Best Shots Review: DC's GREEN LANTERNS #1 - 'A More Grounded Take On a Usually Bombastic Series'

Green Lanterns #1
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Green Lanterns #1
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Robson Rocha and Blond
Lettering by Jay Leisten
Published by DC Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Sam Humphries and Robson Rocha let the emerald river run red in Green Lanterns #1, a gory and horror-infused debut issue for Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, the two rookie Lanterns protecting Earth. Humphries' script blends the Lanterns' traditionally alien threat with a visceral human element, whilst penciller Robson Rocha excels at illustrating shrieking faces and lurid crime scenes, even if his exaggerated depictions of the human form sometimes seem a little crass.

After finding a rage-powered junkie, a dead alien and 12 dead bodies in a backwoods barn, not to mention a freshly born Hell Tower, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz find themselves butting heads with the Federal Government. Outranked and unable to help, the Lanterns return to civilian life until the feral power of the Red Lanterns forces them back into danger. This is the “Lanterns on Earth” title of the DC Rebirth line, and Humphries roots things firmly on Earth with a decidedly violent tone. Screaming mobs amass under the Red Lanterns' spell, and a dead tentacled beast hangs disemboweled from a wall in a way that brings to mind an especially murky episode of CSI. Not content to simply shock, Humphries uses this exotic crime scene to show Simon and Jessica's relative inexperience. “Yeah. Definitely call the cops.” states Jessica despite wielding the near-limitless power of her power ring, showing the vulnerability behind the bombast.

Amongst all the dead bodies, Humphries doesn't have much time to focus on character. Indeed, the bulk of our introductions to the status quo here came via Humphries, Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's Green Lanterns: Rebirth one-shot, but Humphries still manages to slip a few little moments into this issue. Baz's frustration and hotheadedness is exposed by his every action, whether it's arguing during a family dinner or his blunt choice of ring construct, while Jessica distracts herself by popping out shopping with her sister. Humphries also makes his mark on Lantern lore here with “Emerald Sight”, a new power for Baz which offers him brief omnipotent insight into the issue's events.

In the issue's opening pages, Jessica and Simon's faces are literally obscured by the immense green force they wield. When Robson Rocha shows them in their full glory, they're a fearsome, shrieking duo; all bared teeth, muscle and sinew, whilst Humphries' dialogue growls “Beware our Power”. It's all very befitting of the Lanterns' debut ongoing story arc - titled "Rage Planet" - even if their initial bluster soon gives way to a sudden lack of confidence in the grim face of death.

Away from the issue's plot, Humphries has a certain way with onomatopoeia. “KONG” is exactly the sound that should ring out when the power of the ring clocks a guy in the head, as well as feeling relatively fresh. Still there's a time and a place. A grotesque splash page of a disemboweled alien is somewhat compromised by Atrocitus' trademark baBUMbaBUMbaBUMbaBUM, unintentionally eliciting sniggers of juvenile of amusement instead of the sense of dread it is supposed to invoke.

Robson Rocha keeps his panel composition simple, sticking to wide panels and cinematic splash pages that are low on narrative complexity and high on the wow factor. He illustrates figures in a traditionally comic book manner; all impossible waists and giant cleavage for the women and rippling, vein-laced musculature for the men. In one splash page when Atrocitus grabs Bleez by the throat, her bare butt becomes a distracting focal point that undercuts the severity of the scene. Likewise, Jessica and Simon's costumes are so figure-hugging you can see their ribs. (Even in civilian clothes, Jessica's belly-button is still visible.)

Away from the female form, “intensity” is the word of the day here. Simon is always scowling, either with his teeth bared in anger or his lantern jaw stoically locked in place as he glares out at the world. It all trends worryingly close to the dreaded “DC house style”; that unmistakable mix of impossibly muscled heroes with permanent grimaces and solid color shaded with pure black, even if it captures the issue's main themes of anger and intensity so well. Finishing the issue off, Blond splashes a vivid palette of neon greens and deep reds across the page, causing the Lanterns to pop off the page against the beige and gray of a dingy barn. Out in the open, Blond isn't afraid to crack open the sky blue, producing a varied color palette that shifts with the issue.

All in all, Green Lanterns #1 is a more grounded take on a usually bombastic series, utilizing mob and murder imagery alongside the delightfully wretched-looking Red Lanterns to gruesome effect. An obvious pick-up for fans of the departed Red Lanterns ongoing series.

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