than be aloof and intimidating in the background, and get used as tools of evil powers in "Final Crisis." But the idea of the Alpha-Lanterns has been a good one, even if they haven't been used all that much. As the elite guards of the Green Lantern Corps, the Alpha-Lantern willingly sacrifice much of their humanity to help keep the Corps strong. To keep watch over the watchmen. There's story potential there.
And Tony Bedard taps into it here. The notion of the loss of self and the shift from organic life to mechanical justice -- that's explored in "Green Lantern Corps" #49, and it seems like that theme will be central to the story that's bound to come. This is just the beginning, really, with a "Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns" logo on the cover of this issue and a new villain -- or a new-old one -- in Cyborg Superman, ready to corrupt the Corps. And who could be a better symbol for the loss of self and the shift from the organic to the mechanical than Hank Henshaw? (The answer is: "probably no one, except Darth Vader, and DC can't use him.")
So, in issue #49, we get Hank Henshaw as a cosmic Machiavelli and the exploration of the sacrifice of the Alpha-Lanterns, mostly by focusing on Boodikka and learning about why we should care about her. Or why John Stewart used to care about her. Bedard paces this issue nicely, and though there's some lingering threads from "Brightest Day" woven into the story, this is mostly a comic about the people in the Green Lantern Corps. It's full of plot, but it doesn't skimp on the characterizations. And even though I've enjoyed what's been done on "Green Lantern Corps" and "Green Lantern" in recent years, both comics have been more effective at plot than character. Bedard balances both, nicely.
Ardian Syaf does fine work here as well. It's sturdy superhero work that doesn't impair the story and doesn't call much attention to itself. It's suitably nondescript for a comic about a superhero army. It has a kind of generic quality to it that fits the theme of identity loss.
It's a bit surprising that this series isn't building toward something more dramatic and farther-reaching as it approaches issue #50, but since the Corps hasn't had much rest since the escalation to the Sinestro Corps War and everything that followed -- including Blackest Night, which was kind of a big deal for this crew of heroes -- it makes sense to tighten things up and give them a smaller scale conflict. And when a "smaller scale" conflict includes a galactic threat who's been known to destroy cities, that means that this is a series that thrives on big ideas and immense tragedy.
"Green Lantern Corps" #49 is a solid installment in such a series. It hasn't skipped a beat with the departure of Peter Tomasi. The Corps marches on.