Green Lantern Corps reintroduces its characters, with subtly in words and actions. Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin channel Guy Gardner as the irreverent jock-with-a-heart, instead of the perennial hothead seen in previous Green Lantern titles. Unfortunately, the duo has a tired set up for the long term storyarc. Hopefully though, the pairing of Guy and John Stewart in an antagonistic-buddy relationship will serve to at least entertain the readers in the meantime.
Green Lantern Corps switches between two plotlines that intersect near the end of the issue. The first, and much better of the two, starts with Green Lantern Guy Gardner interviewing to be a high school football coach. Tomasi introduces new readers to Guy and the Green Lantern Corps with questions by fans in the waiting room. This backstory technique is less overt among the New 52, especially compared to the faux interview in Animal Man or the contact lens-computer that Bruce wears in Batman.
Green Lantern John Stewart explains how the rings work as well as his architect and Marine Corps past. And when developers complain about safety measures that go beyond requirement, Pasarin paints a thorough portrait of John’s disdain. In fact, Pasarin shows immense skill and subtly in handling all of the issue’s emotive faces, as with Guy’s humble disappointment after not getting the coaching job.
The scene cuts to Guy and John discussing how they can’t have normal lives, because they don’t wear masks like Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner. Compare this though to Hal Jordan’s return to civilian life in Green Lantern (going to jail, a breakup, and eviction) and Guy and John’s experiences as known superheroes don’t seem so bad. Readers of both series will better comprehend that it’s not just the mask, as Guy and John believe, that prevents them from having a normal life.
Guy and John eventually question what normal has become for them – fitting in with other humans or being space cops – and whether or not they even want their old definition of it. Here, Tomasi’s poignant dialogue is enhanced by the expressiveness and irony of Pasarin’s artwork. Guy and John sit casually yet defeated, like two buddies hanging out after a rough day at work. The scene pans out, however, to show that Guy and John are having this conversation on a space satellite overlooking the earth. This juxtaposition of the everyday and the out-of-this world is at the heart of Tomasi’s vision for Green Lantern Corps.
Inevitably then, Guy decides that being a Green Lantern is his version of normal. He says, “birds gotta fly, fish gotta fry.” Guy’s misquotation of the old saying is just one of the many subtle ways in which Tomasi has created a unique voice among the myriad characters in the DC universe. Guy is at times philosophical (agreeing at the planetarium that Earth’s solar system is just a small part of the universe), egotistical (shouting “your roughest and toughest GL east of the Rio Grande is back” over the planet Oa), and vulnerable (admitting in the interview that it wouldn’t be fair to the kids to be in and out of their lives all the time).
John Stewart, on the other hand, has often been criticized as being too analytical and unemotional, even boring. Combined with Guy’s antics, however, John plays a more interesting straight man. These two feel like Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in the Odd Couple, especially when Guy decides to cannonball through the outer atmosphere of the Green Lantern homeworld, Oa. Here again, Pasarin expertly captures Guy’s emotion, this time a wide-jawed, knee-hugging, cannonballing enthusiasm. In addition, Oa is redesigned majestically, aligning with the Oa-destroying events of the “War of the Green Lanterns”, which still occurred in post-Flashpoint continuity.
On Oa, the two plotlines converge, though the less that is said about the second plotline the better. Two Green Lanterns in a far off sector are mysteriously killed in a tired scene with excessively gory details. Then all life on an underwater planet is extinguished. When Guy and John reach Oa, they gather several Green Lanterns to investigate. The newly-formed team finds two more Green Lanterns killed on a now dry, lifeless planet (which may have been foreshadowed when Guy says “fish gotta fry”).
Although the issue ends on a less-than-spectacular note, Tomasi’s endearing portrayal of Guy still lingers. And the potential for Guy and John Stewart’s Odd Couple pairing adds hope that even if the plot is a road that readers have been down many times before, at least they stand a good chance of enjoying the company.